OK, this is a little stale-dated now… but too much has been happening… so pretend it’s Thu, Sep 13th… I am mostly over jet-lag so will see if I can start catching up with the storyline…
I have arrived in London! Because I was travelling on airline points I had to arrive at Heathrow via Frankfurt. Marcel suggested had I prepared better I could have just jumped out of the plane when we flew over London and saved a lot of time. I suppose I could have even skipped the gigantic customs and immigration line 🙂
But sadly I am not on the same terms with 007 as the Queen and I told Marcel I would only feel comfortable in a parachute if we were doing a tandem jump (James Bond et moi :))
I’m not sure if Marcel has jumped from a plane. But I doubt it would phase him. It’s the first time I’ve even seen someone’s scar from a personal encounter with a grizzly bear (and it has claw marks so pretty authentic!)
I grew up with the bears so heard myriad advice in my childhood about what to do if you get too close to a bear. Apparently you are supposed to “play dead” because grizzly bears are the connoisseurs of the bush and they won’t eat road kill. If it’s not organic free-roaming prey they know is as fresh as sushi, they will go in search of alternative fresh meat. If it’s running away, they know it will be fresh 🙂
You may not have had a children’s game where you pretend to “play dead” just in case you need to steel yourself for that tete-tete with the bear but, no matter how convincing we could be in an empty field, we all secretly knew we would likely just run if we actually SAW a bear.
So I had to ask… apparently Marcel passed out. And the bear didn’t devour him. So perhaps your body will just “play dead” without your consent. Likely the best possible outcome.
I am a big fan of the “pod” and most of my recent business class treats on airline points have provided me with my private cocoon to drink champagne and catch up on movies.
But I love to travel. And there is a higher probability you will meet an interesting person who likes to travel on an airplane.
We bonded when they took our champagne away before take-off because we weren’t drinking fast enough. Conversations with strangers on airplanes are always mysterious encounters. You can’t escape for ten hours. But you aren’t required to converse at all. So there is always this mutual dance between being friendly and making sure you aren’t crowding the other person’s space.
Marcel is Swiss. He has travelled a lot. He has lots of opinions. And he wrestles grizzly bears for sport. I didn’t catch up on any movies but we seemed to arrive in Frankfurt in no time.
Frankfurt airport is kind of like a second home for me but those stories are for another time. The next few days will be all about London 2012. I have this strange habit of arriving in cities just after the Olympics have ended. The same thing happened in Beijing in 2008. It’s a little like arriving at a party after all the guests have gone home. But maybe I’ll hear some stories about the party while they are fresh. It won’t really matter.
Beijing needed the Olympics to get the world’s attention. London did not. As I write this I am sitting in a Mediterranean restaurant being filled to bursting with Persian food. It was just a random pick near the hotel but it is bringing back fond memories of Istanbul and Egypt from earlier this year.
I’m pretty thrifty so I took the Tube from Heathrow. I’m staying in a new neighbourhood for me – at the cool CitizenM Bankside.
Because I don’t know my way around yet, I went the wrong way out of Southwark station so I got to tour the streets of London with my suitcase. This isn’t a tourist neighbourhood so it was more striking. And made me think of the commentary during the Olympics about how many different cultures and languages there are in the city of London. That will happen when you decide to create an Empire to rule the entire world…
Paris is more romantic. Amsterdam is more freewheeling. Istanbul is more entertaining. But London feels like a city of the future – where the past and the future fuse. Where, imperfectly, but with a very low level of violence by world standards, almost the entire world lives together. I think they said 250 different countries are represented in the city of London. It certainly looks that way is you walk in the non-tourist zones or ride the Tube all the way from Heathrow to the center of London.
I’ve been to London so many times I had an Oyster card when not all locals had one yet! (My London friends explained it was the way to travel the Tube for those of us with thrifty Scottish genes).
In a couple of years it will be 25 years since my very first trip to London. Many of my visits to London have been lost in the shuffle of memories and the exact details are blurry but I still have many memories of that very first trip.
At the time I had an Australian boyfriend and he was returning to Sydney and I was going with him. But – in the interim – he was travelling through Europe as Australians are prone to do. But I had just received my professional designation so had been living hand-to-mouth and had no funds to gallivant around Europe.
So we made a deal. He would start on his own and I would save money like mad and join him for the last three months.
I know it’s likely hard to believe, kids, but back then there was no internet, no Skype, no mobile phones even, let alone smart phones. So every week he would go to a European post office to make a short, wildly expensive transatlantic call. I would wait by the land line and jump when it rang. Not so functional but far more romantic 🙂
And I think that was part of it. He wanted me to come for a quick, interim visit before I joined him later. He was staying with friends in Earl’s Court so I just needed the plane fare – and a passport. My first!
Having no experience with international travel, I thought it would be impossible. But Toronto-London was a popular route and there was lots of competition. So I quickly found myself on a Wardair flight to London with a tiny backpack, some travellers’cheques and a spirit of adventure.
In those days they didn’t mark the streets and it took some time to always look the wrong way for traffic – because everyone was driving on the left – but I didn’t sustain any injury. The food was absolute crap. But the people were lovely (yet again today some stranger helped me with my suitcase on the stairs and another gave me detailed directions without me even asking – I was just standing with my suitcase and a map looking confused :))
And then you start seeing the stuff. St Paul’s. The Tower of London. The British Museum. That is only the tip of the iceberg. I still haven’t done everything there is to do in London as a tourist, let alone a local. But that just gives you a reason to come back…
And so it begins! We’ll do some tourist stuff. And we’ll weave together pieces from my enormous memory bank of the City of London – one of the world’s most spectacular and important urban settings. Just imagine you’ve pulled the ripcord on your parachute and you and James are about to head to the bar for a martini. Claridges, maybe? 🙂
p.s. you may be wondering why Geox? It’s in honour of my new travel shoes. Because I am famous for my eye-catching collection of stilettos, it would come as a surprise to many that I am equally obsessed with loafers. Some time ago, loafers fell out of fashion and finding a pair that were non-orthopedic was like searching for pork in Israel. So when they opened a Geox store in Vancouver I bought four pairs! I have discovered the ballerina flat is even more versatile, possibly the perfect travel shoe. I road tested my new Geox leopard print ballet flats for this trip – and they are winners! I have now been wearing them for two days straight. With pants on the plane. With tights and a leather miniskirt as I type this.
leopard print ballerinas part of Piuma collection