And suddenly... just like that... I was back in London.
This time it was a little bit different. I could feel it. Yes... I had made the decision to head into the centre of London and have my big-city independence for a couple of days... BUT... also... and this is a very odd thing for me to say...
THE SUN WAS SHINING!!!
I think I have flown in and out of London more than 30+ times in my life... and the sun has rarely ever made an appearance, let alone shone.
I was ecstatic.
Before I dive into my two phenomenal days in London... let's backtrack a little bit.
From Charles de Gaulee, in Paris, I had flown into Gatwick airport... and Stephen & Sharon had graciously offered to pick me up... again. It was a lovely offer to pick me up ONCE at Gatwick... let alone TWICE. I was very appreciative. Gatwick was near their home... but seriously, picking up anyone from any airport sucks. I did feel quite slightly burdensome, as I was perfectly capable of taking the train.
When someone steps forward and eases any travel burden, it's not only appreciated beyond measure, but often borderline illogical, as I have had to depend on myself for so long. On one hand... I have always been of the belief that the smallest act of kindness can have a ripple effect, especially when you're travelling. On the other hand... there is a certain stronghold attitude one takes when they have been solely responsible for themselves. It's enormous.
~ Yes, my pack is heavy.
~ Yes, figuring out transportation in a new place is nothing short of hassle.
~ Yes, my finances are getting lower by the second.
But... if I wasn't independent before, I'm definitely independent now.
I'm more than capable of figuring shit out...
While in France, I had sent an email to Stephen alluding to my decision of staying in London for my final couple of days. Although he responded with "London sounds like a good idea," there was an undeniable communication breakdown. It was a shame because it resulted in much uncomfortableness. I had already been battling a burdensome feeling and now I felt I had let them down. I really didn't know what to do. It was a horrible feeling.
Did it suck?
I am always riddled with a certain degree of disappointment in myself... I always have been. When disappointment becomes all encompassing, I end up crippled with electrified angst and I can hardly shake my cumbersome feeling. I apologized. I offered to stay. I offered to come back. But I think my hasty decision had already destroyed the otherwise delightful ambiance.
I really loved Hayward's Heath and I adored seeing Stephen & Sharon again. It fabulous to reconnect... but the sun was in the forecast and London was exactly the adventure I was seeking for my final two days in the UK.
OMG... I only had TWO days left...
I was off... and thrilled to rediscover London on bluebird terms. Seriously. I loved it. I loved every single second of it. Gone was the dismay of fog, grey skies and drizzle. The sun was in full bloom, along with the spring flowers. London was vibrant and I fell soooo hard and sooo deeply in love with this fascinating and historical metropolis.
I spent two full, sun-shine ridden days walking and walking and walking... and when I was done walking, I walked more. I explored everything I possibly could get to on my own two feet,
Over the course of only 48 hours, I strolled along Regent Canal, I stopped for a water fountain break in Regent Park, I admired the gardens at Hyde Park, I ate a Yorkshire Burrito at the Camden Market and I window shopped my way through the luxury boutiques of Sloane Street in Chelsea. I had my photo taken with Mr. Bean, Mary Poppins and Harry Potter in Leicester Square, I relished in the brilliant colours of Neal's Yard, I tried to imagine where Diana lived in Kensington Palace, I applauded the street entertainment of Covent Garden and I gave a nod of respect to our great, late Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. I ate a decadent cupcake from Peggy Porschen's, I traipsed through the Theatre District, sauntered through ChinaTown, strolled through Soho, I stood under the Little Ben and I even watched the sunset colours drown in the River Thames.
In addition to all of this... and I am positive I'm forgetting some... I left myself the freedom and much-needed space for unexpected discoveries. Often I considered jumping on the tube and scurrying around in some kind of hurried attempt to see everything tagged on my London map... but walking in the sunshine and feeling the delight of exploring what might possibly be around each corner was much more enticing.
Much, MUCH more...
Before arriving in London, I had done a little bit of research into London's most picturesque destinations. Funny enough, most of them happened to be pubs... Social media is a powerful tool!
The best part?
I actually got to share some of the wonderment with a couple of my friends.
My first friend? Sapna... who I had met in Sawa Sawa, Arusha. We had both been volunteering at the same time and had grown quite close.
We gossiped, reminisced and meandered our way from picturesque pub to picturesque pub. It's actually the first time I had ever done a true pub crawl without any alcohol involved. It's also the first time I have ever done a full pub crawl and recalled absolutely every second. Our intentions were purely sightseeing, selfies, slander and scandal.
It was fabulous.
Our pub crawl included;
Ye Olde Mitre - A traditional and very well hidden little pub. Definitely worth the search, making our way down a quite long & dark alleyway in order to reach this authentic gem. Dating back to 1547, this pub was oozing history from the bar fittings to the furnishing. The staff was really friendly too... until I tried to move a chair.
"Hadn't I seen the sign on the wall?"
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese - They say this is probably the most famous pub in the world, but I hadn't heard of it until today. Apparently there is sawdust all over the pub floor, though I failed to even NOTICE.
Who doesn't notice a sawdust floor?
The site also once formed part of a 13th century Carmelite monastery... but has been a pub since 1538, having been rebuilt after the Great Fire of London in 1666.
**Short interlude... I wish more British pubs had table service.
There... I said it.
The Blackfriar - This hadn't even been on our radar... but was brought to our attention by an American couple we met leaving the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub. They said it was the best pub they'd been in so far... so how could we possibly be expected to pass something like that up?
True... it was magical.
I thought the interior decoration was probably some of the best I'd ever seen. It seemed like a cross between mythical and medieval... but apparently it's considered Art Nouveau... I had to look up what that meant. Art Nouveau is characterized by organic lines, intricate patterns, diverse use of materials and earthy colours.
Regardless... you should have seen the ceiling!!! Holy moly...
And our final stop of the evening...
The Old Bank of England - Ugh... although it boasts a stunning interior with ornate ceilings, it's got the worst food! Beware! Honest pub grub, my ass. Everything we ordered was left on the table almost untouched... and considering we were both ravenous, was unfathomable.
I could NOT understand why my kale & spinach salad seemed so soggy... until I realized they had used frozen kale... which had dropped to the bottom of the bowl because it hadn't fully thawed out yet. I tried to send it back, but it only reappeared, a mirror of its former self... save for a bit less dressing. So much for trying to be healthy! Sapna's cauliflower bites were greasy and her duck appetizer was distasteful and plain. We considered doing a dine & dash... but that was short lived considering we'd already paid.
Other places of interest I hit on my own though: The Albert, The George, Cittie of Yorke, The Salisbury, Mr. Fogg's, The Angel and The Churchill Arms ~ all of them charming... inside and out. All of them quintessential British pubs with their own twist of architectural grandeur, traditional design and historic prestige.
I will repeat... I LOVED MY TIME IN LONDON...
On my second day in London, I met up with a friend of mine, Teri. I had gotten to know her and her sister when I worked at the Sasquatch Pub. She was in London with her daughter, Cassie, and the three of us met and strolled the peaceful shores of Regent Canal, through Regent's Park and into Soho.
I left them to meet the McBride cousins for a lunch date.
Was I nervous?
I hadn't seen Nick, Ben and Damian in years and I was unsure to how our lunch date would go. Of course, once again, my insecurities reek havok and I'm left feeling awkward and silly.
How can I explain this better? Hmmmmm...
ALL of the McBride boys are incredibly intelligent,
Me... well, I'm just me. I pale in comparison. Talk about electrified angst...
It went well though...
It was good to catch up and get to know them again during this very brief moment in time. I was nervous beyond measurable comprehension... but I survived... and hopefully I didn't come across as too much of an imbecile.
My fervent decision to self-expel from the McBride clan has subsided for the time being and I will plod on...
London exceeded all of my expectations and I shed MANY tears as I was leaving.
The big question...
Was I tearful about leaving London?
Were my sobs merely a symbolic end to an epic adventure?
Was I dreading my inevitable return to Mission?
Maybe a little bit of everything, but definitely emphasis on the latter.
True to Heathrow's reputation, it was an absolute nightmare passing through security and finding my gate.
Perhaps that was the reason for my sorrow?
Could have been my heavy pack too...
One might never know... but my 18 week adventure had officially come to an end.
Thank you for reading...
“If you want to make every day an adventure, all you have to do is prioritize adventure. It has to become more important than routine.”
Chris Guillebeau, The Happiness of Pursuit