Left Turns Only
What a pain it was to get up at 4 in the morning to catch a flight at 6 30. I had thought that the airport would have been quiet, but the Budapest is as bustling and lively at 5 am, and so I am glad that I had left enough time to check in.
Which in and of itself is a story because for one I did not know that I didn’t need to check in at the desk (I didn’t have any checked luggage) and that I could have gone straight through to security. But I had time, so I wasn’t pressed. And after about 25 minutes standing in the queue, and being the second person to be “checked in”, the security personnel of the airport all flood the area where we were standing, some even with dogs. They ask for a 30 meter perimeter and all check in up to that point ceases. And here I am thinking, “Great. Just great. I’m second in line and now they must have something go wrong?” It would be another 20 minutes before they would let us resume check in. I’m not sure what happened, and it could be because my Hungarian is kindergarten level at best, or because they wouldn’t say period, but it was a huge waste of time to stand about. Not that sitting at the gate would have been more productive, but I guess we sometimes need to learn the lessons with some difficulty. To my credit, when I flew back they did want to see my passport before allowing me to pass onto through security.
(This is also where they took my aloe vera, or I guess I had appropriated the aloe vera from a friend in Paris where we had all ended up sunburnt, it ended up in London by mistake because we all woke up hung over in Paris and it got stuffed into a bag, and I wanted to shuttle it back to Budapest. It became somewhat of a joke, the aloe vera, but I guess as it was born from headaches, it was just as well that it ended up in a bin somewhere)
Lucky for me my French training has prepared me for standing in queues and redundancy.
It was also probably a good thing that I had left enough time as I did because the airport truly was bustling at 5am.
The flight was exactly as expected, with small seats knees brushed up against, and a landing that gave me small heart attacks because it felt like the pilot was drunk. (I certainly hope he wasn’t) Knots in my neck and fatigue from travel. Although I had gone to bed early the night before knowing full well the day that was in store. Landing in Stansted; it’s about an hour away from central London by bus which I hopped on and by lunch time – for me – London is one hour behind Budapest – I had found a local cafe and settled in with a tall cup of coffee and a sandwich.
It was around one that I went to meet my host and good friend for the weekend, who would run ten minutes late – a little joke between me and her throughout the week – and since I had said I would bring the Budapest sun with me we camped out in a small city park eating sushi and watching the Wimbledon for her lunch break. Eventually she had to go back to work, but we promised to meet under Big Ben around 5. (Actually 5 10) While I had intended to spend the next three hours visiting bookstores and walking the streets of London, what actually happened was me curled up in a lawn chair jacket draped over as I nodded off watching Serena Williams win her quarter(?) or semi finals match.
Crossing the street is a daunting task in London, because even though everywhere on the street corners it tells you what direction you need to look, it’s counter instinct. And sitting on top of the double-decker buses as they make left turns (our equivalent of a right turn) is adrenaline pumping experience because you swear they are going to clip the other cars and they all drive in the WRONG DIRECTION. All this really means is that I simply wait for the light to turn green and make sure that there are other pedestrians crossing with me. It was however, a lot of fun to sit at the top front row of the bus and watch the traffic underneath. (I think it’s everybody’s favorite place as there seems to be somewhat of a dash for the coveted seats.)
There is so many propaganda for the Olympics now in about 2 weeks- and London is ramping up for the huge influx of people coming into the city. There are designated Olympics road lanes, and last-minute construction can still be spotted here and there. It surprises me at once how much London is a bustling cosmopolitan city, but then you can see these old buildings (pubs) next to the most modern ones, in the shade of the skyscrapers.
When Ros got off of work, she said that there would be a surprise in store of me, and as much as I like knowing where we were going, I trusted that it would be a good one. We crossed the sea of tourists and the Thames river onto the south side of London, drinking in beer gardens along the river watching people watch people until about 7 where we made our way to the globe theatre. Not the original globe theatre, but built exactly as it was, Shakespeare’s globe theatre is one of renowned world fame. The play for the evening was Henry V. Never having seen the movie nor read the play it was quite fun hearing them in their thick British accents and Shakespearean language with the big costumes. Ros had to translate for me most of the time however, because while I’m no ignorant to Shakespeare, the accents made it a little tough to understand everything. We did the theatre proper, and took the standing room only, and although there wasn’t any heckling, we did leave shortly after intermission because a 4 hour play is quite difficult on the knees. I’m interested now to read the play, and Ros was quite pleased at one of the lines when the English declare war on France.
Friday was Ros’ birthday and in true fashion, I had promised to make crepes. In a somewhat sudden turn of events we wound up taking care of her little nephew and he would join us for the brunch watching Beauty and the Beast cuddling a teddy. An adorable kid if not a little quiet, (better than wailing), he looked so surprised when I opened the door, but warmed up to me at the promise of “pancakes” and a teddy. When her brother came to scoop him up, we made our way into the parks surrounding her neighborhood and towards the ponds. Swimming is somewhat of her birthday tradition. The view of London from the hill is unparalleled and it’s absolutely picturesque with tall grasses and a then-blue sky. The pond water was freezing at 16 degrees, but after a big breath, the easiest way is simply to jump in. I’ve swam in lakes before, but this one was lovely as it was a partially hidden pond with ducks and the water a murky green. I think with all the rain hitting there as of late, the water was colder than perhaps it could have been.
Walking back we got hit with the rain, a true summer rain, here in an instant and gone in the next. As we ran from tree to tree seeking shelter I found it funny as we had barely dried off from the pond, the muck still in between my toes.
Friday evening meant drinks with friends, a relatively low-key event as Saturday would bring Pride. Even being British couldn’t stop the raucous behavior, and although the food at the bar was woefully inedible, Murray did make it to the Wimbledon final (a first in many years) and the mood was lively and conversation spirited. We stayed until they kicked us from the pub and I was grateful that the pub was as close to the flat as it was.
While we had ~meant to get up at 10am on Saturday to catch the beginning of the parade, ultimately no one could be bothered until a more normal time. Breakfast was my first introduction into crumpets and as anyone who has talked to me in the last few days will tell you, I honestly believe they are the best kept British secret and a gift from the gods. With honey and butter, they are a perfect breakfast, although I also introduced Ros to a Lox bagel. (Her new favorite)
Still we were able to make it out of the flat and into London, and although it was pouring rain, the mood was festive in SoHo with thousands of people. For political blahblah reasons the police had pulled the “world” bit from Pride, but even as such there was many a flag flying and people of all shapes and sizes and colors in the streets drinking, chatting, and smoking. We made our way into a club and spent the majority of the night there, with a few hiccups of drama, but relatively unscathed.
Sunday and Monday was spent sleeping in, and out and about London, eating real milkshakes (not the French variety) and Chinese food that doesn’t have General Tso’s or Lo Mein. Watching the Wimbledon final to which Federer took (again) for a 7th consecutive win, while Murray was blubbering on the screen, “being a proper Brit”. It was wonderful getting to see a non-touristy London as well as hearing all the history of this place or that, because British is as British does. It certainly beat those with the giant cameras around their neck, although admittedly I have been them on plenty of an occasion.
Tuesday Ros had to (unfortunately) go back to work, and so I contented myself between lunch and post work with the free museums in London, at the National Gallery and a Charlie Chaplin-esque mime who was handing out free smiles. I didn’t get a chance to see the Portrait Gallery, however their collection of Monet and Pissarro was enough to keep me in that room for the better part of an hour.
Tuesday dinner meant vegetarian fajitas, and listening to 60s music; however it was tinted with the sadness that comes with saying goodbye.
My journey on Wednesday started at the crack of dawn (5am), and by 2pm Budapest time I had arrived back into my own flat, high off of the holiday that I had had, and pleased that I will get a chance to go back again.
And if by chance Ros reads this, I hope she knows where I am coming from when I say: thank you, goof.
I think this weekend might bring a weekend trip into Vienna or the very least a day trip and we might (probably) will return with my brother’s best friend for his visit into Budapest.
We still have one more trip up into Szentendre, Prague, the Balaton. Time seems to slip through our fingers, and I am worried for the fall and law school and stress of a different kind.