I love traveling alone. Anyone who knows me knows this. I've never been worried about booking tickets to places I've never visited & hearing languages I can't translate. Honestly, I think that's half the fun.
But this trip started off much differently than normal. My parents drove up to my terminal at Logan International Airport and we parked behind the bomb squad. I waited in line at security where several passengers wore Boston Marathon t-shirts and both passengers and security avoided the topic. Because what do you say to a dedicated runner who flew all the way from Europe to put their athleticism and charitable selflessness to the test by running over 26 miles only to experience a horrific act of terror? I was afraid if I even opened my mouth I'd fall apart.
CNN was broadcasting on every television, giving us our first glimpse of the two men who attacked our city. I wanted to be happy that we were one step closer to holding people accountable. I also wanted to feel safe knowing that police and military personal were everywhere from my apartment to the door of my plane, but I couldn't shake the fear. For the first time in my life I was dreading take-off.
My friend Chris picked me up at London Heathrow after 2 hours sleep in the sky. It's much easier to shake the uneasy feeling when you see a friendly face. We grabbed coffee & blueberry muffins and took The Tube to see the sights - Big Ben, The Eye, West Minster Abby, Buckingham Palace and several proper English pubs (the best of which was The Queens Arms). We stayed at a hostel called Astor Hyde Park which was everything a hostel should be. I caught up on news from home from the copy of the London Evening Standard I grabbed in the subway. Never in my wildest dreams did I think Boston would make the cover of a British paper while I was over here.
On Saturday we met up with Chris's friend Ty and I experienced Camden Market. We had a quick pint at The Elephants Head before we immersed ourselves in the real commotion - street performers & artists, pizza & crepes, fashion do's & don'ts . It was like the land of misfit toys, dancing around to a pop-punk soundtrack. I loved the chaos. We went to another pub and brought our beers outside to watch the "Camden Lock" in action. Okay I'll use the term 'action' loosely.... :)
Thanks to a lesson Chris gave me in British slang, I learned that the word 'slag' means slut.
While walking through the crowds I heard a young guy tell his buddies, "All American girls are slags!"
I turned to the guy and in my most innocent and naive voice asked, "Excuse me sir, what's a slag?"
British Man: "Ummmm..."
Me: "You said all American girls are slags, I'm very curious!"
British Guy's Friend 1 : OOOOOOHHHHHHHHH
British Man: "What are the odds I'm standing directly next to an American girl?"
British Man's Friend 2: "This is the best day of my life."
I gave the poor bloke a sympathetic pat on the back and told him that I knew what it was and I knew he didn't mean it & also reminded him to be careful because we're everywhere!
Day drinking provided that courage.
Before arriving here I was told that the British keep to themselves & it's always rainy, so what did I bring? Books & rain gear. The past 3 days have been FULL of sunshine and friendly strangers. I took a taxi at 7am today and my cab driver showed me where the London bombing was after I told him I was from Boston. He was around my age and has done a TON of traveling, as well.
As he lifted my luggage out of the taxi at London St. Pancras Int'l he said, "Jeez, have you got an ex-boyfriend in here?" I liked him.
I'm now on the train from London to Brussels. I've never been offered more croissants and tea in my life. This is certainly something I could get used to.