After landing at Heathrow, my hostess and friend had already taken me to dinner, ice cream, a walk around Leicester Square (where I saw my love), and a bit of other sightseeing in between. Here on the Tube, finally headed to her home in Ipswich, was the face of gleeful jet-lagged sensory overload. Look at those eyes.
Look, a cup of tea fixes everything. It’s a scientific fact. (It’s not, but let’s just agree, shall we?) The best part of my day at the OK Corral is getting up from my desk and grabbing a cup of tea at the cafe we have here in the building. Sipping that warm, vanilla-tinged liquid (I prefer chai) does absolute wonders for me (including softening the perpetual frown I seem to wear when I’m in the building.) When a friend recently posted 15 surprising facts about tea, as shown here, I was reminded of just how much of a tea lover I am.
Formerly a coffee disciple since the age of 12, fond of lapping up the leftover bits of coffee my parents would slyly leave me in their cups, I officially switched to tea in 2008. That was the year I realized that the loud drumming I assumed was coming from my co-worker’s desk radio was actually my heartbeat, in reaction to the coffee I was drinking. Needless to say, that was the moment we said our goodbyes. (I still love the scent of coffee, though. Do I ever.) For me, tea is like coffee’s milder, gentler cousin. The dependable Darcy to that wild Wickham. (If you know me by now, you’re not surprised by this effort to use an Austen/Pride and Prejudice analogy.) Anyhow, and more importantly, despite the caffeine in tea, it’s not as intense and I can enjoy it without wondering if I will soon need a defibrillator.
Below are some photos of the afternoon tea (and scones) I enjoyed at Harrods department store during my trip to London in October. After a particularly tourist-y day, it was nice to simply sit and drink and sigh and chew and people-watch.
Now that we’ve sauntered down memory lane with our cups of tea in hand, tell me in the comments if you prefer tea and/or coffee. Or wine, if you’re about that life.
I heard it so many times while riding the Tube that I began to long for it: the soothing, Brit-accented automaton telling me to please mind the gap between the train and the platform. What a kind reminder, huh? To keep me from falling to my death? I’d like to challenge my local public transportation here to do the same. Or perhaps I should challenge them to go a day without a breaking down? Ugh.
Admittedly, I don’t have much panache (or patience) when it comes to packing for trips. Maybe the process reminds me too much of moving, which I once did three times in a year and nearly had to report to a your neighborhood mental health hospital to recuperate from the stress of it all. Maybe it’s because I can’t stand trying to figure just what to pack, where to put it, how to organize my life…All right, let’s not go there.
Anyway, as you can imagine, I dreaded packing for my 16-day trip overseas, so much so that I waited until the night before I was scheduled to fly out of town. But I should have feared nothing.
Because my sister was going to handle it.
Let me introduce you to my little sissy: organized, organized, neat, and organized. She’s always been that way. Years and years ago when we shared a bedroom, her side of the room was like Switzerland. Neat, lovely, like a postcard. My side of the room was Chernobyl. So when she heard me bemoaning the packing I was about to do, she calmly told me that she would take care of everything. As I stood by my closet, she divided her tasks into types: I was to hand her shoes, skirts, pants, tops, any sweaters, etc. I then watched as she expertly positioned these things into my suitcase, calmly dismissing my doubts that everything would fit, waving away my claims that one suitcase wouldn’t hold everything. (I was determined to take one bag that would hold most of my things.) She was right. Everything fit, you guys. Everything. I was mesmerized. And ultimately terrified of unpacking it all and ruining her art. (I should mention here that she’s an actual artist, so it’s no surprise that the inside of my luggage looked like a painting.) Needless to say, her fast and precise packing abilities had us finished much earlier than expected, which allowed everyone in my household to go to sleep peacefully without hearing me loudly sobbing in the next room because of everything I had to roll and smash into a bag.
So I had my medium-sized/kind of large suitcase ready, as well as my carry-on bag that I was planned to use for any souvenirs that I purchased. But let me tell you why I will never take a medium-sized/kind of large suitcase overseas, or really anywhere, ever again:
I have no upper body strength. I was reminded of this especially in London when I had to hoist that bag up and down flights of stairs all over the London Underground (short of the escalators that take you out of the stations, there are stairs, stairs, and more stairs) the day I arrived. (Again, my friend who hosted me didn’t have a car.) It nearly brought me to tears. So although thankful for all the gentlemen who helped me, I am resolved to travel from now on with a small, carry-on type suitcase that can be easily lifted by yours truly. I mean, unless the gents really want to help me out, which will, uh, pose no problems for me.
Speaking of a small, carry-on type suitcase: I packed way too much for this trip. My sissy’s expert packing is more than appreciated, but in hindsight, I didn’t need all those clothes. Sure, I like variety and having the ability to choose what I want to wear, but quite a few of those outfits remained right in the bag during my trip, unworn. So yeah, for the foreseeable future: some pants, a few tops, and that’s it. Stop trying to be super cute, Square Peg. (Mildly cute will do.)
So major lesson learned: pack light.
Oh, and you travel lovers out there: got any packing tips to share?
Two posts, since Sunday was packed and found me super busy.
I was tired the day I snapped this photo, taken while walking in London on Oxford Street. I was exhausted from walking all over the city, I was irritated from walking all over the city, and I was incensed from walking all over the city. And here it is, folks: traveling and touristing isn’t always fun and amazing. It can be exhausting and irritating. But you know that.
So while in my foul, bratty-because-I-ached-all-over mood, I happened to look up and I saw those lanterns hanging in their criss-cross formation against the dimming sky. I saw that golden horizon off in the distance. And I was promptly humbled. I’m of the mind that nothing really matters when you get the chance to look up and see something bigger than you. Sunset, sunrise, whatever–there’s more to life than aching backs and a swell of people around me. I snapped that photo because I snapped back to what was far more important than me.
Abbey Road. Not the infamous shot across the street, but Abbey Road nonetheless. As a Beatles fan by birth, being here was pretty momentous.
One late afternoon, a few steps away from the London Eye, I gazed at up at the structure.
Me: Is it a Ferris wheel?
My English Hostess: Of course not.
Me: Well, it’s round, right? And moves around in a circle?
MEH: Well, yes.
Me: Doesn’t that make it a Ferris wheel?
MEH: That, my dear, is an architectural marvel. Hardly a Ferris wheel.
Me: Looks like a Ferris wheel to me.
Public transportation is the lifeblood of city life in London. The London Underground (aka The Tube), buses–I experienced them all while in the city, and quite extensively, as my friend that hosted me doesn’t own a car. So from the moment I landed at Heathrow Airport to the moment I went back to Heathrow to fly home, we spent time on a train or a bus. And I loved it. Not only did I feed my ravenous desire for people-watching over and over again, but I was among some of the most polite people I’ve come across in a long while. And not only polite, but chivalrous. Meaning the men.
Yeah, you read that right.
It’s not totally dead, my lady readers. Chivalry is alive and well…in England. Men spontaneously hoisted my two-ton suitcase up the stairs for me, showed us where to go, offered us seats on the Tube, made sure said two-ton suitcase didn’t fall over as the train lurched toward to our destinations. I was stunned. And pleased. And stunned.
That said, after my return home, as I gazed at the blank faces around me during my Monday morning train commute to work, I couldn’t help but wish I was somewhere else…
…Lest we dip into melancholy, however, below are some photos of the Underground for your viewing pleasure.