10 Days to Celebrate 10 Years

When I came back from London, I threw up a quick post highlighting how the trip was everything I could have asked for and more.

The last time I went to London it was 2005. I was 21 and headed on Contiki {If you’ve never heard of Contiki, please google it. If you’re under 25, it’s an absolute must do!}… high level: 5 weeks, 10 countries, 50 youth — rowdy. It’s fair to say that I don’t recall a lot about the London, other than I loved it. We did a lot of touristy stuff back then, so it was super great that I didn’t have to add that crap to the list this time. :)

This time, I flew out on the red eye Christmas Eve, arriving into Gatwick on Christmas Day. Fun fact about the UK… they shut down on Christmas Day. Yep, like no transit, no trains, no nothing. Melissa had arranged for a car service to pick me up, so before you knew it I was en route to West Hampstead.

I don’t travel well, like… don’t. travel. well. I love to travel, but the thought of being on a plane for more than a couple of hours stresses me right out. On this flight, I lucked out. {Merry Christmas to me!}. The plane was probably half full and I scored 3 seats — woop!

I arrived at Melissa’s with a — holy shit, I can’t believe I’m actually here. It’s somewhat a bizarre feeling to sleep most of a flight and wake up in a different country. Anyways, it was officially Christmas Day and to celebrate we caught up and ate swordfish. Probably the most non-traditional Christmas I’ve ever had. And you know what? It was perfect. :)

I made a commitment to myself that I wouldn’t make a lot of ‘plans’ during this trip. I needed to go with the flow. I needed to relax. I needed to recharge. We took each day as it came, went with the flow and adapted as necessary.

On my first full day in the UK, we toured around Central London — 17,000 steps later, we had covered Oxford Street, Mayfair, Embankment, Southbank and Bermondsey. London was quite a bit more chilly than I was expecting, so the cold kept up our pace and it was lovely to have a local as a tour guide. We popped into a cafe for tea, then a pub for mulled wine and just enjoyed each other.

Melissa and I go way back to 2003. I had met her through friends when I was in first year at the University of Calgary. We had ridiculous times together. She was an English major {and brainiac} and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. When we weren’t attending classes, we were making a disgrace of ourselves at the university bar, going to costume parties and having an absolute blast. 

When I had arrived, I had given Melissa a card that she wasn’t allowed to open until Boxing Day evening. Once we got back to her flat, I told her it was time!! She opened the card to learn that we were headed away for the weekend {high five to me keeping a secret from her!}… destination: unknown! She was all stressed out about what to pack and I kept on playing mind games with her to make her think we were leaving the country. :)

The next morning we were up bright and early, en route to the train station. With this whole “no plans vacation,” normal day-to-day crap that would normally stress you out {i.e. tube construction, train delays, etc} didn’t phase me at all. A few hours later, we were on the train and moving at snail pace. When we got to our stop, I told her — we’re here! The mystery destination was — Bath, UK aka a beautiful town full of history, roman baths and a divine boutique hotel.

We spent the weekend seeing the local sights — Royal Crescent, The Circus, Pulteney Bridge and explored via the cobble stone streets. I had tweeted Alastair Coote {born in Bath, lived in Vancouver, now in NYC} for his recos, so make sure to keep them top of mind if you have Bath on your bucket list! Our hotel was perfect, the Thermae Bath Spa was the perfect cure for our hangover and the restaurants we ate at were incredible. Other than spraining my ankle {more to come on that later}, the weekend was absolutely perfect. That is until we left Bath to head back to London — and got on the wrong train… headed in the wrong direction…

Once we were back and sorted in London, Melissa and I had a quick chat about the next few days. We had plans for NYE — headed to a dinner party at her colleague’s house, but other than that… NO PLANS. Hurrah. I got on the Google and figured out a few places I wanted to check out.

On Sunday, we explored Camden and then headed to Leciester Square, Covent Garden, Chinatown and Picadilly Circus. The last time I was in London I remember having just awful food, so this time I went on a mission for good eats. Melissa and I had come up with a list of the places we wanted to fill our bellies with yum. Sagar in Covent Garden was on the list.

One thing I absolutely loved about this trip was that we took our mornings easy. We woke up, had tea, made breakfast, showered when we felt like it and got out of the house when we were ready. On Monday, Melissa headed into work for the day and I went exploring. I met up with a friend from Calgary in the afternoon and then Melissa and I headed to Soho for dinner. Melissa introduced me to Regent Street and Lexington Street — big shopping streets and they both kinda gave me anxiety. So. Many. People.

On New Years Eve, it POURED with rain. The only day I wish I had my Hunter boots with me. We headed down to Borough Market for local eats and a coffee, then made our way to Soho for lunch at Mildred’s aka the top vegetarian restaurant in the city. Divine.

I love fireworks, like, LOVE FIREWORKS. Part of me wanted to head down to the chaos in Central London with the kazillion of people and experience the show. The other part of me knew that was exactly the opposite of how I needed to end the the year and get started off on a great note. Instead, Melissa and I headed to Latifa’s house for incredible food, red wine, Cards of Humanity and a ton of laughs. We closed down the party around 3 and headed back to Melissa’s to drink another bottle of wine and went to bed just before the sun came up. We must have been channeling our inner 20 year old’s. :)

The next few days flew by… Melissa and I talked about what worked and didn’t work in  2013 and what changes we wanted to make as we entered the new year. Our last day together was spent in Westminster, Victoria Street and Pimlico. We met up for breakfast with our friend, Dan, and then ran over to Westminster Abbey to get one last photo. I had forgot about Westminster Abbey. It’s breathtaking and I’m so glad we squeezed it in before I ran to the train.

My flight home was awful. To my left was a girl throwing up the whole flight, to my right was a guy with “man cold.” I sat there for 10 hours assuming I would either arrive home with the plague or die mid-flight.

I’m still alive to tell this story — so, moving on…

If you head to London, these are my musts:

Sights

  • London Bridge. It’s gorgeous — especially at sunset.
  • Covent Garden. There are tons of cute stores in the Market, the performers outside are entertaining and all the patios are heated!!
  • Soho. Located in London’s West End, Soho is the mecca of fantastic food and drinks. 
  • Borough Market. Filled to the brim with fresh food, culture and good vibes. Check their hours before you pop over!
  • Primrose Hill. Best view of the whole city.

Restaurants

  • Wahaca in Soho. Try the plantain tacos, black bean tostadas and sweet potato & feta taquitos. Off the hook.
  • Mildred’s in Soho. Organic, vegetarian and ah-maz-ing. Try it all.
  • The Orange in Pimlico. We hit it up for brunch. You can’t go wrong with an omelette and mint tea.
  • Green Rocket Cafe in Bath. Again, vegetarian. Cute cafe that does breakfast, lunch or dinner. Small town feel with an unreal menu.
  • Yak Yeti Yak in Bath. The most fantastic meal I’ve had in ages. We had the cauli pakora, yak yeti yak chicken, aloo channa, bhuteko bhat, a couple of Nepalese beer and ended our night with the chiyaa ice cream. To die for.

What did I learn while away?

  1. It’s a waste of energy to stress about things that are not in your control. Take a deep breath, re-evaluate and remove yourself from the stress.
  2. Going with the flow isn’t a bad thing. Forget this YOLO/FOMO crap, it is hugely empowering to do just do whatever you want.
  3. It’s crazy important to take time for YOU. Maybe it’s a trip away, maybe it’s time with your best friend, maybe it’s time on your own. Figure out what your soul needs — and do just that.

I recently discovered a new iPhone app called Replay. It helped me turn a whole pile of photos into this cute video! My heart is beaming. 10 days in London was an absolutely wonderful break from reality:

Melissa, thank you for 10 years of life, laughter and love. Blessed to call you my friend. xo

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