Sunday, September 15, 2019

On the Other Side of the Pond - Part 1

This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. – William Shakespeare, Richard II
We've been in the UK for the past week on our yearly trip over to visit family and friends. Each time we go, it always surprises me how familiar everything feels, even though it's been such a long time since I lived here. What is also unfortunately familiar is the week-long jet lag I experience every single time. This year, it's been particularly annoying: one night I sleep great, and then the next night I lie awake in the dark, cursing time zones and trying not to feel so darn hungry. It should be really interesting when we go back to Canada. Darn it.

Anyway, we arrived a week ago in London. It occurred to me that it's been twenty years since I first moved to London after university. TWENTY YEARS. How is that possible? And I can't decide if I was exceedingly brave or incredibly naive to decide to make such a big move. It didn't seem like such a big deal back then, but Adriene in her 40s is certainly not up to such a big move again. Holy crap, how did I do that?

We usually spend the first week in Belfast visiting with the hubby's family before going off somewhere else in Europe, but we decided that we didn't want to battle through another transfer at Heathrow airport after a sleepless overnight flight. Instead, we hopped onto the Tube and about half an hour later (I'm not sure - things were kinda woozy for me at that stage) we stepped off at St. Pancras Station and was greeted by the sunshine and by the mass of people that call London home:

We arrived mid-day, but we weren't allowed to check-in to our hotel until 2:00pm. That was really rough: I'd been awake over 24 hours at that point, so to be told that I'd have to go for another two hours was like being asked to run a marathon after a hike through a desert. But that's life for a traveler, I guess.

I've never spent much time in the area, so it was interesting to have a look around, even when majorly sleep-deprived. This is St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel:

Central London has a very particular style about it. Looking around at all of the buildings makes you understand why they're so regularly used for film and tv locations:

But we always seek out the green spaces:

The next day, we looked out of our hotel window and realized we were just across from the British Library. There seemed to be a constant stream of people going in and out of it, so we thought it would be worth a peek in:

There are libraries, and then there's THIS library. It wasn't the most historical-looking library, but it is a library that is heavily used by students, the press, researchers... it was packed full of people working away at the desks and the reading rooms. I like that, in a world where we mostly look things up online, this massive library is still a necessity:

After that, we decided to wander over towards Regent's Canal. On the way there I looked up at this building into the offices and thought to myself, "Oh, that looks like fun. They look like they've set themselves to be like Google." And then I realized, it WAS Google, in all its modern and innovative glory:

And then, just down the road, we met old London again, this time in the canal where all of the old transfer and granary buildings were still standing, except they've all been transformed into shops and trendy bistros:

On the canal itself, we came across this awesome little bookshop. It was wonderful, but it was so small that I was afraid to go in for fear of capsizing the thing:

That afternoon, we craved green space again. We decided to head over to Regent's Park for a walk. There's nothing quite so English as an English garden, no matter what part of England you are in:

The next day, we got on a train out to Berkhamstead to visit the hubby's uncle. I didn't take many photos that day since I'd had a sleepless night, but I did take a few photos at Euston Station. I like train stations, even though they are a bit of a mad rush to get through most of the time:

I also loved how the WH Smith in the station had two rows of magazine racks totally devoted to train magazines:

London was a blur for us. We only really had two days to spend there, and on reflection, I think we'll try to stay a bit longer next time. Even though we both lived there for a good chunk of time, there is still loads to see. That plan is sort of brewing in the background right now.

The next day, we went to King's Cross to catch a train to go to Edinburgh:

I'm not a huge Harry Potter fan, but that didn't stop me from taking photos of other people taking photos at Platform 9 3/4. I wonder if the train station managers were truly prepared for that JK Rowling was going to do for them. They appear to have made the most of it after all:

The hubby made a very good decision to book the First Class tickets since they were not that much more than the regular tickets. This might be the only time I travel First Class anywhere, and so I made sure I made the most of it. I'm not ashamed to say that I filled my bag up with as many shortbread cookies and packets of crisps as I could out of the First Class lounge. And then, once we boarded the train, I sat in my lovely comfy seat and perused the menu for my lunch:

Once we got going, we sat back and enjoyed the views whilst the staff wheeled up and down the aisles with drinks and snacks. Tea? Sure. Shortbread? Of course. Muffin? If I must.

This really is a civilized way to travel. We had the option to take a flight to Edinburgh, which would have been shorter in theory, but a five-hour train journey far outweighs the hassle, the poking and prodding at security and the sitting around waiting in the airport that makes me want to climb the walls. And it probably would have taken just as long anyway.

Meanwhile, I worked on a bit of knitting on the way. I've learned that I don't knit nearly as much as I think I will when I'm over here, so I just packed a few small balls to play around with in my spare moments. I was truly impressed with my yarn packing job. It's probably the neatest section of packing within all of my luggage:

I pulled out a ball of leftover purple alpaca with the idea that I might make a hat out of it, but I am woefully short of yarn for that. I thought I might just make it into a headband, except that 1) I never wear headbands and 2) yeah, I NEVER wear headbands. So it's on pause for the moment until I can figure out what to do with it. Meanwhile, I've pulled out a small ball of fingering weight yarn which I plan to plan to do an experiment in brioche with it. Since I finished my last project, I have a small obsession with brioche which I need to get out of my system. So far, the cast on is killing me, so this may not last:

In an effort to keep this post from going too long, I'll post some more stuff later this week. Suffice to say, it's been a busy but interesting trip so far. And don't worry: there's more yarn stuff coming up. I'm off for a cup of tea and some Hobnobs. More tomorrow!


Su said...

First class train travel is very civilized, but can be wonderfully affordable. Sometimes it's actually cheaper to buy a first class ticket! No, I don't know how that works either, but if it's an option I'm definitely going to take it. It 's usually possible to upgrade once on the train too, it only costs about £10 and is definitely worth it, especially if the train is busy.

AdrieneJ said...

That's really good information! We got the first class tickets at a decent price as we found that they were much cheaper if we booked them a few weeks in advance... any earlier and it was much more expensive and any late we'd also be paying more than double the price. Perhaps we'll try upgrading our tickets on a shorter journey sometime. Thanks for the info!