011. LONDON CALLING / by Cara Hines

Journal from 11 November: Airplane to London     

Today I give myself a big fat “F” in travel; in schedules, time management and in packing. I will maintain a vigilant prayer and envision the safe arrival of my equipment bag. I’m picturing said bag and all its contents waiting for me intact and in perfect working order at the baggage claim in London. I’m not sure what I was thinking by checking that bag rather than the one I carried on with my clothes and toiletries…but que sera. We shall see. Arriving to smashed bits of camera or a missing bag altogether truly would be a test in anitya and equanimity. Detachment, my little friend. Detachment. And as for the train from Vicenza to Brescia to reach the airport, I missed it. The one I was to take would have cost 3.85EU and the bus to the airport 16EU. As it were, my only option for making my flight was the fast train for 18.50EU and a taxi to the airport costing 35EU. A grand total of 53.50EU as opposed to the 21EU or so I should have spent. And there was no good reason for it like an inspiring new discovery or a compelling conversation with a friend, or the embrace of a handsome Italian lover. Nope. Niente. It was only I, not paying attention to the time and being a total poop-head! Sono una scronza! Alora. I do not wish to cultivate negativity toward myself or anyone else, so I will breathe deeply a few times and release it.

OK. All better.

Actually, part of what I spent time doing this morning was talking for 40 minutes on the phone to a wonderful contact I’ve made recently. He’s perfectly delightful, willing and capable of helping me with the documentary project next year on the Via Francigena. He offered poignant, thoughtful “devil’s advocacy” as food for thought, and I was excited to pieces when we hung up. Maybe that nudged me a bit into a different orbit.

We’re making our final descent now into London Stansted Airport. This will be my first time in England! It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was very young. In fact, when I turned six years old, my grandmother, Betsy, promised to take me to England when I turned 12. She traveled every chance she had, and England was her favorite. She held, and still holds, a particular fancy for all things Royal Family. I cannot see the Queen of England without thinking of Her Royal Highness Betsy. The latter is as regal as the former. She was my link to the world beyond my little circle of existence, my happy, comfortable, loving cocoon in West Texas. The other side of the barbed wire fence always looks greener. I’m on the other side of it now. The grass is definitely greener here as the rain is plentiful…but the metaphorical grass is, well, it’s just different. I’m only here now, doing what I’m doing and able to enjoy it because I’ve embraced and have great fondness for where I came from. It turns out the grass is quite lovely on both sides of the fence, green or not. And I happen to enjoy variety.

Well, to sum up and much to my dismay where the subject of England is concerned, the reproductive activities of my mother’s three sisters flourished, gifting Betsy with a gaggle of grandchildren before my 12th birthday. However, I’m afraid her personal fortune didn’t multiply at the same pace. You can imagine what that did to my travel plans to the UK. I have always known I’d make it here when the time was right. The irony of it is the cousin I’m staying with is one whose very existence was part of my delay! (sorry Laura…!)


Journal from 11 November:  King’s Head Tavern - London

Laura and I went to a pub up the street from her apartment last night where we enjoyed at least one glass of wine too many. There have been very few times the two of us were able to talk at length about anything meaningful. In fact, I’m not sure we ever have. I enjoyed it. She’s adorable, smart, and funny. Not a bad combo. Must run in the family. (hehe) There was a table of locals nearby having an obvious good time. One bloke had a ukulele and started playing while the other chap sang (hey, I’m in London, by golly, I’ll have to carry on in my writing as though I am). The one singing trotted off to fetch his guitar, and when he returned we had a full on live acoustic concert at the next table. If Laura and I hadn’t been so concentrated on our conversations, I would have insisted we go over and join them. Our two groups closed down the bar. I haven’t been drinking much alcohol in the past 3 months or so, and those 3 generous glasses of wine had their way with me! Laura didn’t have class until noon today, so we slept until after 11am. Terrible! My first day in London, and I spent it sleeping, doing laundry, and updating my blog. Actually, it was quite necessary to do laundry. My clothes were beginning to come to life and transforming into traveling companions with their very own personalities. So, I’ve only walked around the Earls Court Road neighborhood exploring the streets, shops, cafes, quaint old row houses. I’m taken by the diversity of cuisines to be found in a single block…Indian, Thai, Mediterranean, Italian, Chinese, French, Vietnamese, Labanese…and by how many different languages to be heard spoken simultaneously within yards of each other. It’s like strolling the aisles of a shopping market of cultures.

Journal from 12 November:  Café Le Monde - London     

I’m sitting in a small café near Laura’s apartment enjoying a coffee and croissant breakfast. This is my second full day in London, but it will be the first and only one I spend exploring the city beyond Earl’s Court Road. I’ll breeze through or past Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Harrod’s, Wellington Arch, Green Park and Palace Gardens, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, and Westminster Abbey. I’ll walk along Victoria Embankment alongside River Thames and see the London Eye and House of Parliament. I’ll pass through Strand to meet Laura around 4pm at Covent Garden where they’re having a Holiday food market she wants to check out. Afterward, we might make our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral. It will be a whirlwind tour of a city so full of sites one could spend a lifetime exploring it.

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