As I write this, my associate Ian is on the phone with his credit card company having his card replaced. Six hours in Paris and he got pickpocketed. Lovely. Really thought we’d make Italy before this became an issue. While he deals with that, I’m looking back at happier times: our arrival in my favourite city, London.
When I’ve been to a place before, it feels instantly familiar when I come back. Within minutes it feels like I’ve never left. But London’s special. Get me anywhere in London I recognise and I feel like I’m home.
London was the one spot on our trip where I felt like an expert. I haven’t been to Paris or Italy since 1994. London, or at least central London, I know like my own city. So I simply tried to make myself a resource for Ian. I made suggestions of where we could go, pointed out spots my adventures had taken me previously, led the way when we had a destination in mind… and tried to pretend I wasn’t half dead from exhaustion.
The plan was simple: take some sleeping pills on the plane, awaken rested and ready to tackle London. Didn’t quite work out. All the pills got me was a three hour nap and a revolting aftertaste that stuck around and tainted everything I ate or drank for like eight hours. So I was not exactly fresh or rested.
We started at St. Paul’s, crossed the Thames and headed east. It was like my final night there in 2011 only backwards. I spotted the 400 year-old pub where I’d had my birthday dinner of scampi and chips, the Greek restaurant I’d been looking for, the Clink prison museum (which, after 23 years of near-misses, I finally visited), and eventually arrived at the Tower of London. Ian gleefully suggested we head in, having been eager to see a proper castle.
Partway through the beefeater tour I came alarmingly close to discovering what it’s like to pass out while standing. Thankfully I caught myself before falling. Both times. After seeing the armoury and the crown jewels (tired or no, admission was like 20 quid and we were getting our damn money’s worth), it was time to head back to my cousin Roy’s, have a quick nap, and grab dinner.
Cardiff proved just as easy to navigate. Had we wanted to go anywhere I hadn’t been in 2011, that would have been different, but we were there for two things: the Doctor Who Experience (my second visit, Ian’s first) and Cardiff Castle (which we arrived too late to see properly).
Two days in which I could play expert. Two days showing off my favourite city. And now it’s done for a spell. Paris is still largely unknown to me, being a distant memory of school-led tours. But one annoying theft aside, I look forward to seeing what it has for us. Now that my wallet is more secure.