March of last year when I last left England after ten weeks of studying at Oxford, I got all misty-eyed thinking that I likely wouldn't be seeing the rolling pastures of grazing sheep and the bustling Underground and hearing "cheers, mate" for a good, long while. Five years, maybe. Three, if I'm really lucky.
Joke's on me. Just one year later, my roommate and I were hurriedly booking flights to London and then back from Athens for the summer, willing Kayak to load a little faster because dammit we were late for Mexican night at dinner. (We'll come to semi-regret this rushed decision later, stay tuned for Greece.)
And then, we waited. On June 13th, we packed up our entire room and shoved all of it into the Mustang. On June 14th, we graduated college. On June 15th, we drove all the way from Stanford down to Orange County and unloaded only our Europe carry-ons. On June 16th, bright and early, we arrived at LAX, had a brief connection in Canada, and then on June 17th around noon, I spied Big Ben and the River Thames from the plane window and got all sorts of jittery.
Oh, except one tiny little problem:
A few weeks before graduation, Cassandra got a cold. A "cold." Long story short, it got so bad that on graduation day, she went to three different doctors. Two hours before our drive down south (which she had to drive the entire way, hacking away one organ at a time, because I'm #incompetent), a doctor handed her a bottle of antibiotics, an inhaler with 200 puffs, a diagnosis of possible pneumonia and possible bronchitis, and a "good luck, sista!"
You should ask her if she enjoyed London.
She can tell you all about the hotel room.
With Cassandra out for the count, her mom (who joined us for the first half of our trip) and I really bonded. After a customs line forty minutes too long, an Uber fiasco where we and the driver were walking in circles around the terminal trying to find each other, our hotel room not being ready for like two hours, it was mid-afternoon by the time we were ready to head out.
"Let's go to Kensington Palace, it's right down the road. Three minutes," I promised Kelly, eager to visit my good friend Kate Middleton. I took this route (on a bus) fairly frequently in the past. Key words: on a friggin' bus.
At every intersection, I'd mutter, okay it's definitely the next one. I'm positive.
Forty (!) five (!) minutes later, we reached the back entrance. Kelly and I, surprisingly not even a wee bit jet-lagged, wandered around the grounds, oohing and ahhing over the pond and the fountains and that strange thing called SUNSHINE IN THE UK. A lovely afternoon, topped by another very long trek back to the hotel because we are strong independent women who don't need no taxi.
Cassandra managed to brave it for her and Kelly's sunset champagne tasting reservation aboard The London Eye, but because I had done the whole shebang merely months earlier, I instead sat along the Thames on a bench, really really still, as I soaked it all in. The changing color of the sky, magnificent Ben in front of me,
the scent of McDonald's fries wafting over from its excellent location around the corner. I had this feeling, right then right there, that this moment marked the beginning of what would be an unforgettable summer.