I meant to mention in case anyone missed the news that the royal baby was born. Guess where I was for the blessed event? You guessed it…in ICELAND! Without water or trees.
As you can imagine, after the first day of touring Greenwich and London on foot, I had an unbearable blister on my right heel. Dropping my water bottle on my foot while eating chutney in the markets did not ease the pain either.
Having gone to bed at 2:30 in the morning, Paige and I (me more than Paige) slept in the next morning. We wanted to head out in time to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We got up with plenty of time to eat breakfast before we left. The changing of the guard didn’t start until 11:00. We wanted to arrive by 10:30 to get a good view. But when we went downstairs to eat, we ran into Sharon and couldn’t wait to tell her about our late-night walk from Lewisham. We drank coffee and tea with Sharon and didn’t quite get around to eating breakfast. (Side note: the British do not drink coffee. More on that to come.) Paige and I didn’t end up leaving Sharon’s until 10:00 and had to book it to Buckingham. We stopped quickly in a side cafe, and I asked for croissants and coffee. We received coffee; at least Paige did. She ordered a large mocha that cost three pounds. I wanted to save my money so I ordered a macchiato that cost one pound. What I received was not a macchiato; it was a shot of espresso that I swallowed in one gulp. And no croissants. By the time we got to Buckingham, there was no good place to stand to watch the festivities. I tried to take pictures, but I’m rather short and was busy holding onto my purse lest I be pick-pocketed. Thankfully Paige is tall and has an iPod that registers sound, unlike mine.
After Buckingham we caught the train to the Wellington Arch. This ride is noteworthy because it was the only time that we got off the train before we were supposed to. Paige and I hopped off, walked two steps, realized our mistake, turned around to hop back on the train, and Paige promptly got hit in the face by the closing doors. And we had to wait for the next train. (No one was hurt by trains during the making of this adventure story.)
We walked through the Wellington Arch and took a few pictures before deciding to buy breakfast at Hyde Park. We ate muffins while walking by the lake. I couldn’t help but notice how many geese enjoyed the water. I made a mental note to tell my friend Travis about them but never did. Geese or the Crown Jewels? Crown Jewels wins.
After spending a few hours walking through Hyde Park, we began our voyage through Kensington Gardens. We stopped by the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. I was old enough and aware enough when she died to remember Princess Diana being in all the papers so I was especially excited to visit her memorial fountain. There is a wonderful sign welcoming you to ISIS as soon as you enter into Kensington Gardens. I’m sure it’s not the ISIS America is consumed with. We walked to the Peter Pan statue, principally because I wanted to get a picture of it for my friend Callie.
I need to mention my hair at this moment. I brought a European converter to London so I was prepared. I had been told horror stories of women coming back bald from burning their hair off, and I did not want to be that woman. I already have little hair as it is. But when I plugged my hair dryer in to the converter, my hair dryer still glowed orange. I did not want to take my chances so I went the entire eleven days without doing my hair once. People with straight hair cannot appreciate the work that mine is. It is curly and disobedient. Even if I had managed to brush my hair mostly flat before leaving the house in the morning, as soon as the wind hit, my hair would spring back into curls. Needless to say, I felt like an ugly poodle for the entire trip. I hadn’t quite gotten used to that feeling by Monday so I was especially gratified by what happened by the Peter Pan statue.
I was trying to get pictures when there weren’t a lot of tourists. When Paige and I arrived, there was only one family by the statue. I thought I could wait long enough for them to leave and then have the statue all to myself, but as we waited there, more and more people showed up to get pictures. I gave up on waiting and just tried to get pictures without too many extra appendages in the way. While taking pictures I heard a group of English high school boys say, “We should do it. It’d be really funny.”
“I don’t want to do it.”
“Why not? It’d be great fun.” I got rather distracted from what I was doing and accidentally took a picture of Peter Pan’s rear end. Oops. At this point, the ringleader walked up to me and said, “Excuse me. Are you with that family?”
“Are you with anyone?”
“Her.” I pointed at Paige.
“Is it just the two of you?”
“Great! We have a school project where we have to take selfies with strangers. Would you take a selfie with us?”
“Of course.” I smiled at Paige. I could tell she was not happy.
She quickly remarked, “You boys are so young.”
“We’re not young!” the boy next to me exclaimed.
“Well, we’re rather old for you.”
“Oh,” the boy replied. Then they left and I thought about their fabrication of a school project. That Monday was a bank holiday. No self-respecting high schooler would do a class project with his buddies on a bank holiday.
I was feeling rather ecstatic that a high school boy would find us cute in our old age. Little did I know who else would find us cute.
Paige’s knee was giving her trouble so we decided to sit on a bench to rest before moving on to Kensington Palace. I must’ve looked like I was primping, but I was really just trying to make sure that my hair was covering all my bald spots. As we sat on the bench, three guys walked in front of us. I didn’t notice them at first. I only noticed when they were right in front of me that one was staring at me. He said, “Eh?” I thought he had said hello so I said hello back. Then he motioned me to walk with him. I am very awkward around guys but especially guys who give me the time of day. At the university I work at, I’m invisible. So I blushed and smiled and fluttered my eyelashes as I looked toward the ground and then back up. I looked at Paige and said, “I think they want us to walk with them.” Paige didn’t respond. I looked back at the group of guys. Another one of them had turned toward me and motioned for me to walk with them. I smiled and said hello again and then again told Paige that I thought he wanted us to walk with him. Again she did not respond. I looked back at the guys a third time, and now there was no mistaking that they wanted to walk with us. Paige and I stood up and walked in the opposite direction. I took one last look at the (I’m assuming Russian) men behind us and saw them muttering to themselves and shaking their heads. We walked into the entrance of Kensington Gardens and took a few pictures, once again deciding that exploring the rest of the interior was not worth the expense.
With an entire afternoon still ahead of us, we decided to go to the Natural History Museum, mostly because it was free. We quickly learned that it was free for a reason. I am not a science person, no offense to anyone out there who loves science. I have no interest in learning the evolutionary worldview when I already have a worldview that gives me a purpose to live. And none of the hands-on activities worked. We didn’t stay in the museum long–maybe an hour–and then decided to hit up the Sherlock Holmes museum at 221 Baker Street. We stood in line for ten minutes before realizing that we had to pay ten pounds for a ticket–a ticket to give us access to a one-room museum. We decided to walk through the gift shop instead. It was in that gift shop that I decided what I wanted to buy as a souvenir–a pipe. But I wanted a real pipe, not a Sherlock Holmes pipe. Thus began the great quest with Sharon to find a store in which I could buy an old-man pipe.
We then walked through Regent Park while on the way to the Sherlock Holmes restaurant where we ate real fish and chips with mushy peas. (The mushy peas really aren’t bad once you get past how much they look like baby food.) The restaurant didn’t have carry-out boxes so we took out the leftovers in tinfoil, making the metro station smell like fish wherever we went. And we never ate the leftovers anyway so the smell was all in vain.
We went to Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station where Harry Potter was filmed. We also went inside the gift shop. By this time Sharon had emailed us about a specialty cigar store where I could buy my pipe. I wanted to buy my pipe right away, but the store was far away from King’s Cross–out by Covent Garden so we decided to visit the Bank of England instead. We had forgotten that it was a bank holiday. Just as well because I had forgotten why I don’t eat fried food. I was super sick to my stomach, and London doesn’t believe in convenient public restrooms. There was nothing I could do but wait out the pain (side note: this pain is not related to gas but is in fact related to PCOS). As usual Paige was not ready to finish sight-seeing for the day so we walked to Diagon Alley, which is completely unlike the movie, and then followed Sharon’s advice and went to Soho for gelato. Soho is the street directly behind Piccadilly Circus and is also, apparently, the gay capital of London. Brighton is the gay capital of England. Soho is the gay capital of London.
While we were eating coffee gelato, it started to rain outside. Now I smelled like wet poodle as well as looked like one. This was the one day that I did not bring Paige’s mom’s jacket with me. (I don’t own a jacket or an umbrella so Paige’s mom lent me one of her jackets before we got on the first plane.) I was cold and tired. Paige kept asking me what I wanted to do, and all I wanted to do was go home and go to bed. But you can’t say that when you’re sight seeing in London! So we walked to China Town. I went inside a candy store, mostly to get warm, but I did discover my favorite Chinese candies of all time and thought about buying them but refrained. After China Town we went home, thankfully with less hullabaloo than we had the first night out.