Day #13: The storm comes

It is Larsen’s first full day in London, but after a long night of drinking and dancing she wakes up with a runny nose, feeling a little run down. She was unable to sleep most of the night because of the time change, which makes sense to me now because I had the same thing.
The storm that was brewing is now ready outside. It is raining and strong winds are blowing jackets up in peoples faces, but we have a plan for the day and it is not to be squelched. Today we are going to go on the free walking tour that starts in Hyde Park. The free tour will take us through Hyde Park where the Duke of Wellington had in his more alive years constructed numerous monuments to himself in order to appease his vanity. From there we will walk over into Green Park and hear stories of fallen British soldiers, and from there we are to go see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. At least this is the plan.
The thing about plans is that sometimes, especially on stormy days when the rain and cold are piercing the insides of your jacket and rummaging through your veins turning your fingers blue is that they fall through. When we arrive at our meeting point with rain jackets, gloves, and umbrellas in hand we are assigned a number by the tour group so that we know what tour guide to follow. We get a petite French girl that states she is now a transplant to London as are most of the Londoner’s I’ve met. She is umbrella-less and has a black rain jacket, some jeans, and a pair of sneakers on for the three hour walk. As the wind and rain whip her hair from under her jacket and onto her face it looks like little tears are forming. I don’t know how she is doing this. She is leading a free tour for free as well while silly tourists walk behind her too slowly and confused like a heard of cattle. Who the hell really knows where we’re being led?
The main plan is to have an umbrella to shelter me, but instead I have what looks like a beautiful flower as the wind boosts up the inside of my umbrella into the air. I turn and look and every other umbrella has done the same. Some are holding the sides in hopes that they can maintain at least a semblance of an umbrella and stay partially out of the rain, but the side not being held flips up and they begin to get wet.
By the time we make it to Buckingham Palace we are all soaked. Not only are we soaked, the guardsmen are as well. As we stand in wait for the changing of the guard we realize that it has been cancelled due to rain. The storm has changed our plans and it is time to walk away. However, by this time I am freezing. The gloves covering my fingers have only kept out some of the cold and I can no longer feel two of my fingers. I tell Larsen that I am going to have to wuss out only one hour into the tour, but she agrees that she is sick and cold and needs new shoes. The thing is that we have spring shoes and the weathers temperament is much like fall or winter. Our feet are soaked but hers more so than mine because she has little gaps on the sides. We find the closest tube and find a bathroom where Larsen decides perhaps she can dry her shoes under a hand dryer. She is very unconventional I think. This method does not work however because it would take far too long and they would be sopping again once we hit outside.
Instead we decide to find a shopping district and head over to Oxford Street. Oxford street has the most delicious stores. I want to shop! I swear I have never wanted to shop before in my life, but I see blouses and leggings calling my name. “No Nicole, we are here for shoes,” I say to myself. We walk into an Urban Outfitters, which is perhaps triple the size of the Seattle store and I almost swoon. The clothes are amazing and I feel the need to tie my hands behind my back just to make it through here. The shoes however are a bust and we walk on. As we walk we see Shuh’s. No really, that is the name of the store. I see the sheos and I want them all. Some are glamorous and made from alternative materials. I see a pair of heels that would make me at least 6’3 calling my name that are a luscious red and I think I could fly in them. “No Nicole, you cannot buy shoes, they will not under any circumstances fit in your bag,” I say to myself and bite my lip as Larsen finds a cute pair of boots to satisfy the warmth longings of her feet.
After a bite of lunch at a Mexican restaurant, how very American of us, we head back to the hotel. I have things to do like book the duration of my journey. I realize that I have yet to figure out my stays beyond our hotel in Paris and decide to look for couch surfers to stay with. I also realize that I haven’t figured out how to get from Paris to Italy and book a rather cheap ticket via easyjet.com. Yes, I recommend easyjet, it really is as cheap as every tube ad in London told me. I booked hostels for Venice and Florence, but have yet to book for Rome. I will figure that out soon though.
Larsen the sick decided to head out into the city again to view more sites. I wouldn’t have gone, but I don’t blame her for trying to get the most she possibly could in during the short amount of time she’s in the city. Sites don’t see themselves. When she comes back we head out to an organ recital at Westminster Abbey where hoards of people look confused about where to go in and then where to sit. People are “Shh’d” from left and right by the ushers while I later hear the ushers talking. I am annoyed and give a few the evil eye. Organ recitals are beautiful and like I do with most music, I feel the most connected with God when listening to it. Music is a gift that I otherwise can’t explain beyond it being from God because I myself know that I don’t have the abilities. This is hard to explain, but it comes down to me not feeling like I am writing a song. Some people call it inspiration, but it feels more like an out of body experience, like something has entered me and I am just watching the process.
Afterwards there is moer walking. There is more seeing the bustle of London along with the winds of London. I find broken umbrellas strewn across the city after the storm and I think they are beautiful so I take pictures.
Of course later there is dinner “The Italian Restaurant,” which I’m hesitant to go to because of the simplicity of the name. I mean, how can it be good if they didn’t even put thought into the name? But we go in and I think perhaps they saved all of their creativity for the food and am pleased. Well… I’m mostly pleased until the end of the meal when I leave for the bathroom and come back to the table only to find that they have tossed my leftovers instead of bringing me a to-go box. Normally I wouldn’t find myself very upset about this, but this meal was the equivalent of about $20, something I would neeeeever pay for a meal in the US and I want my leftovers. I tells Larsen sorry for the complaints, I will be better momentarily and it’s the first time I’ve been angry in London. We take a stroll for some relaxing coffee and I calm down. I am at ease with a good cup of cafe. All that I need now is a good rest and we are on our way to that.
We end our night with a good talk on how to trust God because sometimes I don’t, but I think at least I’m trusting him on this trip right now. I attribute this trip to either the voice of my mom or the voice of God because I have never wanted to travel in my life. I am not a traveler in any sense of the word. I avoid leaving home and comfort because I like home and comfort and feel like my imaginings of the outside world are good enough. Right now I am testing that hypothesis and I will let you know at journey’s end if it holds true. For now I will be taken where my feet, the tubes, the trains, the buses, and the planes take me. I hope to remember it all, but I know much of it will disappear.

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One thought on “Day #13: The storm comes

  1. February 9, 1945 (continued)It took us two hours limping out of Germany babying the other two engines and expecting them to go out any minute, but they didn’t. We landed about an hour after the formation and surprised everyone by walking in the briefing room just when they were sadly relating our going down in Germany. From their reports, operations was listing us as M.I.A. They thought our ship was on fire by the way the three engines looked.February 14, 1945Well, here we are finally flying the ship assigned to us – Miss Gloria II. We took off at 9:00 heading in the direction of Chemnitz. We flew no. 6 position in low squadron. I was nervous all the trip for some reason – kept watching the engines. Just after take off the wing started pulling off near the fuselage. We hit a little flak near Frankfurt coming back. Altitude was 23,000. It was 32 below. Flew a very tight formation all the way. The time was 8:30 carrying ten 500 pounders. Four double groups of 51’s as escorts – not bad at all.

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