So, I know this is supposed to be a running blog – which it is. But occasionally there might be a story that I want to tell that isn’t about running. It’s my blog, it’s my rules, and I want to tell you about my trip to England.
I didn’t run once in England. I packed running clothes (even though suitcase real estate was at a premium); I had visions of running along the Thames, or maybe past Buckingham Palace, but none of those scenarios happened.
One reason was because I was in miserable shape leading up to my trip – in trying to get into good shape, I seriously wrenched my back and then caught my only cold of the winter 5 days before take-off.
The other reason was because I couldn’t fit it in.
My brilliant, intrepid sister-in-law Ann came with me, and the only time our whirlwind tour slowed down was when we slept.
A few months back, I shared about my other wonderful sister-in-law Kathy. I’ve been blessed with not one, but two fantastic sisters-in-law and Ann, my husband’s sister, also deserves recognition.
Ann came and stayed with us after Richard’s lung transplant and then came back again to take care of both of us during my breast cancer. During 2011, she lived with us for four out of twelve months. Not only did she take care of us, but she was a delight to be around (even when the circumstances were less than delightful). Despite the stressful situation, we actually shared a lot of laughs and good times.
So when I was offered the chance to go to London, my first thought was to see whether Ann might want to come, too.
Not only was Ann up for a trip to London, but she wisely suggested we check with her cousin Anna about staying with Anna and her husband Will.
So Ann and I headed across the Atlantic to stay with Anna and Will in London.
The trip didn’t get off to the greatest start.
A huge winter storm (in March) was bearing down on the east coast so the airports were a little crazy. Ann almost missed our plane from Charlotte to Heathrow. As in, after I informed the gate agents I wasn’t getting on the plane without her, they started making preparations to pull my suitcase off the plane.
I was about a minute away from a full-blown crying meltdown when I saw Ann running toward me and, like a crazy person, I began frantically waving my arms at her. She waved her arms back and I began shrieking, “That’s her – she’s right there! You can’t take off without us!”
Soon we were on the plane and thanks to a wonderful flight attendant, were made comfortable before taking off. He continued to make us comfortable (brought us free wine) and quickly became our favorite flight attendant.
Before this trip, thinking about flying 8-9 hours made me anxious. But it really isn’t that big the deal I’d made it out to be. In preparation, my carry-on contained reading material, antibacterial wipes, face wipes, moisturizers, hand and foot cream, fuzzy warm socks, ear plugs, eye mask, and my own blanket and pillow. It all came in handy but wasn’t necessary. Ann started laughing when I pulled out my quart bag of liquids. It was so overfilled with lotions and potions that she couldn’t believe TSA allowed it through.
After take-off and free wine, we settled in to try to get some sleep. I’m not sure how much sleep I got, but I must have slept at some point because before I knew it, the flight attendants had turned on the cabin lights, I could smell coffee, and there was light outside the windows. I looked out the window and could see the pastoral countryside below.
Anna and Will live in a fabulous London flat in the neighborhood of West Hampstead. Will greeted us warmly, showed us around the flat, let us freshen up, and then took us down the street to show us the Tube and bus stop. Within a couple of hours of landing, we were on a bus headed past Abbey Road toward Piccadilly Circus.
We had a light lunch at Pub #1. I don’t remember the actual name of Pub #1, but supposedly Charles Dickens was a frequent customer. Evidently, Charles Dickens went to a lot of pubs, because this wasn’t the only pub we visited that claimed to have been frequented by Charles Dickens.
Then we headed out to find the double-decker tour bus and cruised by several London landmarks before hopping off the bus to catch the Tube back to Anna and Will’s.
There is no way I can adequately describe how wonderful Anna and Will were. Their place in West Hampstead is beautifully decorated with treasures from their world travels. The bed and pillows, linens, etc. were uber-comfortable (and that’s coming from someone who is very much like the Princess from “The Princess and the Pea”).
That first night, Will laid out a spread of hummus and crackers and some excellent chips before a lovely candlelit dinner of his “special recipe” fish stew.
I fell into bed exhausted and pinching myself that I was really in London and excited to see what adventures Ann and I would share.