Back out in the world!

Days 1- 2

New York – London

I left on Friday morning for the first leg of my journey. I will admit I was so nervous that I couldn’t poo properly, and for those that know me, you know how attached I am to a good poo schedule! It was nerves wrapped up in excitement, of course, but as the outset of the journey had finally arrived, the details of my 2 day travels to get to my destination were starting to nip at my confidence. Will my debit card work? How much will I need in London? Do I have enough money? Is my hotel reservation ok? Will I find the hotel?….

You know when you have so many steps to complete before your task is done, but you can’t start the steps yet, so all you can do is run the anticipated plan through your head over and over and over? Yeah, I was stressing myself out. Whatever happened, it was all going to be fine. Deep breaths, Beck. You’re embarrassing your fearless self!

So, the flight from JFK to London was a dream.

I had the whole row to myself, as well as no one in front of me. I could spread out and wasn’t bothered by anyone. I was actually so happy to be heading back out into the world and traveling again, that I had some emotional tears (of happiness) on the plane. Thankfully, no one was around to see it! I arrived in London and got through customs seamlessly. No, it’s not that I was worried I’d be pegged as some international mastermind– it was that I’d heard nightmare stories of the hours it could take to get through Heathrow’s immigration. But I breezed through that, claimed my bag, got a bit of cash out of the ATM [YES YES YES THANK GOD MY CARD IS WORKING!] and headed to the central bus terminal where I had read that you could ride for free if you were going to a hotel near Heathrow. So…. finally figured out the right bus at the terminal, got on it, got off at my clearly marked Holiday Inn…. and was then told by front desk that I was at the wrong Holiday Inn. Only I can manage to choose a hotel chain that has 4 locations around Heathrow! So, the guy pulls out a map, and shows me on the map where my Holiday Inn is and tells me it’s a 5 minute walk after a little bus ride back down where I’d come from. Well, an hour later, in a full sweat, I’m cursing, mumbling “are you freaking kidding me?” after curve in the road after curve in the road fails to lead me to anything remotely resembling a hotel of any kind. I’m walking down deserted streets of nothing but quaint little English houses and Gilligan’s “3 hour tour” is singing along in my head. It’s now freaking 11:30 at night and I’m now mostly certain I’m fully and completely lost WITH all my bags and suitcase and no taxis…

I finally found the hotel! Yeeeha! Well I can see it, but I have to walk alllllllll the way around it to get to the entrance. 15 minutes after sighting the hotel, I arrive at the front desk, red-faced and sweaty and greet the mildly alarmed desk clerk with “Please tell me I’m at the right Holiday Inn.” I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. New York was going to come out to play. Sigh. Thankfully, I was at the right one. I check in– we’ll ignore their 15 minute search for payment that I’d already made online and their desire for me to pay again, which I politely declined– and the clerk asks me if I want any extras. I figure I’m only here for another 9 hours, so “no, thank you.” I get to my room and can’t turn on any lights. We are now past midnight and ok, I was probably not thinking too clearly. But I’m thinking, “Oh my god, was electricity one of those extras that I declined???!!! Stupid British plumbing and electricity… <mumble curse mumble>…” Alas, one must put one’s keycard in a slot by the door, to announce you are in the room. Then and only then does the electricity turn on! Ingenious really. No possibility of a guest leaving all appliances running while out of the room. I asked the country to forgive my rants on it’s plumbing and electricity.

I hung my sweaty clothes up to dry, went down to the lobby in basically my pajamas – too tired and too late for any shame– had a wee drink and made use of the lobby’s wifi. Caught the late London Mayoral election results. Quite some drama, and seriously interesting elections going on over here!

I tried to go to bed, even though my body felt it was only 8pm, and then woke up at what my body felt was inhuman, to meet a lovely, old friend for breakfast. Chelsea and I met 16 (OH MY GOD, 16??) years ago this month, while tending bar at the same pub in London. We’ve been friends ever since. Chelsea, an American, still lives in England, so I rarely get to see her but through the wonders of Facebook, we can now keep tabs on each other’s lives. So, Chelsea picked me up and we had a wonderful visit over breakfast at a cafe in Hounslow. And, I got to meet her adorable daughter. And have chips. Yes, I know they are just fries, but chips are so much better. Day 2 was starting off swimmingly!

I then had a wonderful 2 hours at Heathrow (still my favorite airport of all time) and had a momentary loss of sanity at one of the duty free stores, where, in an overwhelming fit of nostalgia combined with a need to use my British money, I bought shortbread, chocolate covered digestives, a bag of cadbury’s and an OK! Magazine.

I know that compared to the time in my adult life spent elsewhere, my time in London was brief. But its place in my heart is huge and dear. This place will always have a chunk of my heart.

And 4 hours later, I arrived in Budapest! Customs was a breeze, got cash out of the ATM while waiting for my bag (and my biggest concern was put to rest– I now had cash and would be just fine. I won’t go into the nightmare time in London years ago when my ATM card wouldn’t work because a bank clerk had misentered my PIN– back in the day when bank clerks still did that when you opened an account—and my parents had to use Western Union and wire me money. We all learned quite a bit about Western Union!) Ok, so cash in hand, bag claimed, I met my hotel shuttle, driver waiting for me with a sign in hand and enjoyed the 40 minute, give or take, drive from the airport, through the city, to the hotel in the Buda hills. I was smiling like an idiot the whole way– and from my massive guidebook reading, I recognized what I was seeing. When I saw the beautiful Parliament building, I took a rushed picture from the car, just so happy to be here.

Look, kids! Parliament!

Check-in was quick and easy. My room is freaking awesome. I’m so happy to be here. What a great day!

This is my little slice of peace, in the Buda hills. The view from my balcony.