Hello, loves! I hope you’ve had a great weekend, wherever you are in the world.
As I was going through my oldest blog entries here on Goddess Within, I realized I never told you all about my big trip to London and Switzerland in 2014. And today is the two year anniversary of that event–what I like to call a “tripaversary”! I’d wanted to see these places since I was a child, and I had a special attachment to Switzerland, so Jonno decided we would go together to celebrate my 30th birthday. It was one giant epiphany for me. My life burst into awakening.
So I’m going to share the story and the pictures with you in a four-part post, so I hope you enjoy reliving the experience with me!
We booked this trip in January that year, so I spent the following months getting ready and getting more and more excited. I ordered cute luggage tags and travel items, and then the anxiety started settling in.
It was my first trans-Atlantic flight. It wasn’t my first-EVER flight, as I’d flown the two hours it takes to get from Toronto to Roanoke and back again, but saying I was nervous is a gross understatement. As I approached Pearson International on that hazy June evening, I was so anxious that I wanted to melt through my seat and also throw up. These feelings continued after checking in, going through security, and finding my gate.
After a short while, my anxiety faded to a dull buzz as I sat and scanned my surroundings, watching the people and the planes and eyeing the different food places. I got up and got a small dinner at Tim Horton’s, and while I could barely stomach it, I was glad I managed. I watched the clock until it was finally time to board; about 10:30pm. The anxiety had returned to a roar pounding to the beat of my heart, prickling my every nerve, but I made my way on board and settled in. At least I had an aisle seat!
Takeoff is my second-least favourite part about flying. The engines roaring, the plane speeding down the runway, then the liftoff where at first gravity seems to be pushing you against your seat. The ground falls away suddenly, and you have to pop your ears continuously until you’ve reached maximum altitude. My hands gripped the armrests and I struggled to keep my breathing even, because I would be damned if I was going to let myself have a panic attack over something thousands of people do every day. And I was nervous, fearing leaving my Canada behind and leaving the continent I’d always lived on. I feared the unknown.
And I felt the cord connecting my soul to Canada stretch tighter, and tighter…
And while I watched on the screen as we left Canada behind, I felt that cord snap free.
And I breathed deeply.
My LEAST favourite part about flying is turbulence. I don’t recall it being so bad that night, but I’m not fond of even the littlest tremors. I kept my mind busy, alternating between reading and watching movies on my seat-screen. I couldn’t sleep. As my seatmates dozed, I looked out the window and saw the sky lightening from indigo to aqua to the east. As I watched, mesmerized, we chased the dawn into daylight.
We landed in Heathrow at 11am on the 20th. As nervous as I was about facing the border guards, the young bearded gentleman I had was very cheerful and welcoming. He brightened further when he discovered that I was meeting my friend at the airport and that friend was British.
“He’s a British lad?” he said, grinning. “Is he from here in London?”
“No,” I replied with my own smile, feeling at ease with this guard. “He’s from around Leicester.”
“Ah, that’s great! Enjoy your stay,” he said, stamping my passport and handing it back to me.
And just like that, my anxiety melted away as I passed through into baggage claim. I was really in England! However, I was suddenly very mentally drained and wanted to collapse from the lack of anxiety, and I didn’t even hear or notice Jon when I shambled out of Arrivals. He finally got my attention by putting his hand on my shoulder!
“Welcome to England,” he said after we had embraced.
We headed through the airport and got our Oyster cards for the Underground. As tired as I was, I was fascinated by the Tube as we boarded, and I was surprised by how incredibly tiny it was inside compared to the generous size of the TTC trains. There was standing room only, so I stood nearly asleep on my feet and suddenly understood why Jonno always complained about English humidity. As we sped on toward central London, I watched all the houses go by and I thought in awe, “Wow, I’m in ENGLAND!” Having never left North America before, this was a pretty big deal!
We arrived at Victoria Station at 2pm, an hour before check-in at the DoubleTree which was just across the road. So we dragged our suitcases around for a little bit, resting in Grosvenor Gardens and enjoying the warm afternoon. When we checked in, we got to our lovely room on the third floor and I collapsed for a couple hours.
Later on, we walked down the street to the Shakespeare pub, and I was so enamoured by its atmosphere and its brick walls and Jon found this fascinating because, to him, it was like every other pub he was familiar with! Then we went walking around the block, enjoying the cooling night air, and bought some drinks and snacks at Sainsbury’s.
We were making use of the free wifi in the hotel lobby at around 2am the next morning when we saw some people come down to take a car out to Salisbury. They were heading to Stonehenge for the dawn of the Summer Solstice. I told Jon that I was very grateful that we’d decided not to go until the following day given the pictures of the huge crowds in previous years, because we would’ve had to travel like that too and probably pay an insane fortune for that taxi!
The next morning, we got up at a decent hour and walked down to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. Well, apparently that was on everyone else’s agenda as well, because the area was so crammed full of people that I couldn’t even see what was going on or get any decent photos. Flustered and sweating in the morning heat, we gave up trying and headed to the nearest Tube station to head to Leicester Square. Each of my steps was in wonder and awe as I looked at everything around me.
We found a wee place to have lunch, and it was called Little Korea. It’s tiny but very pleasant inside, with very friendly staff, and Jon and I absolutely loved our food! I had donkatsu and it was utterly divine, especially since I’d worked up an appetite walking so much. We vowed to return again next time we found ourselves in London (which we did the following year).
From there we walked to Trafalgar Square, which was another difficult place to get photos of because there was some kind of concert happening right in the middle, and there was a huge crowd of people. We discovered Stanfords, where we bought a mini German/English guide and a book about the Bernese Oberland for the second leg of our trip, and I purchased a miniature replica of Stonehenge.
Afterwards, we visited the Portrait Gallery, walked down to Covent Garden, discovered we couldn’t get back on the Tube at Covent Garden, and walked all the way back up to Leicester Square. We were hot, tired, and limping on very painful feet by the time we got back to our hotel!After resting and ordering takeaway, we decided we had enough energy to go down to Hyde Park to spend the evening. It was still warm out, but very pleasant as we walked through golden sunlight and took our time. I was full of such tranquility and happiness that evening that I could hardly contain myself from shouting to London and the world about how damned happy I was!
We didn’t traverse the entire park, but headed back after the sun went down and had a relaxing night.
I hope you’re having fun taking this trip with me, folks 😉 Stay tuned for Part Two on Wednesday!