There are three things you need to know about me before we continue with the updates on my travels. 1. I am a bit of an Anglofile. 2. I love traveling and it was one of the main reasons why being undocumented was such a damn struggle for me. 3. I am terrified of flying.
My fear of flying will never get in the way of my love for traveling thanks to the pharmaceutical help of Xanax and cheap wine.
I have been pretty much an emotional wreck the whole week of the trip. It is only because I am a reserved and self contained person that DH only saw me express some annoyance, shortness of temper and occasional bouts of silence. Inside I was a mix of nerves and happiness, terror and joy. I was so excited to finally travel! we had planned and saved and planned and saved some more and I was going to go where I had dreamt of going for over a decade. The thought of flying on a metal death trap for 8 hours over the Atlantic Ocean made me want to scream and burst into tears. Every time I have to fly I think “this is the way I am going to die” I picture the plane plummeting down to inevitable death and I think how cruel it would be for me to die before I see Europe. Or before I reach whatever destination I am supposed to be reaching.
I tried not to think about it, but the closer the departure date got the more nervous I became. I didn’t want to think about it but I couldn’t separate my dreams of walking the London streets from the actual process of getting there.
Somehow I made it to the plane after two glasses of insanely expensive airport wine and popped my pill. After seating down for twenty minutes on the plane, getting comfortable for the night flight ahead, talking to family and relaying last minute instructions for the care of Max and Zoey, the pill finally kicked in.
Sweet baby Jesus…there is something to be said about not being afraid. It’s almost like that feeling when you know you are about to piss your pants and you won’t make it to the toilet and somehow you do make it and release and you get goose bumps and the hair on your arms stands on end, and you shiver and your eyes water and there is no greater feeling than that of your bladder emptying…aaaah.
That’s how the pill feels, I feel normal, my body unclenches, my heart rate slows, my mouth produces saliva again, my head stops pounding, my hands aren’t sweaty, my stomach no longer rolls and that niggling need on my chest to release a blood curling scream is gone and I feel like myself again, not gripped by that fear of ‘this is certainly my last day on earth’. I feel relief.
I smiled feeling loopy and DH just gave me that planes-are-safer-than-cars look that I always get when I am flying or talking about flying, but I was too relaxed on my pill and too happy not to be afraid anymore to take umbrage.
What feels like minutes later, I wake up to a stewardess shuffling around cars to serve breakfast and coffee, the flight is almost over.
We made it to Heathrow, what an airport, I mean WOW. That has got to be the most trafficked airport in the world. We walked to immigration and in less than twenty minutes they stamped my passport and we walked away. They stamped my passport…I felt so gauche but I kept looking at that little stamp like it was a gift, it looked so pretty there on the page next to my visa. Sigh.
London was everything and more than I wanted, it was sunny and crisp every day we were there. I bought a really cute green raincoat prepared for the “awful London weather” and the sky was blue and the sun shone just for us those five days. I loved every corner of that city, I loved its Underground and it’s informative voice over the speaker warning us to “Mind the gap”. I loved St. Paul’s Cathedral, the breathtaking magnificence of Christopher Wren’s architecture. The Parliament and the Big Ben was imposing and oh so iconic. The Tower of London was sad, depressing and yet interesting and informative, and the Beefeater guide was hilarious. Windsor Castle made me realized I was born to be royalty and something must have gone wrong because I am not. The Queen was there since the flag was out on the Keep. Westminster Abbey was equally impressive with the tombs of so many important people is hard to keep track, Buckingham Palace was gorgeous and the nearby Wellington’s Arch was the scene of the crossing of the royal horses, we saw them come out of the royal mews and prance around with their riders in full regalia, those horses we so preening!
It’s a sign of how much I loved London that I didn’t even struggle with my dislike of Monarchies. I have always had a conflicted view of it; the romantic, historical romance obsessed part of me adores everything that has to do with the peerage and the monarchy of England. The part of me that is bothered by empires and social inequality is disgusted.
In London one can’t help but feel the need to sing a God Save the Queen when walking around her castle, the Keep of which has been standing there since the 1000s. DH was in as much aw as I was by all the beautiful structures, the accuracy of the public transportation, the history of the city, the old buildings, etc…he was just not quite as giddy as I was.
The last day in the city went and I was so not ready to leave it. I would’ve been glad to spend the rest of my vacation safely ensconced in London, walking around, drinking beer and maneuvering the Underground with ease. We went to Kings Cross Station to transfer to St. Pancras (which is the international rail that takes you outside of England) and I couldn’t leave London without making a stop on Platform 9 ¾ for a picture. Everyone in line to take the picture was at least in their 20s, 30s and some in their 50s. There were only two kids in line…I had to laugh at that, Harry Potter transcending generations.
I took my leap for the picture, holding my trolley with its stuffed white Hedwig, wearing the Slytherin scarf in Snape’s honor and pushed through the platform all the way to Paris.