How lucky am I? The second time in a year to go to my favorite place on Earth, and this time, no one was barfing all over the Airbnb. (Okay, honestly, nothing could ever beat our trip last Christmas, but that was definitely a low point.)
This trip was for work. My team (the Happiness Hiring team, also known as Athena) met up in London to work on things, and then we went to Manchester for a couple of nights for an event. It was very busy, but what better place to be busy? Plus, we’d just made our three European teammates (Dan, Cécile, and Hannah) travel to Canada for the Grand Meetup, so it was only fair we went to them this time. We’re so kind and generous.
If only I’d remembered to write this post yesterday…
Anyway, just wanted to share my memories of the day Princess Diana died. Not because we were close friends or anything, but because I (along with Kristina and Anne) was literally in the middle of it.
In May 1997, we moved to London with student work visas, which allowed us to work in Britain for six months. Our initial plan was to stay in London a few months, make some money, then spend some time backpacking around Europe. Well, after being in London for a few weeks, we decided to forgo the backpacking bit and just stay in London as long as humanly possible.
It was idyllic (I mean, with twenty years of rose-tinted hindsight.) We found a tiny flat in South Kensington, just off Gloucester Road, and a short walk to Kensington High Street, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, and all that fun stuff. We found temp jobs (for a company called Office Angels, which is just…does it even still exist? Yes it does. (Maybe I’m being sexist by thinking it’s sexist. Who said men can’t be angels?)
Anyway, Kristina and I worked in offices around the West End, and Anne worked in a pub. We made friends. We spent our money on beer and rent. It was a glorious summer. Britpop (my favorite music, I was obsessed) was in full swing, the weather was gorgeous, we were young! We had no responsibilities!
One night, we got a phone call in the middle of the night. Or maybe early the next morning (look, it was 20 years ago, okay?) from one of Kristina’s friends, asking if we’d heard the news. We hadn’t, because Diana was killed in the middle of the night for us. We woke up to the news of her death.
It was sad, of course. But what was nuts was how close we were to everything. The tube station we took to work was the Gloucester Road station. If you left the station and walked down Gloucester Road, you’d eventually come to the front door of Kensington Palace. And that’s what everyone (or so it seemed) in the United Kingdom was doing. Walking from the station to the palace, with flowers.
It was nearly impossible to cross the street to get to the pub. Or to walk against the tides of people to get to the station. It was crazy. The front of the palace was a tide of bouquets. Flowers, notes, stuffed animals, everything.
A few days later, Kristina and Anne took a long-planned trip to Amsterdam (where they had originally met.) I was too broke, so I stayed behind. I remember thawing our tiny freezer with a hair dryer, and then leaving the flat to go watch the funeral procession down Kensington High Street.
Seeing the flowers with “Mummy” on top of the casket was the saddest thing in the world.
That’s about it. After it passed, I went back to the flat and probably watched it on TV. I don’t know. And that’s pretty much the whole story. Not exciting, but it’s kind of…interesting to have been so close to it.
So, where were we? Thursday morning, I suppose. It was our last day in London all together, as George had plans to go to Canterbury on Friday and meet up with a friend. Linus wanted to go to a castle, so we toyed with the idea of going to Windsor Castle, but getting there and back would have taken up too much of the day, so we decided to hit Hampton Court Palace instead.
On the tube
On the train
It was only about half an hour by train, so not bad.
I’m taking a break from the straight recap posts to write about the Harry Potter play. Since it took place over the course of two nights, I’d have to break up the recap, and I’d rather not. Read the rest of my posts about our trip here.
As I mentioned before, the boys and I went to the theater box office to pick up my tickets on Wednesday afternoon.
The doors opened at 6:30 with the show starting an hour later, but I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get from our flat on Holloway Rd to the theater. It only ended up taking about 20 minutes, so I was just a tad early. But I got in the line that was forming outside the theater anyway and just played Two Dots for a while. Continue reading →
I think it’s time to wrap up my trip recap, so I’ll just put the rest of the London bit in this post.
Tuesday was our second day in London. George wanted hats, but I’ve already blogged about that. We also did some other shopping and browsing, which was fun.
After we got George a jacket and me some tea at Marks & Spencer, we went our separate ways. I ended up eating a sandwich in Soho Square, where Kristina and Anne and I used to meet for lunch almost every day, 18 summers ago.
The next day, George and I poked around Camden Market (it was pretty dead, being a Wednesday) before meeting a friend for a pub crawl.
Yes, this is Pimm’s on tap.
Cool pic of a bridge we were near. Can’t be more specific.
The best meal we had all week, if you ask me: Toad in a Hole!
Thursday was our last full day, so I crammed as much in as I could. Museums, (okay, mostly the gift shops), walking around my old haunts, etc. It was a pretty warm day, and people were covering every inch of grass everywhere. I love London for that.
We spent as much time in London as we did in Keswick, but I took about a third as many photos. I suppose it’s because I already have a ton of pictures of London. And by this point in the trip, my shoulders were killing me from carrying around a heavy bag with my camera, so I took most of the photos with my phone.
Anyway, enough excuses.
When we first got to London, we went directly to the Airbnb that we had rented. It was tiny but clean and bright. Perfectly sufficient for our needs, and just down the street from a tube station. I’d say the only downside was the size of the bathroom. The sink in particular was just comically small. Washing my face was…messy.
Anyway, after dropping our stuff off, we headed out to explore a bit. We walked up (and I do mean up – didn’t we leave the hills behind in the Lake District?) to Hampstead, where we hit up a pub (natch) before catching a glimpse of Hampstead Heath.