Hello, friends. A happy Monday to you, wherever you are in the world, and a relaxed and peaceful Labor/Labour Day to everyone in the US and Canada.
I’m back home now in the hazy, muggy mess of an Ontario heat wave. It was a bit of a shock to come back after having grey, drizzly, October-like weather in London and feeling like I was walking into an oven!
So here’s what our week in London was like. As usual, my photos are a weird mixture of DSLR and device 😉 I know I can’t be the only person who carries three cameras in her handbag (I also had the Instax with me)!
Tuesday the 1st
It was hard leaving behind the house I’d called home for six months. Jon’s bedroom had become our little haven, a nest of togetherness and growth. But I gathered the strength I needed to haul myself out the door for the last time and drive away from it for the last time. We took the train from Leicester and arrived in London about two hours later, and from Southwark Station we walked ten minutes to the Mercure Hotel.
Jon was already regretting choosing that hotel as it was ten minutes’ walk to each of the three nearest Tube stations, but I was eager to try to shed some weight from walking so much!
The hotel was lovely inside. It’s situated near London Bridge. We could see the Shard from just outside the hotel, too! Once we’d rested, we ventured outside and walked to a Pizza Express on the pier near Tower Bridge.
It was a beautiful evening, and it was a little hard to believe we were in London again. It felt so romantic and I’m not really a romantic kind of person! Jon had a calzone, cider, and a big chocolate dessert at Pizza Express, and I had pizza, Prosecco, and an Eton mess cheesecake slice. Then we attempted to burn a few calories by walking along the Thames.
We got back to the hotel exhausted but happy, shed clothing, made tea, and watched tv in bed. The inner thigh of my jeans had ripped recently, so my skin was chafed raw and there was really nowhere close enough for me to buy new jeans, so I put fabric plasters across the skin to protect it.
One of the plasters somehow got stuck to my jeans, so when I pulled them down, the thing ripped off and took a chunk of skin with it. YEOWCH!!!! So I put more on my poor skin.
Wednesday the 2nd
Across the street from our hotel is a plaza with a few restaurants, and we discovered a Japanese one called Tonkotsu. We took our lunch there and had the restaurant’s namesake dish, which was an awesome noodle bowl with pork belly, a seasoned egg, bean sprouts, and a fabulously rich cream & pork broth.
After relaxing back at the hotel for a bit, we went to Covent Garden to look around and check out the market, which we hadn’t done last year. There’s a beautiful art installation right now inside the market, so I wanted to check that out!
We went into the Paperchase there, which is always my biggest weakness. I made it out of there with a case for my iPod, a goofy hamburger pen, and a little diary/planner. Then we headed to Leicester Square, where we had a pint from The Sussex pub. We were getting hungry at that point, so we headed across the street to Five Guys and saw this!
I’ve seen a ridiculous number of rainbows in the last six months, and three in the last 36 hours alone! Two of those were over the Shard but they faded too quickly before I could get outside the hotel with my camera. I’m taking them as a blessed sign 🙂
The tea in our hotel room was replaced every day, whether we drank it or not, and it was always herbal or fruity teas. To satisfy our constant need for black tea (just called tea in the UK, haha), we walked over to a Tesco Express and bought a box of the stuff and milk!
Thursday the 3rd
Today we had a tour booked to see the state rooms of Buckingham Palace. During the summer, the Queen isn’t present, so there are tours galore until the end of September. A while back, I’d been hoping to do this, and I was so excited when we booked the tickets!
It was another grey day, but that was good for me since I do horribly in the heat and sun! Leaves are quickly changing to yellow and there’s already a thin carpet of them in places.
Photography isn’t allowed inside the state rooms, but ARGH I sure wish it was! We were on a self-guided audio tour, so we carried around headphones with devices that told us about all the rooms. They were all so grand and opulent, full of gilt and marble and absolutely gorgeous furniture. There was so much detail in each room that I had to stand around and look at one section very slowly, then the next, then the next, so that I could catch it all. I think my favourite had to be the huge dining room, which features a great pipe organ at one end and I could just imagine all the dignitaries sitting in suits and ballgowns, with the Queen at the head of the double row of tables.
We exited at the garden side of the palace and made our way out from there, with everything so lush and green around us and some trees turning yellow, and magpies, coots, gulls, moorhens, and Canada geese everywhere.
We took the Tube to Victoria Station, which we had stayed right next to during round one of our big trip last year. It was rather nostalgic! We ate at The Shakespeare, a pub that makes killer burgers and a pretty deadly Millionaire cheesecake. The Shakespeare was the first place we ate at upon our arrival in London last year! It’s funny that I’m so used to pubs now that I wasn’t awed like I was that very first time, but it’s still a nice place 🙂
We hopped back on the Tube and went to Westminster, where we got outside just as old Big Ben was bonging away inside the Elizabeth Tower. That sound is so very iconic, isn’t it?
Oh dear. 😉
Friday the 4th
We were remembering this restaurant we adored in Leicester Square last year, so we made our way back there to go to it. It’s called Little Korea and serves Korean and Japanese food. It’s a lovely, cozy and tiny place with beautiful decor and friendly staff. And GREAT food, of course!
We walked through Chinatown, which is a bit different from Toronto’s Chinatown in that it doesn’t seem to particularly cater to tourists. We bought some blueberry Pocky, melon iced tea, a box of powdered caramel milk tea that Jon ended up not liking so I brought the rest home to the girls, and a fizzy Ramune soda since Jon had never tried it.
Then we went to Piccadilly Circus and had a poke around.
It was quickly growing dark by the time we got back to our hotel room. More tea and tv, and me clinging to my love as though afraid I would lose the memory of how his skin felt, or the way his eyes looked at me from just inches away, or the sound of his breathing and the sheer comfort of him being near me. Six months felt like a lifetime to me, and I felt like I’d never not been with him like this. It felt foreign and terrifying to have to leave him, even if just for a little while in the grand scheme of our lives.
We gave in to our grief.
But we couldn’t stop Saturday from dawning. It dawned grey and chilly enough that we could see our breaths. At around 6:30am we left our lovely hotel room for the last time and hauled baggage up the street to Blackfriars Bridge to catch an overground train to Gatwick.
The Shard, the Eye, and the Elizabeth Tower disappeared behind corners and trees as our train sped along. I felt utter dread as we arrived at Gatwick, like I was about to be executed.
After checking in (and fortunately avoiding an overweight baggage fee even though my suitcase weighed 5kg more than the free limit), we lingered as long as we could outside security. I felt like I was ripping part of my soul out of my body, and we held each other so tightly and I felt my heart shattering.
But I had to go.
I summoned all the strength I had left in me to be able to turn away from him and head into security, where he could not follow. I turned back and saw him smile at me, and just the sight of him filled in the dangerous cracks forming in me and I was able to do what I needed to do.
Then I was sitting at my gate, and I felt dead.
Then I was sitting in my plane, and I felt dead. I didn’t even care about takeoff, and that’s the part I hate most about flying besides the patches of turbulence. I sat and watched movies and tv shows the entire way, and I felt dead.
Still felt the same as I stepped off the plane and got through Canadian resident and citizen customs, then to baggage. My heart lifted with Liat, Alora, and Anthony greeted me in typical hilarious fashion in Arrivals, and I did everything I could to hold myself together as my heart continued to break.
I’ve rested well since then, and I find it difficult to believe I was just with Jon a couple days ago. It already feels like forever.
I’m treating myself very gently, not letting myself get lost with my thoughts, not reading negative news and choosing only to fill myself with happy, simple things.
Jon, Liat, Alora, Shwany, and my mother raise me up at every moment, keeping me going and filling me with hope. My mother drained her soul-full well to fill Jon and I with all the energy she had in her to strengthen us on Saturday, and while I didn’t know that at the time, I was wondering where that strength had come from! She is now recovering and it is now my time to nurture her even from far away, because that’s what daughters do.
Now it’s time for the next stage of our journey to get on its way.