Greetings from Heathrow Airport, Terminal 2. Apparently this is “The Queen’s Terminal” but I have yet to see any members of the monarchy. I’m still keeping an eye out!
I arrived in London yesterday afternoon and was supposed to stay for a few days before heading on to Ireland where my husband is working. I had planned to walk around, see the sites, and soak up the city. And those plans quickly fell away when I realized that I really didn’t like London.
I know that is a horrible thing to say. I know that it’s one of the world’s great cities and that people travel from all over to visit. I know that it is steeped in history and museums and all things British. I know that I should be grateful that I’m here (and believe me, I am!). I’m just not loving it. .
London feels suffocating and crowded to me. It feels cold and dark and dirty. Perhaps it’s because it’s winter. I’d think it was maybe because I just don’t like big cities but that just isn’t true at all. I’ve spent time in many of Europe’s biggest and busiest boroughs – Paris, Barcelona, Munich, Florence, Zurich – and loved every minute of it. Perhaps it’s because I know that the second half of this trip will be spent in beautiful Ireland with my partner in crime.
Whatever it was, I just wasn’t feeling it.
So today, instead of trying to find ways to see the sites while also avoiding all those people, I cried uncle. I swallowed my pride and booked myself a cheap one-way flight to Cork. I ate the money I lost on a lovely AirBnB. And I felt both relieved and a bit beaten down.
I was sitting at Heathrow this afternoon, scrambling to book my flight on my phone when I noticed the woman sitting behind me. She was having a frantic conversation with someone on her phone, telling them how she had had all of her stuff stolen at the airport and how she didn’t even have money for a cab to get to wherever she needed to go to begin to fix this situation. She was stranded.
I reached into my pocket, grabbed the 40 pounds I was getting ready to exchange for Euros and put them in her hand. She was stunned and relieved and beyond grateful. She was happy – and I was happy too. In that moment the dark cloud of my disappointment lifted and so did my mood. I was happy again and feeling like good things were certain to come. I didn’t give her the money hoping that it would help me but it most certainly did.
It was a good lesson in the power of paying it forward.
I couldn’t sleep last night (damn jet lag!) so I threw on a coat and wandered down to the riverfront to take some pictures. Just as I raised my camera Big Ben struck 2 a.m. The clang of that old clock ringing out across the Thames while the rest of the city was asleep will stick with me forever. Magical moments are always there if we are willing to find them. That is my most vivid memory of London – and the one that I hope sticks with me forever.
And with that, I am off! See you in a few hours, Ireland!
A few more shots from my time in London …