Monday, August 9, 2010

Why Didn't I Wait Until After London to Watch the Hostel Movies?

August 18, 2009

We are up fairly early today, given last night’s shenanigans. However we are looking to get a good jump on our mini road trip to London as I have requested that we make a lunch stop in Newbury Berkshire which is on the way. My grandmother was born and raised there and while she and I haven’t been close in years, I thought it would be really interesting to see the place where she grew up. It seems especially appropriate given I’m here already!

While I was getting ready and packing up my things, I found the most amazing note among my toiletries from Karen who had to leave early for work and, therefore, wasn’t able to send us off. Reading it brought tears to my eyes as she told us how wonderfully easy we were as house guests and how she wished she could be there to say goodbye. I thought of how lucky Chris was to have such open, loving and caring parents that were so sweet and selfless to people that they had basically just met. Obviously, I was so pleased that they willingly opened up their home to us but that together with the amazing supper last night and the note this morning, I truly feel lucky and blessed to have met his wonderful family.

Dan also came out to say goodbye to us this morning which was a little hard on me too, however knowing that I am going to see him again in just a few short weeks really helped with the goodbyes. One more big hug from Paul, a quick stop to fill up on “petrol” and the four of us were on our way.

Newbury is a sleepy little town full of charm. It may sound strange, but I actually felt the energy of my grandma while we were there walking the streets. Not all of my memories of my grandma are positive; however all I could think of when walking around were the good things I remember about her. I wasn’t really sure how I’d feel once I got here but now that I am, I’m really happy that Chris accommodated my pit stop request.

To top it off, we had a really terrific lunch at a place called Caffe Uno where I enjoyed some delicious Risotto Verde and now we are at a perfect little pub called Lock Stock and Barrel where we are enjoying the quiet sounds of a lazy afternoon and all of the goings on that a small town has to offer.

We rolled into London just a few hours later and the hardest part of my trip took place – saying goodbye to Chris and Danni. We got out of the car and hugged and I couldn’t help holding on just a bit longer than I normally would have. I’m confident that we will see each other again, but I wasn’t sure they realized how it was largely their contributions to this trip that has made it my most memorable “holiday” so far. I am so appreciative for everything they did for us and I know that Cory feels the same way. We started out having a polite trip where we were all still sort of getting to know each other – then our real selves started coming out and we rode a few waves. After the brief storm, we found ourselves still sitting together on the boat, but a bit closer than we were before. It was really nice to see Cory finally relax and have a good time and it was very clear that he and Chris had bonded more than even I had expected in the short time we were there. I was so sad to be leaving Danni and her sweet, caring energy and as we walked away from the car and towards the subway station, the tears flowed freely under my sunglasses as I already missed my friends terribly.

Cory’s avid traveling past made our London experience so much better than if I would’ve tried to do it alone or with one of those ridiculous travel books that I never actually read. He took us right where we needed to go on the subway, helped me buy the exact tickets and we made our way onto the tiny little train that they call a subway here. It feels a little more like getting on a ride at Lego Land, but with everything I brought for the trip piled onto my back, it offered a place for me to rest briefly so I’ll take it!

We made it to our hostel which Cory had stayed at before so I felt pretty comfortable with everything. It’s a crazy looking place called the Generator but the front desk staff was polite and the room is… good enough? Again, without knowing what to expect and having never stayed in a hostel before, I was pretty much okay with any accommodations that didn’t involve sharp weapons or strange looking men with matching dog tattoos.

We dropped our things off in the room, freshened up and our now down in the Generator’s bar enjoying a beer and a chill before we head out into the city. We only have tonight and all day tomorrow to take in the sites and since Cory has been to London before, I told him that he can just take me to some places that were highlights for him but that we should try to do a few things that he didn’t do when he traveled here last. Like I’ve mentioned before, I don’t do the tourist thing quite like Cory and I’m more about checking out the people and cultural aspect than I am reading about old buildings or going on museum tours.

I am very excited about our next stop, however, which will be to Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant, Maze. Cory and I are both big fans of Gordon Ramsey and are thrilled to have the opportunity (and the money) to visit one of his most acclaimed restaurants.

Before we head out though, we are just relaxing here in the bar. I am watching all the different people coming in and out of the bar and wondering what it would be like to be a nomad, like many of these people are – taking years out of their life to simply be on the road, experiencing new things and seeing new places every day. It’s a fascinating lifestyle.

I’m also thinking about Cory and watching him as he is looking through my camera at all the silly pictures from last night. He hasn’t said anything about me kissing Nick and I am starting to wonder if he even knows that I did. However, there are a few pictures of me and Nick on the dance floor, mouth to mouth, so if he doesn’t know, he will shortly…

I’m wondering how the last few days of this trip will go. It’s a lot easier to be around Cory when I have Chris and Danni there to act as buffers. Now, it’s just he and I. After that first night of drama, we really hadn’t talked too much about “us” again. We do have a few other friends we are trying to meet up with while we are here – one is a guy named Bradley that we both know from a bar called the Crown and Anchor back in Las Vegas – and the other is Cory’s ex-girlfriend, Sam, who I guess he was seeing right before he and I got together. I’m a bit nervous about meeting her but figured that I have put Cory in enough awkward situations throughout the week that it’s only fair for the tables to be turned at least once during this trip.

Speaking of awkward, Cory has finished looking at the pictures and he didn’t say anything about me and Nick. So, either he doesn’t mind or, like usual, he is just keeping his thoughts to himself. Either way, at least things seem cool. The longer this trip goes on, with all of its ups and downs, the more I am starting to feel confident that he might not be so upset with the idea of me and Aaron. I’m still not quite ready to discuss it with him, but at the same time, I want to get past the initial reaction so that I can focus on trying to make something happen with Aaron once we get home. All throughout this trip, I find myself dazing out the window while we are in the car, thinking about those last two nights before the trip, and while I am officially bothered by the fact that I haven’t gotten an email, I think that perhaps Aaron just really doesn’t want to interfere with the trip and that he truly wants to wait until I’m back to start dealing with everything. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Our beer is finished and we are heading to Maze. I am wearing a dress that I bought specifically for this occasion and am confident that the dining experience will meet, or even exceed my expectations.

I was right! What a wonderful dinner! We sat at the bar and were given the best service by a knowledgeable and genuinely polite bartender. I wish I could remember everything we ate and in retrospect, should not have been so self-conscious about taking pictures and notes of every dish. But, I really wanted to be in the experience so I left the camera and the journal in my purse for the duration of the meal.

Maze is a tasting restaurant so instead of getting two or three gigantic courses of something, we got a total of seven small tastes of menu items. We tried everything from beets to quail to duck and finished with a delightful bread pudding. If I were more of a “foodie” I could give descriptions that would give our dinner more substance and credit, but for now, all I can say is WOW! To top it off, the bartender took us into the kitchen after our meal and gave us a tour of the operation – we even saw the chef’s table that they set up for VIPs and special events. Even though I knew it was impossible, my eyes kept darting around, hoping Mr. Ramsey himself would show up out of nowhere to yell at a staff member for not paying attention to detail or working too slowly. Unfortunately, this was the only expectation that wasn’t met. Otherwise this was, by far, one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Again, I must laugh at all those people back home who told me I wouldn’t be eating well in this country.

After dinner, we walked around London and I got to see a lot of amazing sights at night such as the Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye and Trafalgar Square. There were some places that were really cool to see at night and some places that weren’t. Parts of this city have really bad energy, not unlike any other city, but there are just so many people here! I mean, I had to stop a few times and remind myself that I was in London! I lived in Los Angeles for eight years and that took some getting used to as well. But this… well, this is London! There just seems to be so much going on everywhere I look and it seems like conflicting energy is being shot at me from every angle. It’s quite a lot to take in.
Luckily, even though it’s not what I’d call “cozy”, our wacky little hostel here does NOT have bad energy and we are back, having one last drink in the bar before we call it a night. Tomorrow will be a full day of sightseeing, starting with the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, something I’ve been told is a must-see. First, however, will be our very last proper English breakfast.

I’m sorry… first and foremost – sleep!! 

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