So, London. My mom and I had decided that it was high time that my brother, Justin, join us on one of our England adventures. The past few times she and I had been to England, we’d spent two days in London max and the rest of the time in the Lake District or another area of England. So it was nice to spend five days in London this go-round and “rediscover” it with Lil Bro.
As the travel planner, I crammed in a lot of must-dos during the five days. Highlights are:
1. Sightseeing bus tour: We saw all of the main sights, including Big Ben.
2. We took a day trip to Winchester (a birthday list score as I had never been there).
3. We ate fish and chips at a pub.
4. We took a ride on the London Eye ferris wheel.
5. We shopped at Harrods.
6. We had afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason.
7. We went on two pub walks.
One of my favorite things about traveling is the people you meet. More often than not, you’re reminded of what a small world it is.
At the end of our day in Winchester, we were heading to a taxi stand to catch a ride back to the train station when Justin pointed out a city bus that was heading toward the station. We boarded the bus and chattered about where the station was, and a young man overheard us and said that he was getting off at the train station stop as well. He asked us where we were from, and we said Rochester, New York. He said, “Ah, yes, is there a historic aircraft museum near there? And a place where you can take hot air balloon rides?”
OK, he was talking about the small town south of Rochester where I attended college (population ~8,000). What. the. hell…
Turned out that he works for IBM and visits the headquarters in Armonk, New York, frequently. I didn’t get the chance to ask how he found his way to Rochester, since it’s a five-hour drive from Armonk??
Another thing I embrace when traveling is the unexpected. No matter how much you plan, you end up veering from the plan. We didn’t make it to all of the attractions I had planned to, and that was fine. It was also fine (and quite comical) that Justin and I ended up at Burger King and McDonald’s after our pub walks, because by the time we arrived at the last pubs, the kitchens had already closed for the evening.
One event that was not quite fine = Losing Justin in London for about an hour.
We were on our way back to the hotel on the second day of the trip. It was rush hour and we were all piling onto the Tube. Mom and I got on the train, and then the doors closed on Justin’s head. He was on the platform; we were on the train. It felt like a slow–motion movie sequence. We had two seconds to gape at each other until we were whisked into the subway tunnel. Mom immediately started swearing (which she rarely does) and the man two inches away from her face didn’t even blink an eye.
This would not have been a problem had Justin known the name of our hotel or the nearest Tube stop. Alas, he was not privy to this essential information. I had planned everything and knew my way around the Tube, so Mom and Justin had been following me around blindly for two days.
As we hurtled farther and farther away from Justin, Mom slowly descended into maternal meltdown mode. But I had faith that he remembered one of these two nuggets of information (turns out that he didn’t).
We debated what to do and decided to take the train to the stop near our hotel. We told the first Tube employee we came across about losing Justin. She asked, “How old is he?” “Thirty-three,” we replied. “Does he have a medical condition?” “Uhh, no.” We then asked her how to get on Wi-Fi, because Mom and Justin had access to a free texting app through Wi-Fi.
We were escorted to the supervisor’s office. The supervisor asked, “How old is your son?” Mom answered, “Thirty-three.” He then asked, “Does he have a medical condition?” “No…but he doesn’t know the name of our hotel or the nearest Tube stop.”
He looked at us quizzically and picked up the phone. He had Justin paged at the station where we had been separated. I figured he was long gone by that point. Another employee was called in to help Mom with the Wi-Fi. As they fiddled with their phones, the supervisor asked me where we were from. Even though I said “New York State,” he, like everyone else who had asked us this question so far during the trip, started waxing poetic about Manhattan. I just smiled and nodded until they got the texting app to work. Mom texted him the name of the Tube stop and hotel address, and we headed back to the hotel.
As we walked, I tried to convince Mom that Justin would find his way back somehow. I wasn’t allowing myself to believe that we could lose him in a city of 8 million people.
Sure enough, as we walked into the hotel lobby, he was bounding down the stairs. We were all shouts and proclamations of relief. I asked if he had remembered any information and he said that he hadn’t. Somehow he thought to check his Tube card history to find out which stop we left from that morning.
Needless to say, we were very paranoid when getting on and off the subway trains for the rest of the trip.
Well, this post is plenty long enough…ta for now.