Slightly different backdrop for the ol’ outfit photos this week, folks! If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may know that Terry and I spent the weekend in the south of England, flying down on Friday morning and coming back on Monday night. The main reason for our trip was to visit Terry’s brother, Niko, and his family, at their house in Kent, and to attend Niko’s birthday party on Saturday, but it’s been a long time since either of us visited London, and although we’ve both visited separately, we’ve actually never been there together, so we thought we’d make the most of the trip by flying down super-early (And by that I mean, “I had to get up at 4am: GAH.) and spending the day in the capital, before heading down to Kent.
When we told people our plan was to pick up a hire car at Gatwick, drive it into the city and park there, most of them reacted with a mixture of shock and sheer disbelief. “You’re going to DRIVE?” they’d say, eyes wide with horror. “In LONDON? In a CAR? And try to PARK there?” And then they’d spend the next five minutes earnestly trying to tell us that, why, if we wanted to drive to London (Which may as well have been the moon, by the reactions we were getting…), we should really have left last week, and even then, it would probably take us DAYS to get through the city. “Take the train!” they urged us, over and over. “Life is too short to drive into London! Save yourselves while you can!”
We listened politely to all of this well-meaning advice, of course, then we nodded, smiled… and went ahead and booked our hire car anyway. We knew it was a bit of a risk, and that it could all go horribly wrong, but we wanted the car to do a bit of exploring in over the weekend anyway, and Terry managed to find a car park right next to Tower Bridge which was fairly reasonably priced for the day, so we decided just to go with it. And you know what? It was absolutely fine, and less than an hour after landing at Gatwick, we were pulling into our pre-booked parking space, then walking out and finding ourselves face-to-face with this:
Which is a pretty sweet view, no?
When we were planning this trip, we knew we’d only have a few hours in the city, and as I said, it’s been a while since either of us have visited, so we figured we’d just do as much of the shamelessly toursity stuff as possible. We also decided we’d do it all on foot. Because there’s something wrong with us, obviously.
We walked for MILES, people. All the way from Tower Bridge along the River to the Tate Modern, then across the Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s, and on to Trafalgar Square, which is where the blisteringly hot sunshine decided to make way for torrential rain. Now, I thought I’d been exceptionally clever by wearing a pair of flats (and ones which had been thoroughly broken-in and road-tested, too) for all of this walking. In fact, I was really feeling quite smug about how sensible I had been, because I HATE the way I look in flats, but I had picked comfort over style, and that’s quite a big step for me.
What I HADN’T counted on, however, was the fact that those oh-so-sensible flats would have removed a layer of skin from my heel by the the time we reached Gatwick. Uh-oh. Why did it happen? I have no idea, but I’m chalking it up to the same “holiday shoe curse” that hit me in Miami last year, when I packed multiple pairs of supposedly “comfortable” shoes, only to end up on a never-ending search for even MORE comfortable shoes, because the original comfortable shoes were magically no longer comfortable once they were on a different continent. Exactly the same thing happened with the little gold flats I was wearing for this trip, but all was not lost! No, SO sensible had I been about this long walk through London, that I had packed a SECOND pair of comfortable flats in my handbag, for just this eventuality. You can feel free to give me a medal any time you like, seriously.
Or… maybe not. My emergency flats, you see, were made of canvas. They were very pretty, and very comfortable, and I was doing just fine in them, right up to the point when the torrential rain started, and my canvas shoes got soaked through in a matter of minutes. GAAAAAH.
It was back into the previously-comfortable-but-now-horribly-uncomfortable gold flats, and the result was a blister so bad I’m now having to wear flip-flops until it heals. FLIP-FLOPS, people. SERIOUSLY.
That, however, was the only real hitch – well, that and the rain, which stopped and started all day after that initial cloudburst. We’d brought umbrellas with us, though, so we continued our walk, taking in St James’s Park, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and a whole ton of other stuff besides.
Blisters aside, it was a fantastic day: the city was at its most beautiful in the sunshine, and its most dramatic in the rain, and it was so nice to be back, just soaking it all up. (Literally, in the case of my poor old canvas flats…) I always think London is one of those cities in which you really get a sense of its long and colourful history beating just underneath (and sometimes right on top of) its streets: in the last decade or so, there’s been so many changes, but they’ve done such a wonderful job of blending old and new that the newer additions only add to the experience – or I think so, anyway.
As for us, we ended our day with a ride on the London Eye (which I’m planning a separate post on, because this one’s long enough already, and I’ll probably need ANOTHER thousand words to adequately convey what it’s like to be trapped inside a glass bubble, high above the earth, when you’re really quite scared of heights…), and a quick catch-up with my best friend Stephanie, who I don’t get to see nearly often enough, due to the inconvenient fact that she lives in the south of England and I live in the middle of Scotland. We only had time to grab a quick meal (and, OK, an equally quick bottle of wine…), before Terry and I had to say our goodbyes: it wasn’t nearly long enough, but we left with the intention of trying to make it down more often, so hopefully we’ll be able to stick to that. Not least because I didn’t manage to make it to ANY of the shops. I KNOW. Can you believe I went to London, and all I got was this lousy blister? It’s true.
But I’m sure I’ll make up for it next time…