‘Round the World Day One: “Do I really not have to report to work today?”

July 1, 2008

Hyde Park

I’m in London! Notwithstanding a two-hour delay leaving JFK (about which I was none too happy but also too sleepy to fuss), my flight to Heathrow went about as well as any economy-class transatlantic flight could have. The flight had more no-shows than expected, leaving me with two seats to commandeer as my own. I once again demonstrated my ability to contort my 6’6″ frame and lie flat across two tiny airplane seats. No, I’ve never done Yoga – I have Tae Kwon Do to thank for any flexibility carried over from childhood. Whenever I wanted to sit up, my legs had at least a few inches of clearance against the seats in front of me. The dinner meal, featuring chicken, rice, spinach, a crumpet, cheese, crackers, and a choice of wine, was also surprisingly tasty. And what better way to wake up than to a cup of English Breakfast tea whose deep color and powerful aroma make it easily mistaken for coffee. 

After taking an express train from Heathrow to an Underground station, then taking the subway to the hostel, I could hardly pile enough praise on London’s rail network. Its above-ground trains, subways, and buses put all other public transit systems I’ve seen in the U.S. to absolute shame. Any government purporting to be a democracy owes its citizens a public transit system that’s expansive, accessible, and affordable, and while the weak dollar makes hopping on the Tube sting slightly for Americans like me, London’s public transportation is one of the many things I love about this wonderful city. I hadn’t lived here or even visited since I was a toddler, but London is quickly becoming one of my favorite cities in the world. I’ll know more definitively after seeing more of the sights tomorrow.

I checked into the hostel in the late afternoon. An unexpected benefit of the delayed flight leaving New York was getting to carefully research where I’d be staying my first night in London. The trans-European tour didn’t begin until the day after I arrived, so I needed a place to lay my head down, get a shower, and maybe even wash clothes in the meantime. After reading some reviews and comparing locations (i.e. proximity to Tube stations and downtown London), I settled on the Palmers Lodge in the Swiss Cottage neighborhood. I chose well. The building is a massive, renovated Victorian mansion with comfy beds, friendly staff, and plenty of lounge space (I’m writing this from a leather chair in the main lounge). They even offer free wifi and breakfast, along with a coupon for a one-pound pint from the downstairs bar. The neighborhood itself, while not particularly “charming,” had plenty of everyday fare, allowing me to get a cheap haircut (where they even treated me to a spot of tea and conversation about Obama’s candidacy), some miscellaneous travel supplies like baggage locks and power converters, and a tasty bacon, brie, and avocado panini for dinner.

It was too late in the afternoon for me to do much tourist-y stuff (visiting museums, historical sites and the like), so I decided to save that for later. After dinner, though, I took the subway downtown and managed to find an amenable tree in Hyde Park to do some reading. Walking around the park, it finally started sinking in that even though today was Monday, I wasn’t going to the office today. Or the next day. Or the day after that… “Really?” I thought. “Isn’t there something I should be doing right now?” Well, besides enjoying myself, no, there isn’t anything I should be doing. My job required me to juggle all manner of dates and tasks while being ready at a Blackberry buzz’s notice to come to the office and assist with a project. But no longer – no attorneys to update, no vendors to hassle, no filing deadlines to remember. Finally realizing this at first made me slightly uneasy, but it wasn’t long before that uneasiness was replaced by a warm, fuzzy, “Hooray, by brain can at last relax!” feeling. It could be initially difficult to slow my mind down from the whizzing pace to which it’s become accustomed for Lord-knows-how-long, but I’m optimistic 🙂

The day had been pretty exhausting, so after returning to the hostel and enjoying a brew, I hit the hay at about eleven. Today’s plan is to take a walking tour of the area with other hostel-mates and visit Westminster Abbey in the afternoon. Chaucer’s grave is, of course, a must-visit… any others folks would like me to see / photograph?

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2 Responses to “‘Round the World Day One: “Do I really not have to report to work today?””

  1. Kater said

    Three of my London must-sees:

    1. Tate Modern. I could spend a week here. Easily my favorite art museum of all time.

    2. Tower of London. See if you can get in on a tour for all the juicy, grisly historical anecdotes.

    3. British Museum – but plan first, since it pretty much houses everything forever. Definitely hit the Rosetta Stone and the other classics, at least.

    And, if you are able to get out of London a bit more, I suggest Henry VIII’s Hampton Court Palace. It’s a welcome respite from London’s pace (and filth), and full of more tawdry historical goodness. Again, see if you can find a tour.

    I’m so jealous of you! Can’t wait to see you in a month! Take lots of pictures, update often, and enjoy your time off!

  2. Another INFJ said

    Have you moved your blog and this one is lost in space? I loved what you wrote about INFJ and was hoping to read someof your more current blogs, but alas, they seem to have ended here.

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