03 August 2013

Final Thoughts

I've been putting off these final entries for almost a week now; it's as if by committing it to paper (or not, but you know what I mean) it means that the trip has really truly come to an end, and I'm not quite ready to let go.

On our evaluation of the program, one question that was asked was if this was the "best experience of our life." I think I hate that question, because if you term something the best of your life, then isn't everything else just downhill from there? I still have two-thirds of my life yet to live, and how could I possibly quantify this experience against others yet to come. I could, however, try to compare it to other trips and even then I can't say what the "best" one is. Each trip has been special and  memorable in its own way, but there are a few a teeny bit more amazing than others.  And when I think about past trips, it isn't so much the sights you see that stick out, but the little moments, especially those shared with friends.

So having said that, here are some random favs:

Favourite Castle: I saw so many castles on this trip! This one is hard, but I absolutely loved Conwy, the castle was great, the walled town just added to it, and the location is beautiful. And for just best pure castle on its own, it would be Harlech. And best castle location would be Dolwyddelan, two miles from the nearest village and perched on a rocky hill top.

Favourite Visit: I honestly cannot say what my fav repository was, because after ever visit I would declare it was my favorite, so its safe to say that I enjoyed and learned so much from each one. And would do anything to work in any one of them.

Favourite Tube Line: (a silly fav!) The Northern Line - definitely used it the most, and I love the "Mind the Gap" recording in Embankment which progressively sounds angrier the longer you listen to it.

Favourite Quick Food Stop: Pret! So happy to discover that there are two in Boston, although the menu is slightly different I will definitely be stopping in.

Favourite Candy Bar: Cadbury Twisted - I only had one because we only ever found it in one shop in Dalkeith - it has the Creme Egg filling! I suppose it was a good thing I never found others, especially considering the amount of Dairy Milk that came home with me...

Favourite Place in London: The South Bank - so much to see and do and its just so vibrant

Favourite Place Visited: Harris

Favourite Play: RSC's As You Like It. I can't say enough about this play, it literally took my breath away. I wish they had filmed it because I want to re-live watching it over and over...or at least listening to the music.

Another question on the evaluation was writing about how the experience changed us...I fully believe that travelling has formed the person I am today, but at the moment I don't think BSP truly changed me. Maybe if I look back on it in a few years, I will see how it changed my life (or I'll look around and see how my garden has grown![LIS inside joke]).  For now, at the risk of sounding silly, the following are what I learned:

- Doing laundry in London is just as unglamorous as doing it at home

- When you walk five miles a day and climb up and down stairs, you can have a second breakfast, eat a candy bar, and have a milkshake everyday and you will still lose five pounds at the end of the trip

- Being connected to the internet is a lifesaver; I have no idea how I would've functioned without access to bus and train timetables. And I think this now means I must get a smartphone.

- In the US we are way too reliant on our cars - my first day home I wanted to go visit the new library, and was car-less. I was about to walk until it started thundering...when I told Hillary, she looked at me like I was crazy - the library is probably two miles from the house, I walked further to get dinner one night.

- Travel is more fun when the unexpected, happy coincidences occur which lead to the little moments that you'll always remember.

So until the next trip, that's the end of this blog. And yes, I am planning the next trip - maybe London during winter break, but then I think maybe somewhere new, because you can't hope to relive a great experience, just create new ones.

Day 39 - Departure

I had planned on writing this entry while waiting at Heathrow, but they only give you 45mins of free wifi! So instead I hand-wrote it, and am just now posting it up.

The British Studies Program was providing free coaches to Heathrow for all the students, however since I booked my flight on my own, I would've had to be there over 7 hrs early if I took a coach, so I made my own way there. As it was, I was there four hours early but that is more doable and I'd rather spend those hours in London itself rather than being stuck in an airport where there isn't much to do except shop and sit.

In the morning I made my way to the 8am Mass at Westminster Cathedral. The last few days have been bookends to the first few days in London, so I finished it off by also going to church on both my first and last Sundays in London. Then I grabbed a quick breakfast at Waterloo (a Krispy Kreme donut - they have those here, but no Dunkins yet!) Back at the flat there was time for me to do a quick check of the room and I did find one thing hiding under the bed.

My "posh luggage" all ready to depart:
 Leaving Block 7 ( the terminology "block" makes me think of a prison block, not a dorm, but maybe that's just me!):
Check out time was 10am, so I reluctantly began the journey home. Catherine had purchased a return ticket for the Heathrow Express, before we learned about the coaches, and she was wicked nice and gave it to me to use. There was only one small staircase to negotiate getting on the Bakerloo line towards Paddington and a very nice man did grab a bag - it, of course, was the larger one!

To me, airports are synonymous with waiting. I had to wait an hour to drop my checked luggage off, since I was a tad bit early. Although that wait did involve an adorable little girl toddling over to me with a huge smile on her face, and then proceed to have fun pulling everything out of my bag - it was a cute moment and her parents were so embarrassed but it was fine! Then once through security it was just waiting at the gate to board. And then on the plane you wait until the runway is clear to take off. The view out the window personified how I felt about leaving:
The flight itself was fine, just interminably long, and it does take an hour longer going home than coming, but that hour always seems to stretch out even longer. Coming in to land, there was a great view flying in over Castle Island looking in from the harbor at the city, which almost made up for the long flight. Of course I now wish I had thought to have my camera out to capture it in a picture. That was something though that I made a conscious decision about this trip, to not be constantly documenting things from behind a camera lens and instead to just remember and live in the moment. Which has led to a few regrets of pictures missed.

And now I am home, my real home, but London will always be a home to me as well. I can't wait to get back.