So, as of today, I am officially working again. After almost four months of nonstop holiday, I’m now undertaking training on how to take people on holidays.
I started my tour guide training trip in London this morning, so Paul and I decided to make a holiday out of it, naturally, and spent a long weekend in the British capital. After nine flights getting to Holland, I was in no mood to fly so we took the Eurostar, via an hour wander around Brussels. I wasn’t the fan of Belgium in 2007, and I made that quite public, and apart from the multilingual capital I still didn’t see much from the train that took my fancy. Lots of crumbled buildings, empty train platforms and hardly a soul on the streets. I just don’t get it.
But London is something different. The first thing that hit me was how well-dressed everyone was. It was perhaps nine degrees when we got in, but that doesn’t mean Londoners bring out the Michelin Man jacket or even hoodies. I wanted everybody’s winter coats and boots, including those of Kate Middleton’s on the cover of Hello!
We walked and walked and walked, from our great, cheap hotel in Waterloo through Covent Garden and surrounds. We saw Dirty Dancing in the West End, took a tour of Lord’s with the ubiquitous charismatic guide, channeled our inner history nerds at Churchill’s Bunker, had a pint with my Aussie friend Vic and her partner Dan, tried to look posh in Harrod’s, took countless photos of everything from Big Ben to the Tower of London, and scoffed at the outrageous entry prices of St Paul’s and the London Eye. I even found my favourite drink of 2007, Irn Bru, and despite my early excitement I discarded the rest of my bottle and proclaimed that they must have changed the recipe.
Even though I really like London, and just looking at the list of its sights is exhausting, it doesn’t feel nearly as foreign as even Holland does. Perhaps it’s because I can actively overhear people’s conversations, cyclists are again road kill and the Cricket World Cup has an evening highlights show. I said to Paul, “It just feels as if it could be an Australian city.” I should really rephrase that. Melbourne can be very much like a British city.
London’s hosting the Olympics next year so there’s a good chance I’ll be back next year. I have no idea how the hotels, or better yet, the Tube, will cope. The streets were packed at all hours, even on a Thursday afternoon.
I said yet another goodbye to Paul last night, with him headed back for Holland and me to Scotland. And, ten minutes after we said our cheerios, I got hopelessly lost looking for my bus to Stansted. One plus was that I did find the site of the original Lord’s Cricket Ground on my mindless wanderings.
Without my buddy the urban planner, wish me luck for showing hordes of Aussies around the sights of Europe.