Friday, May 30, 2014

A Near Perfect Day

It has been more than 2 weeks since I sat alone in St. James Park (across from Buckingham Palace in London) eating prawn cocktail crisps and basking in my solitude. As I sat there switching around from writing in my journal, taking photos, watching people, and enjoying the beauty, I took several opportunities to close my eyes and take it all in. I wanted to ensure that when I returned home, I would be able to remember the sounds around me. I also looked upwards at the blue sky and wondered if when I returned home I would be able to imagine the spot of sky above my house was no different than the spot of sky I was looking at.
(I actually took this photo quite by accident. But I LOVE it. The blue sky, my bag of Skip crisps and that trusty London Tube map.)

The (now almost 3) weeks since returning home have been VERY busy. I have rarely had a moment of solitude, let alone doing something for a whole day that I CHOOSE. It has been filled with end of school craziness, and we have found ourselves running more often than not. It has been quite ridiculous actually, but I'm optimistic that I can now really find the time to finish up my blog posts about my time in England.

Last week I helped at Field Day at the elementary school, as I sat in a lawn chair waiting for the next rotation of children to come and my job cutting Otter Pops to resume, I found myself looking up at the blue sky. I recalled my time alone in St. James Park and looked up and tried to recall the sights, sounds, thoughts and feelings I hoped so desperately to remember. It didn't exactly work. The sounds of 100's of children surrounding me enjoying the second to last day of school just didn't quite compare...

Tuesday morning, my first full day in England I traveled to London alone. My dear host, Karen had to work on Tuesday and so my plan was to enjoy London by myself for a few hours before I met my friend Anne for the bus tour. I would then meet up with Karen after work and we'd spend the evening together. That Tuesday was one of the most blissful days I have spent in maybe forever. I had zero responsibilities and obligations other than to meet Anne Parry at 2:20pm in front of the London Eye.

Having visited London and its beautiful historical sites a fair number of times in my life, my must-do list was quite short...Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, shopping, and of course seeing my favorite site of all time, the Tower Bridge goes without saying.

Enough rambling. I remember what's important, and my journal details my inner-most feelings, but for posterity sake (and an accurate end of year blog book) here is a summary of my day alone in London.

I quite literally stumbled upon the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and ended up with a front row view to the band and the soldiers. (I couldn't help thinking about visiting Windsor Castle as a child and my brother and cousin trying their hardest to make a soldier crack a smile or laugh. My brother was the king of telling jokes when he was a child but he didn't succeed in having a soldier/guard think him funny.)
(I was so busy recording video of them marching with the guards to the palace, that I only have a couple of still photos.)

I remember visiting St. James Park (maybe for the first time?) when I was about 9 years old and spent a day in London with Auntie Sheila (a very close family friend). Since then, it has been a must-do on every visit to London. I remember eating cheese and tomato sandwiches with my BFF, Melanie during a visit there, Megan as a 2 year old getting bitten by a duck, eating ice cream there with Mike, Megan, Luke and my dad, etc. etc. etc. But my time alone there a few weeks ago will certainly stand-out too. It was a very surreal experience enjoying it absolutely alone. I'll waste no more time trying to describe that beautiful, picturesque park that Buckingham Palace overlooks.



My favorite London site is the Tower Bridge. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. Karen's office at work actually overlooks the Tower Bridge and the Thames River. For that reason, I call her job "fancy." I mean, the view as I type this isn't exactly horrible out my window, in fact, I really like the view from my family room but it does include a goat, and a chicken coop. Not quite comparable to the River Thames and Tower Bridge.


Before I left for London, Drew was obsessed about me seeing "the tower clock", meaning Big Ben. Every day I talked to him in Paris, he'd ask, "When are you going to England?" He was very anxious for me to get to England and see "the tower clock." At 12 o'clock noon as I was exiting St. James Park I heard Big Ben chime 12. I immediately thought of Drew, and so when we passed by Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament later in the day on my bus tour, I basked in the actuality of seeing it, rather than securing a good camera shot.


Karen and I enjoyed the view and a drink from the Shard. One of the newest buildings in London. Although a beautiful piece of modern architecture with stunning and amazing views, I think some of the "new" buildings interrupt the skyline of old towers, bridges, cathedrals and abbeys. The skyline from Mary Poppins is no longer the same.
My photos from the Shard aren't very good, and somehow I didn't get a good photo of it from the outside. Oh well. Least I got a shot of the Tower of London. Ode to William the Conqueror.
(To think I went to the Tower of London on a field trip in 6th grade! A field trip??? Awesome.)

Having spent my time in Paris doing strictly cultural things, my visit to London was the complete opposite. I thoroughly enjoyed them both in completely different ways. While shopping and exploring London alone, I noticed this statue and took a photo of it for no other reason than in honor of my mother-in-law so she could be assured I did do something cultural and educational (?) while in London. Because taking a photo of a statue of Shakespeare is absolutely considered educational and cultural, right?
I became a pro at the London Underground throughout the day. Of course I have done it plenty in my lifetime, but after the horrible Metro in Paris, I was concerned I'd lost my touch. Not so. I navigated through that city as though I was a real Londoner. Although my large Union Jack souvenir shop bag probably spoke to the contrary.

My mind photos from that day include Mike calling me as I walked the streets of London--he having just woken up--me just about to eat a sausage roll for lunch. The "Mormon" from Colorado that came up to me to ask for help with something. Standing outside the train station waiting to meet Karen. Karen and I eating a 99 Flake cone on the banks of the Thames. The sounds and sights of London streets. My recognition of road signs and thinking of Mike and me playing Monopoly. Oh I have so many! I hope I remember them ALL.

Oh London, how I adore you.
 (Westminster Abbey taken from the top of a double decker bus)

(Trafalgar Square)

At this point, the adrenaline from the trip that lasted the good first week or so after I returned home has gone. Now when I see these photos, I tear up. It makes me sad that this place I love is so far away, and I can't visit more often. Mike tells me I should try to go every year (isn't he AWESOME?), but that isn't really the most realistic aspiration. I love England. I love London and I will forever be grateful to Mike for providing me with such a rich opportunity.

"Don't cry because it is over. Smile because it happened."

PS-I have two more posts to do about visiting England. One about the personal side of my visit, and one about my dear friend, Karen.

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