The best sleeps are the stolen ones. I’ve had a lot of those since getting to London. The best, though, was in a tiny graveyard in Oxford. I thought it was secluded (“I just need a place where no one can see me. I’ve had enough of people.”), and I laid down in the grass and leaves and branches and fell asleep. It was safe – my friend sat beside me writing a short story – but it wasn’t nearly as secluded as I’d imagined. People walked by, talking and laughing, and the sounds of the small city lulled me to sleep. It’s been far too easy for me to drift off lately.
Not everything about this trip has been so easy.
For example: I am currently sitting in an airport again, roughly 6.5 hours early, because we had to check out of the hostel at 10:00, and who wants to drag this luggage all across London? S is off on his way to Scotland, so I paid the 5.50 pounds it costs for a one-way ticket and came to Heathrow early.
Until they tell me I actually have to check this bag (“I carried it from Boston.” “Doesn’t matter.” Ah, joy.), but when I went through the queue to check it, it was way too early.
“You’ll have to come back at 16:50.”
“Are there any coffee shops I can sit at?”
“Well, most things are through security…”
And I find myself at a Krispy Kreme (Yes, you heard that right, a Krispy Kreme in London. I’ve never set foot in a Krispy Kreme at home.) I’m writing this in Word because I only get 45 minutes of internet.
My vision of an afternoon spent sipping strong coffee, reading, and writing, is looking very different.
~ ~ ~
“Catherine, what should I do when I go to London?”
Well, first off, buy a London pass. It goes against every bone in my body to fork over 60 pounds in the blink of an eye, but it is so worth it. We toured the Globe (If only we could’ve seen a show there! An actor was warming up on stage while we were touring, and she sounded like us music majors, all trills and blubberings and over-dramatizations.). We walked through the whole Tower of London and saw the crown settings of Georges and Henrys, Victoria, and Alexandra.
We did the London Bridge Experience (an underground historical/horror show) and my eyes were closed for most of it. The butcher took a liking to me and kept asking me questions, but he was a crazy murderer and I was freaking out.
We climbed a monument (ah! I forget the name!) and saw the city from the sky.
We did all the free stuff at the Tate Museum of Modern Art. It was awesome. But there are whiney artists everywhere, I guess, and they’re always wanting to stick it to the man.
And, probably the best part aside from the Tower:
There it was. The real thing. So many names I wasn’t even expecting. So much history behind that stone.
Kings and Queens, Dukes and Earls.
And Poets’ Corner shocked me with its concentration of literary history.
Then there was Oxford, with its more intimate streets and academic walls and surprise exhibit of Magical Books. Illuminated manuscripts peered out at us, with the imaginings of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and countless others. The best part was that it was unexpected: we just wandered in and there it was, golden and colorful and fantastical.
~ ~ ~
“What should I not do when I get to London?”
DO NOT not buy an Oyster card. Your feet will destroy you.
DO NOT assume they will take your card everywhere. (“Do you have a chip?” “What?” “A chip?” “What?” “We don’t accept cards without chips.”)
DO NOT assume that the coffee will be strong. It probably won’t be.
DO NOT assume that trying new beer will always pay off. It often won’t. But at least you were adventurous, right?
DO NOT think you can fit everything in. You can’t. Just accept it and tell yourself, “If I really want to, I can always come back.” You might never return, but it’ll placate you long enough to get you back home.
~ ~ ~
Now, Switzerland waits on the other side of that plane ride. A friend I haven’t seen in over a year (the same friend who writes me beautiful letters of her new life) and a chance to think and read and talk about things that matter to me. Such a different vibe, I think, than London.
We shall see!
[P.S. I am so technologically challenged that I cannot figure out how to get my pictures from the iPhone my mother forced upon me for this trip and my computer. I guess they will have to wait. Know that they exist and that the photo in this post is unrelated but at least pretty.]