Putzing around England: Penultimate Trip Update

My last post was admittedly a bit of a downer, despite my attempt—which may or may not have been evident—to put a positive spin on my tooth’s decision to become infected in the middle of my break from my everyday reality (teeth have tiny brains with the ability to perform such executive functions, right?).

But thanks to heavy-duty antibiotics, the tooth did calm down, and I was able to continue with my vacation. And so I present you with the penultimate Trip Update, partially in point form because

  • I’m sleep-deprived, writing this while on my flight home to Canada after an extremely full final day in Europe, which I spent in Iceland, and
  • I want to jam as much into one blog entry as possible.

See how effective the ‘ol bullet point, in the case above completely unnecessary, can be? I will divide the following into a few increasingly exciting sections, so brace yourselves.

First, I reach back beyond my last whiny OCD-and-abscess post to in order to describe, in likely unwelcome detail, my final week in Cambridge.

After returning from my first journey to London, I decided that it was time to lay low, for, you know, reasons. So, the next day I went on a 1.25–hour walk, not including the return journey, to Grantchester, where I had tea in the orchard in which Virginia Woolf (one of my girlhood idols—yes, I was this weird even as a kid) and company hung out in the pre–World War I years. It was lovely. As a bonus, I met lots of cows on the way.


Other highlights from the next few days, besides, of course, the tooth thing, include

  • Quality time with my friend P, with whom I was staying. We went to the Turkish film Mustang, one of the best, most powerful things I’ve seen in a while.
  • A lovely coffee and catch-up with a childhood friend who now lives in Cambridge and works in London.
  • The Cambridge Beer Festival with a friend currently staying in Cambridge. (Sense a theme? Cambridge is a good place to visit Canadians abroad, apparently!)
  • Work on a translation project so that I could do the above activities without the invasion of guilt making them impossible.
  • Other stuff I can’t remember (e.g., wandering, shopping, further eating of Marks & Sparks ready meals and Solero ice cream bars, which are like an upgraded version of Creamsicles, visiting museums, etc.).

On Saturday morning, once I had determined that the infection was well enough under control for me to travel, I bid a sad farewell to P and had a very frustrating train voyage to London, the stressfulness of which was mitigated by the knowledge of what was in store: a day trip to Bletchley Park! If you’re a World War II buff, or if you’ve seen The Imitation Game or The Bletchley Circle, then you know what I’m talking about and can appreciate how excited I was. I arrived at King’s Cross then made my way to Euston, where I joined my friend M, her fiancé, and my Toronto pal who’s working in Cambridge but who’d gone to London the night before (keep that straight). Bletchley not only met the expectations that I was carefully managing: it exceeded them, which never happens. I want to go back.

The mansion at Bletchley Park.

I learned—OK, remembered—an important lesson the next afternoon, and in the pleasantest way possible. Namely, put people who are I’m sure individually wonderful together in a pack of flower-seekers, and they become a collective monster. By which I mean, M and I went to the Columbia Flower Market, and it was beautiful and interesting and fun in its own way, but man are crowds like that awful.

You’d never know from this picture that there were hundreds of obnoxious flower-shoppers jostling their way down the street right behind me.

Next, we did a little shopping before going to Austentatious, an improv show based on Jane Austen novels. I’m still laughing in my head.

Having thoroughly exhausted my gracious host, I ventured out on my own the following morning. Although it was a bank holiday, most things in London were open, leaving me free to choose my own adventure. I went first to the Imperial War Museum, which I had surprisingly, given my academic interests, never visited. I then (BULLET POINTS!)

  • Returned to Gelupo for gelato. I couldn’t help myself.
  • Shopped.
  • Made my way back to my friend’s flat so that she, her fiancé, and I could go for a pint at their local pub.

After a good sleep, and determined to make the most of my remaining time before taking the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow for my evening flight to Iceland, I ventured out for a day of being a tourist, managing to

  • Go to the London Review Bookshop (just as good as I thought it’d be).
  • Quickly visit the British Museum, where I saw the Rosetta Stone and the mummies.
  • Meet M for lunch and a goodbye. 😦
  • See the small but interesting gallery in Canada House.
  • Spend an hour in the National Gallery.
  • Visit a high-end shoe store specializing in large-size shoes for women (this may strike you as an odd destination unless you understand that I have big feet and that pretty much no shoe or department store in the UK stocks my size, which is horribly frustrating for me, though likely in the end a blessing in disguise since it means that I by default can’t spend money on shoes). I wanted everything, so I bought nothing.
So this is the Rosetta Stone.

I then returned to M’s flat, collected my bag, and took the bus and tube to the airport. Though there were a few hiccups—short-turned train, etc.—I got there with plenty of time, especially since my flight was delayed by over an hour. This, however, gave me extra time to eat at my favourite conveyor-belt sushi restaurant and to duty-free shop (I made one signifcant purchase: see below). #silverlinings

How could I leave you in the Harrod’s duty-free store, little dude? #definitelynotmassproduced

This post got a little out of control length-wise, perhaps because I wrote it while on the plane with nothing better to do, so I’ll leave the next portion of my vacation (Iceland and home!) for another post. Check back soon, but don’t hold your breath.


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