I used to hate flying into England. When the plane came into land, I’d feel a soft fog of gloom settle upon me as I thought about the horrible weather, the inflated prices, the lack of good coffee.
This time, though, I realized that things had changed: I didn’t feel sad, I was actually enthusiastic. There was plenty to look forward to: time with my brother and his fiancée, the Rugby World Cup final, an enormous conference, evening events with people I liked… It was shaping up well.
The first few days were a blur of excursions: we explored central London on a Dickens tour with Context (it was awesome, I’m feeling inspired to read more Dickens); we headed to the Fanzone in Richmond to watch New Zealand beat Australia at rugby with Simon, Katie, and Jackie, a friend we hadn’t seen for ten years; we partied at our friend Dylan’s house with many of our favourite people; we went to Bath.
Ah, Bath. It’s such an elegant place. As we explored the Assembly Rooms and tried to photograph the Royal Crescent, I couldn’t help but imagine characters from Jane Austen’s novels strolling past arm-in-arm, dressed in Regency clothing and talking about bonnets. Unfortunately, though, we were stuck firmly in the present, where fog made driving a challenge and completely scuppered our plans to visit Stonehenge on the way home.
The fog continued for two more days, causing huge travel disruptions. A strike on the DLR train line exacerbated the problem but meant that journeys on the Emirates Air Line cable car back in London was free for two days; we made the most of it and flew across the Thames four times during the strike.
The main reason we were in London was to attend World Travel Market, an annual travel trade event that brings tens of thousands of travel professionals to the city. Our three days there were full of meetings, talks, drinks with friends, and more meetings. One evening we went to an event, another we had drinks with our friends Lance and Laura, and another we went to the cinema to see Spectre with Simon and Katie.
It was a busy week, and I found myself wishing I had more time in the country I previously disliked so much. The prices are still inflated, the coffee is only marginally improved, and the weather put on a spectacular display of changeability, but England has grown on me. We’ll be back.
What do you think about London? What’s your favourite thing to do there? What would you love to see in England?