• Kianna Leaa

London Edition: It's a small world after all...



No matter where I am in the world, I always manage to bump into a friend of a friend or someone I know. My last trip to London, there were three encounters that made me feel as though the world is very small.


My trip to London was set to overlap on Shabbat (a Jewish day of rest that is observed by Jews from Friday sundown to Saturday night). When that happens, I always make it a point to find a dinner that allows me to practice this important tradition that I grew up with. It also happens to be a great excuse to meet new people abroad from my community and to discover how people practice Judaism across different cities and countries around the globe. So prior to my trip, my close friend from Milan was kind enough to tell about this Shabbat dinner hosted on behalf of a Synagogue and a non-profit community project called Warehouse (led by young Jewish group who's objective is to combat antisemitism). Although I was very intimidated to go to this event alone, I was determined to uncover the Jewish community in London.


When I arrived to the Synagogue for Shabbat dinner, I was naturally drawn to this one girl who was dressed in a colorful skirt and accessorized with dangling earrings with gemstones that essentially paired very beautifully to her skirt. As I proceeded to compliment her on her style (for those of you who know me well, I cannot hold back from living and breathing fashion). As we spoke, I couldn't help but pick up on her french accent as she spoke to me in english. Without hesitation, I asked her if she was from France and to my surprise, she actually grew up in Montreal (the very same city I grew up in)! I wasn't sure if I was more shocked that she was from Montreal or that I never met her before (Montreal is a pretty small city)...


During the dinner, I sat at a table with people from Montreal, London, Antwerp, Melbourne and Israel. It was a riot. Everyone had a unique story to tell about how they ended up moving to the center of London and I was fascinated. One guy at my table from Antwerp, introduced himself to me and I proceeded to tell him that Antwerp was one of the most amazing cities I visited in the last 3 years in Europe (not to mention, it was also to me, the European version of Montreal). In addition to this, my best friend living in Milan who I met at a Shabbat dinner in Milan 3 years ago, is actually Belgian from Antwerp. Having made this connection in my mind, I mentioned her name to him. And to my surprised, he actually went to the same high school. Not only this, but his sister is a close childhood friend of my best friend...


You would think that two coincidences like this were enough for the entire trip. Shockingly, it was only leading up to the last encounterthe following day at Harrods .... Saturday morning, my mom and I went to Harrods for a much anticipated shopping excursion. I hadn't been in years and was very excited to see the luxury department store after its' acquisition by the Qatar Investment Authority. So I visited everything from the accessories, beauty department, clothing, food court and more! When I got to the Versace clothing and accessory department and laid my eyes on the hot pink Medusa Aevitas décolleté platforms. My heart skipped a beat. I just HAD to try them on.


I grabbed the hot pink platforms that matched my black silk dress (which I swear I didn't plan) and slipped them on my feet which fit like a glove... they were simply MAGICAL! My mom was in awe and the sales assistant even let out a WOW! I pranced around the shop walking on cloud 9, knowing that I would have to leave them behind. But that didn't stop me from making this an experience that I would forever remember. After discussing with the sales assistant, I noticed his accent was Italian. He revealed to me that he was from Bologna, a city right next door to Florence (where I currently live). I told him that I had been living here for 3 years and that I was originally from Montreal. He mentioned to me that he had some Italian friends living in Montreal who own a coffee shop in Old Montreal. As he revealed this to me, it rang a bell. I knew exactly who he was talking about it....


“Is it Gianni who owns Café de Mercanti?", I asked. "YES! I met Gianni and his wife in Mexico at mine and my partner's Bed & Breakfast. They are adorable and remain good friends' of ours!", he answered.

No matter how many of these coincidences I have in my life, I never seem to get used to it. Café De Mercanti back in Montreal has always been my hangout spot and now my Italian home away from home. I consider the owners and staff there like family to me. To have met someone from Italy, living in London who also knows the owners of the coffee shop, truly made me feel as though the world is extremely small...



Overall, all the encounters I had in London proved to me the power of putting yourself out there and speaking to people. Initially I was really not looking forward to going to a Shabbat dinner alone that Friday night but by stepping out of my comfort zone, I not only met new wonderful individuals who I will remain in touch with but also had something in common with a few of these people. At Harrods, I didn't feel so comfortable trying on a pair of shoes that I knew I wouldn't leave with that day, yet if I hadn't, I wouldn't have met Tiziano from Bologna who knew Gianni from Café de Mercanti....


Moral of the story: Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone - it may actually turn out to be a rewarding experience.