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Friday, July 15, 2011

We're off to London, England!

Rich and I just got back from two weeks in Edinburgh and London. To say it was an amazing trip would never do the experience justice-- it was a trip of a lifetime. And since I took plenty of notes and pictures to document the journey, over the next two weeks I'll be sharing them with you, day by day, as I re-live this experience.

The trip had been in the the works since February, but the idea of it came quite unexpectedly. When we met up with my sister-in-law Lynda and Evie,our niece, over New Year's, we'd all chatted about places we'd like to visit. Rich said that we'd love to go to Europe someday since he'd nearly gone the year he'd met me, but forfeited Scotland and commuted to Toronto every month to visit me, instead.

The following month Lynda told us she'd booked townhouses in both Edinburgh and London and would we join them for a Wallace vacation? Well, by the end of the day 10 of us were committed and counting down the days until we'd all be in Edinburgh.

DAY 1 JUNE 30

I feel like I'm a school girl again, too excited to sleep because I'm bursting with excitement for what's ahead of me. When I worked for ESPN I traveled weekly, and while I never really got to "see" much of anything other than the inside of a sports arena,I still got that flip in my stomach before heading for a trip. Back then I knew exactly what to pack, what to wear, and navigated airports like they were an extension of my backyard in the Beaches, where I'd lived in Toronto. But it's been more than 11 years since I reported on a sporting event or gone anywhere this big and spectacular. (My in-laws live in Disney-- okay Celebration-- but it's still Disney-- and while it's Mecca for them, I don't count theme parks as spectacular, bucket-list destinations).

This is big.I've picked up the pounds at our local TD bank. It took nearly two weeks just to get it, adding to my theory that the TD really is the world's most inconvenient bank.

"How many pounds?" Rich keeps asking.
"250," I say.
"How are we going to carry that? It's so heavy." This never seems to get old with him. But I'm too busy scouring London sites like Go London, Square Meal London, and looking at the fashions in British Vogue,since I've spent the last decade working from home wearing track pants (okay, since I've planned this trip I now wear a cotton mini skirt and liquid black eyeliner like Twiggy -- who the lady in the CVS make-up department thought was the name for a stick.) I've even forfeited getting my hair done at the local beauty school and gone to a real hairdresser, getting my unruly mop of hair tamed by Moroccan oil and streaked with marmalade.

"Did you pack the pounds?" Rich says as we wait to be taken to the airport. Me? I'm literally shaking in anticipation of what lies ahead. I've spent 4 months researching what to visit, the best places to eat reasonably and well, and have navigated the London tube on line. No easy feat, since the whole thing is a mess of different colored spaghetti-like lines resembling the guts of a computer monitor. (And if my editor is reading this, I did all this late at night AFTER revising my wonderful novel, which is going very well and will be done shortly.)

I decide to print out the tube map in case my brain might work differently in Europe somehow, and I'll be able to decipher it. Taking one last look, I realize I need reading glasses. It happens that fast. I'd been warned that it does. I do a last minute dash to the Dollar Store and buy leopard-printed specs for the trip.

Finally, our Delta plane leaves for London. I've booked a vegetarian meal and get a piece of Naan bread with some saffron rice and a ratatouille of courgette. I'm thrilled that I know what a courgette is, but the zucchini is inedible. I'm still too excited to eat much anyhow and nibble at the Belgian chocolate Rich bought me at the airport while he downed the greasiest-looking fish and chips I'd seen since we ate at Arthur Treachers in Honesdale, PA, until it was supposedly shut down by the Board of Health. They're dimming the lights now. We're all supposed to be sleeping. The lady beside me is snoring and Rich has his mouth open like a contented tortoise, full from having just ingested his second meal. I turn on the reading light and get a dirty look from the lady beside me as I try in vain to switch my watch to London time and hope I'll keep remembering to add five hours whenever I look at it.

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