Well, I'm finally back Stateside after 10 days in the UK. Even though the trip back was pretty exhausting (an 18 hour travel day will do that to you), I had a great time.
The trip was essentially two halves for me- the first half was London which was my reward trip from work and the second half was in Essex with my family.
Both halves were fantastic but quite different. London was very lively as cities generally are. Even though the people there are all people who work for our company, they brought their spouses and the whole event did not feel like work at all. It probably helped that the most we had to do for work was one two-hour meeting to discuss ideas for moving the company forward. The rest of the time was spent in more social events as well as free time.
The social events were actually fun. Since we were all essentially there on holiday, it was a very relaxed atmosphere and I had a lot of fun getting to know some of the spouses. I was sort of held up as the resident expert on London and ended up being the translater of all things decidely British (i.e. what's 'rocket'? Answer: Arugula), the converter of currency (i.e. "how much is 52 pounds in American dollars?) and the navigator on the London underground. I didn't mind a bit. I love London and don't mind showing off my knowledge of the city.
The free time we had was fantastic. I got to be a tourist and see things I've never had the time to see such as the Tower of London. I loved it. My rather dark streak gravitates to the more gruesome aspects of British history so seeing the tower where prisoners were kept, the private execution spot, the torture devices and seeing where Henry the Eight's wives were buried was fascinating to me. I also took a trip around the National Gallery, briefly visited Harrods' food Hall and became somewhat of a regular at Fortnum and Mason since it had a fantasic food hall and was only a brief walk from the hotel.
I also got to spend a day with my cousin who I haven't seen in quite a few years. It was lovely to discover that she has also got the same dark streak as me and when she suggested we go to the London Dungeon, I knew that we were definitely related. That place is a lot of fun- it highlights all of the more brutal aspects of British history. I think, by nature, the British do tend to embrace our dark sides a little more and it's not considered quite so twisted to be interested in that stuff when you're there.
Obviously, one of my favourite parts of the whole trip was the food. I abandoned my typical healthy eating/diet and decided to just enjoy myself. Each day, we had access to an amazing breakfast buffet from the hotel which included all the fixings of a traditional full English breakfast as well as kippers, smoked salmon and multiple bread selections. I also got to indulge in lots of my favourite British foods such as sausage rolls, pork pies, fish and chips and, of course, good beer. Fortunately, my terrible eating was counteracted somewhat by the massive amount of walking I did. I seriously think that for the most part, I walked several miles a day which is rather easy to do in London.
All in all, the London part of the trip was wonderful. It was nice being a tourist but not really feeling like one. By the time everyone else left for the airport, I was ready to begin the second half of my trip so after a little drama with Fed Ex- my coworker had left me in charge of a package because she had to catch a plane- I did manage to catch my train two hours late and head to my grandparent's, a mere 35 minutes away.
That part of my trip was far more relaxed. I got to spend the first day and a half with just my granny since my grandad was away in Germany- his native land. It was lovely to just relax in her kitchen- the traditional gathering spot of my grandparents' house since I've been alive. I haven't been back for three years so it was lovely to catch up and feel right at home.
When my grandad came back, he was laden with German goodies such as sausage, bread and chocolate galore. Thus, I got a nice German feast as well as the traditional British food that I normally enjoy.
The only problem with staying with my grandparents is that my granny thinks she needs to feed me. She declared that I was quite thin and could thus stand to eat more. This meant that anytime I sat for more than 10 minutes, I was either offered food or food was placed subtly in front of me. Believe me, I'm not complaining but I do think that now I'm back in the U.S., I'll be calorie counting a lot harder than usual and trying to exercise a little more. I have to make up for all that terrible but wonderful food somehow.
I also got to see more of my cousins as well as my aunts and uncles. I didn't do too much once I hit Essex other than go for walks around the town and once to the neighbourhood where I grew up. It's strange how instantly it seems so familiar and yet seems so distant. Our old house has changed but elements are still the same. I wandered around with that nostalgia that hits when you realize that time moves ever forward. It doesn't seem that long ago when I used to do somersaults on the pole that was a support for the little porch of our house or I used to plant marigolds in a makeshift flowerbed I created in our old front yard. The ghosts of my playmates still hang in the air and walking down the street that was once home made me remember everything so clearly, it actually felt it had all just happened.
It was a good thing to do, that walk. It made me realize that I think no matter how long I stay away, England will always be home. It's in my blood. I wasn't that old when I left but I was old enough to be a person, not just a child and that person was formed by the years spent living in the UK. The U.S. has left it's imprint on me too but at my core, I'm a diehard Brit.
By the time I left on Saturday morning to begin my long journey home, I had managed to do all the things I wanted to do, see all the people I wanted to see and eat all the food I wanted to eat. I left with a sadness that always occurs when you leave a place you love but it was also nice to get home.
It also helps that I had two little furry dachshunds to launch themselves upon me as soon as I walked into my parents house and who've barely left my side since.
In a way, I feel like my trip to the UK took me home. Yet I also came home when I saw my parents at the airport and was assaulted with affection from Sookie and Rory when we were reunited. I think I'll always feel like I have a foot on each continent as long as I'm alive but it's only now when I realize that that's definitely a wonderful thing. I plan on going back a little more often than I have been going.
But...not for a while. I need to do a little dieting first.
Happy Monday and thanks for reading!