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FINALLY back home!

Ok, so I know that I’ve left you all in the lurch for the past few days.  Sorry about that!  I’ve been fighting with the video clips and photos from my trips to Buckingham Palace, the Houses Parliament, etc but hope to get a gallery up soon so that you can see them. Coming home yesterday was a very long, very emotional process, I have to say.  Eight and a half hours on a plane and then another four and a half on the train makes for a terribly long day.  Part of me was happy to just be home again, sleep in my own bed, take a shower in my own place. The other half was filled with anxiety and trepidation:  I still have to deal with my current life situation.  I’m still faced with the facts:  loss of the life I knew, loss of the life partner who did, and still does, mean the world to me, loss of emotional control overall.  It’s hard to have patience and let everything eventually shake out the way it’s supposed to. I mean, who in the world is ok with going from living with and loving someone for 12+ years and then having to start living alone again? To come home to an empty house, eat your meals alone, go shopping alone, have no one to converse with?  I want to change my way of thinking. I want to have hope, be ok with having her friendship at least and not losing at all. It’s a very difficult process but if there’s anything that London has taught me is that life flows in and around me, no matter what.  I can choose to be the rock in water and let it wear me down to sand or I could be the leaf in water and just let it guide me downriver.

All sounds nice and philosophical now but it’s much more difficult to put into practice (especially when your emotions are so very bipolar and somewhat schizophrenic from one moment to the next). So this trip has become less of a Freak, Fly, Spend (though I definitely did those things) and much more of a Try, Hope, Pray….and understand more fully what it means to love….myself, my former partner (who is still my best friend and will always be the love of my life), my family, my friends. I’ll keep you posted 😉

STAY TUNED:  Pictures, video and some really whack stories about swearing lorry drivers, even scarier taxi drivers and why one should NEVER ignore the WALK/DON’T WALK signs on London streets.

It was a pretty day here this Saturday. There were times when soaking rain descended over the city but it was nothing that having tea and a ham/cheese sandwich at the Green Garden Cafe on Neal Street couldn’t improve. The owner there was quite nice and gave me a towel to dry my very wet self off with. It was comforting to just sit and watch people dash back and forth, trying to dodge the downpour.

After the rain let up, I wandered around Soho and Covent Gardens again; this time I took a little video of the crazy Covent Gardens Market courtyard (only on one side) and of the GIGANTIC Apple Store that has FOUR levels to it (sorry that it might look a bit rushed. I was trying to film before the very scary looking security guards bounced me. These guys looked quite big and quite serious.)

Here they are:

Covent Gardens Market mini-vid

London Apple Store tour – Part 1

London Apple Store tour – Part 2

London Apple Store tour – Part 3

Since today is Halloween, it seems that all of London is turning out to celebrate this evening. This means that the trains, buses, and streets are literally jam-packed with people (locals, tourists, etc). The young ones have started dressing up early and a good-sized crowd of them showed up in front of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum to pose for pictures. I’d have taken some pictures myself but the crowds were so bad that just walking a few steps was nearly impossible. Sometimes I had to step out into the street to get past throngs of people (nearly was run over by a double decker or a taxi at some point). I drifted to the London Trocadero, a cheap-looking gallery of cinemas, tourist-targeting shops and tattoo parlors after absorbing the festive energy and heavenly smells in Chinatown. That was an interesting, very loud experience LOL!

Walking the neighborhoods is quite fun, although evil cramps made me cut the wandering short today. I’m now holed up, listening to the wild Halloween revelers running up the street outside my hotel and watching Strictly Come Dancing for the first time (and I am writing this entry too 😀 ).

A Walk In The Park

Today was mostly me absorbing nature, namely walks through Kensington Gardens, the lower half Hyde Park, wandering aimlessly along the Princess Diana Memorial Trail and visiting her memorial fountain. I may have better luck uploading the short vids that I took. I think *LOL*

EDIT: Here they are! Hope they work well.

Princess Diana Memorial Fountain – Part 1

Princess Diana Memorial Fountain – Part 2

London has so many lush, green parks and they are so large that you really can get lost in them. But what’s more enjoyable is seeing so many happy people around, families large and small, couples, students, etc. It was just fun to walk around and people watch. I got to see the Royal Albert Hall, The Albert Memorial, and the Wellington Arch (near the Marble Arch Underground stop). I took pictures but will need to use Photoshop for them to make them ready for posting.

It’s pretty dreary looking and chilly today, though it is supposed to warm up to 16degrees C as the day goes on. Not unsurprising since most of the week has shown better weather than originally expected. Changing hotels today and then recharging my Oyster Card so that I can continue to use public transportation. Feeling drained, weary today. Last night wasn’t so great. I’ve learned that Eat Pray Love doesn’t work in practice for everyone. Most of the lessons I’ve learned thus far haven’t made me feel better just more aware of how much work that needs to be done on myself and how I’m not the person I thought I was. So much to be done and the outcome is unsure. No matter where you are, who your with or what sights your shown, you can’t outrun your difficulties. You have to learn how to grow and cope right where your are. It has less to do with the place and more to do with the how. This is not to say that I’ve not learned about living in the moment, appreciating the little things like sipping a hot caffee mocha in a lively corner shop, being surrounded by people speaking every conceivable language in a bustling marketplace, joking with smiling shopkeepers and salespeople; in essence, deciding not to do the touristy things so that I could be immersed in the daily routine of a Londoner. Just having to learn how to get from place to place, find food, deal with lodging, etc, pushed my problems and pain to the back of my mind temporarily. The feelings and ache come flooding back when I’m in my hotel room, tired and sore from the day’s “work”. Interesting to notice that I’ve lost at least 10 lbs since I’ve been here. Glad all of that walking is paying off. 🙂

I’ve also learned that trying to live, even temporarily, alone in another country is hard, hard work. Makes me appreciate my home and family in the US that much more.

Thanks, Mom, Dad and Diana for putting up with me calling every night. I know that I wouldn’t have lasted long on this trip without you.

Having hot tea and a lamb kebab pita for breakfast (the lamb is a little stringy but the sauce is tangy and flavorful, with ginger, lemon, cilantro and other spices. The tea is very comforting on a day like today) before beginning my wanderings.

I think I’ll be a little less introspective once I get checked in and start moving about. More later, yeah?

Underground Gaga?

Did I forget to mention the one-armed guy in the Lancaster Gate exit Tube who was serenading all of the poor, stressed rush hour souls with a very loud, heavy metal rendition of Poker Face? Was actually damn good too. Wish I had been able to get a picture.

28 October 2010

10:45 a.m. – Found a nice quiet Caffe Nero (the Italian competitor for the lesser quality Starbucks in this neck of the proverbial woods) in a side street off Sussex Gardens, to begin today’s post. Ordered a Caffe Mocha (good strong stuff made with the normal two hefty shots of espresso instead of that overpriced, watered down nonsense we get from S-bucks) and a salami and mozzarella panini for breakfast. The coffee rocked though the panini was so-so. The goal of today is to finally find the new Josef Siebel factory story that just opened here in London. Good shopping awaits, yeah? But first, I must continue where last night’s adventures left off.

After having attempted to go to bed relatively early last night (not to so successful, really. Ambien failed me for the first time.), I realized that MY concept of early and everyone else’s clashed….badly. My young German and Dutch neighbors seemed to have boundless energy as they came breezing into their respective rooms at all hours of the night with only a brief respite between 3 and 6 a.m. Somewhere in my sleep-deprived haze, I heaved a premature sigh of relief, hoping that I could finally slip into dreamland. That was not to happen. Around 6:30 a.m., the road construction just outside my window, resumed with a vengeance. Between the viciously swearing road crews and the very loud robins that were happily chirping in the trees lining Inverness Terrace, I tried very hard to ignore the nagging feeling that Ihad actually rented a dorm room instead of a hotel room. Burrowing more deeply into the snug comforter provided, I tried to drift back off to sleep. Not too much later, my neighbors awoke from their brief catnap. Amid hairdryers, the neighbors arranging breakfast plans very loudly between rooms and showers being taken, it seemed to me that I had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting any shut-eye so I surrendered myself to preparing to meet the day.

1:45 p.m. – After breakfast, I walked down Sussex Gardens and Marlybone Street, past Baker Street (unfortunately, I didn’t need to go down far enough on Baker Street to see the home of the legendary Sherlock Holmes), the University of London Global and a whole host of historic homes and streets to get to Neal Street, a quaint little shopping district off High Holborn. It was far more entertaining to go off the beaten path of tourist traps and see the real neighborhoods of London, from Paddington, to the very political Regent’s Park, to the tiny student residences the line Gower Street.  I’m having a Coke here in a tiny little sandwich shop on Neal Street (the Green Garden Cafe, very working class) so that I could rest and update this blog entry. The guys that own the shop are funny and energetic and they kept apologizing to me for it being so rowdy there (think they thought I was doing important work or something). They were really nice overall, really sweet.

Neal Street is what one would call a bazaar of sorts and is situated between the Soho and Covent Garden sections of London. All manner of shops lines it and the other streets surrounding it which make up sort of a spoked wheel called the Seven Dials (I really will put up a picture gallery one day, honest!). Each dial has shops such as UGGs, Diesel, Josef Siebel, and even a shop for Official NFL sportswear.

Covent Garden is a little farther down Neal St and James St and is HUGE open air market/mall where one can purchase freshly made food, produce, upscale merchandise and, across the way, is sort of a flea market for kitschy, tourist type goods. The London Transport Museum as well as the Royal Opera House is situated next to the Covent Garden Market. The whole area had a festive feel to it; it was packed with people shopping, watching street performers, eating supper or buying for meals to cook at home. You’d have never known that it was the middle of the week, there were so many people around. It was a bit daunting for me because I felt that I had to doubly be on my guard against pickpockets in a close situation like this. Even so, all of the shopkeepers, police, and locals were very friendly, helpful and kind. It was a very enjoyable experience.

Really wished you were there. You know who you are. ❤

Sorry that I didn’t post on Wednesday. It was one of those days where it LOOKS like it’s going to be excellent: the sun was shining despite the dire forecast of Biblical Rain, the train was still packed with people like a barrel of lively eels but everyone was amicable enough and the wonderful smells of cooking food seemed to be everywhere.

I didn’t get to sleep until around 3:40am for some odd reason (popped an Ambien…thank God for those!) and I THOUGHT that I had set the alarm on my Blackberry to wake me in plenty of time to pack, shower and have breakfast before check-out time. That didn’t happen. My Blackberry is apparently still on US local time and I never noticed. I had gotten out of bed to use the lavatory and just decided to check my phone on a whim. Good thing that I did! It was nearly 11:30 and I had less than a half hour to shower, pack and check out! Flying around the room like a whirlwind, I threw my stuff in my suitcase, took the fastest shower that I have EVER taken and checked out ten minutes before noon.

What happened next could only take place in the movies. I’m going to truncate the situation a bit because I’m tired and the whole deal was a nightmare. I got off the train to make my way to my new accommodations, found that most of Central London was under construction so that I had to detour around pretty much every street that my Google directions listed for my hotel (try three full walking laps around the outside of Hyde Park hauling all of your luggage. Not. Fun.). After two and half hours of walking in circles, I finally asked a nice constable for directions and he told me that he’d never heard of my hotel but would help me find the street that I was looking for. After another two miles of walking, I finally got to the address only to realize that it was actually a private home that was situation next to a building that shared the same name as my hotel. I rang that poor person’s doorbell for ten minutes and waited out front of their house before the hotel called me and gave me the correct address. That poor owner must’ve thought I was a lunatic. I unfortunately did that AGAIN (twice actually….one time I landed at ANOTHER personal residence that happened to me located next to a building with a similar name as my hotel. EVERYTHING is named Hyde Park Towers in this area for some reason, the other time I entered a corporate building and the security guard was kind enough to say “Oh no worries, we get this sort of thing all the time.”) but finally managed to get to my hotel and check in after dark.

I threw my luggage into my room and dashed off in search of food; by the time I checked in, I was starving from not having eaten all day. Found some good Middle Eastern fare (Lamb Shwarma at this place called Ranoush Juice…pretty good stuff) and then dragged my leaden feet and legs back to my hotel room to soak.

It was one of those days, kids. -_-