It was a cold and rainy day in Rotterdam when Haylee and I climbed aboard another bus. This one would take us to London for the final leg of our trip. It was another long bus ride that I slept through, but I perked right up once we arrived in London. From my previous two experiences there, I knew that I loved London and I figured I could never grow tired of it. Haylee had been mapping out our first night in London for a few days and I knew that we would be walking passed Buckingham Palace, and Piccadilly Circus on our way to our hostel.
I can honestly say that I wasn’t overly excited about seeing Buckingham until I was actually standing outside of the building staring at it. In my mind, I’d always pictured a boring, stock photo-esque building that could easily be replicated. What I actually saw was breathtaking. As we stood outside the Palace, my entire experience began to sink in. I. WAS. IN. LONDON. Not only was I in London, I was looking at Buckingham Palace, a place that I had only seen in pictures and movies. I’d been to Paris and climbed the Eiffel Tower, seen the canals in Amsterdam and been asked to a party while getting pizza in Rotterdam. Was I dreaming? Did I dream it all? WAS THIS REAL?! I mean, I was standing outside of Buckingham and it was so much more than I ever could have imagined.
As Haylee and I took turns taking pictures of each other, my life here in Wales became very real for a very brief period of time. I can’t believe that I’ve spent the last seven months studying abroad. I’ve met some amazing people, seen some breathtaking things, and challenged myself in so many ways that I have a hard time thinking that this all real. Most of the time I don’t even feel like I’m in another country completing my degree. A lot of the time I feel like I’m back in Canada where I can hop a bus and go home if I really want to.
Then Josh talks and his accent reminds me and Toto that I’m not in Canada anymore.
Speaking of Josh, my adventures in Europe were carefully documented because of him. Haylee and I had given him our itinerary so he’d know where we’d be and we checked in with him constantly. The general idea was that if he knew where we were he’d have an idea where we should be in case we decided to make a real life Taken 4. This was all based on the hope that if we did get stolen that Josh would develop some very specific skills that would help him rescue my littlest sister and I from whatever we’d gotten ourselves into.
Thankfully Josh didn’t have to learn any of those skills. Instead Haylee and I walked to Piccadilly Circus after we finished looking at Buckingham Palace. Piccadilly was so busy! I was a bit overwhelmed and amazed at all the people around us. Normally I hate crowds and get grumpy when I feel caged in by human bodies and their stink, but I’ve never minded the crush that comes with being in London. Probably because I play this weird game with Haylee where I try to keep up with her as her tiny frame slithers in and out of the crowd. Normally she wins and beats me to where we are going, but sometimes I declare a secret tie because I manage to keep up to her.
After exploring Piccadilly, and taking a picture of Haylee with a British fire fighter, we made our way to our hostel. We were staying in a room with 9 other people and one of those people was a very creepy Spanish guy. Not wanting to be around him, Haylee and I went and got dinner and hung out in our hostel’s lobby until we were ready for bed. Thankfully, the creepy guy checked out the next day and we were able to feel more comfortable about spending another night in our hostel.
The next day we woke up and headed off to Hyde Park. I’ve ready so many books where the characters go to this park that I was excited about walking through it. We were also going to go to a bookstore that a friend had recommended to me. Except when we got there, it was closed because it was Easter. That’s when the holiday kind of sunk in for the both of us.
Realizing it was Easter made us both homesick for our own reasons. For me Easter is all about basketball, hiding Easter eggs at my Great-Grandma’s house, and spending time with my family. Except this year I spent my Easter in the Netherlands and London. It was also a bittersweet reminder of my Great-Grandma, who is no longer with us and how much I miss her. I also missed my younger sister because Easter weekend is normally a weekend that I get to spend with her. This is the longest and furthest we’ve ever been separated and I felt the distance and time between us that day.
So Haylee and I found a café and had a good little cry together. I was thankful that I had her with me that day. If there was anyone that could pull me out of pity party I wanted to have, it was Haylee. We also had Lisa there for us who was in France, but still made the time to be there for us when we needed her. Once again these two were my anchors as I struggled with my feelings of grief, excitement, and being homesick.
Hyde Park was massive and very serene. It was also busy! The two of us walked from one end to the other. We saw lots of beautiful gardens, fountains, and Kensington Palace. Kensignton wasn’t as big as Buckingham, but it was still huge by my standards. From there we walked to the Diana Memorial. I was expecting a statue so when I saw something that looked like a water slide I was a little confused. Then I realized that I was looking at a memorial! It still looked like a water slide, but I liked the uniqueness of the memorial. It was really pretty.
We’d had a long day walking around, so Haylee and I decided to have an early night and we made our way back to our hostel. When we walked into our room we found that instead of the creepy Spanish guy, we had three new roommates and they were Canadian! They were travelling with a friend who was studying in London after spending time in France after working as nannies. One of the girls declared it was just like having a slumber party as we spent the night giggling and sharing our travel stories.
We all missed peanut butter.
The next day found Haylee and I up early so we could check out. I couldn’t believe that it was our last day in London and the last day of our week of adventures abroad. As much as I loved travelling, I couldn’t wait to be back in my own dorm bed. One vital lesson I learned is that hostel beds are not meant for most people over 5’5″. As I packed up my bag, I thought about how I couldn’t wait to go home. Then I realized that I was referencing Lampeter as my home.
It was a weird feeling.
I soon got over that weird feeling because Haylee and I went to a Canadian pub called the Maple Leaf for celebratory poutine and drinks! The poutine was good and the waitress was from Toronto. She said she could tell we were Canadian because of how excited we looked when we walked in. I declared the Maple Leaf the Canadian embassy and probably my favourite place in London.
On our way back to our bus we walked through Trafalgar Square then passed Buckingham Palace again.
Eventually we were back on a bus to Lampeter. I was dirty from not showering (hostel showers are gross) since we left Rotterdam, exhausted because sleeping in small beds is hard, and absolutely on cloud 9 because of all the places that I had been and seen. I couldn’t have been happier with the adventures that I’d had over the last week.
Then my friend Chris met Haylee and I when we got off the bus and walked us home and I almost cried seeing him because I missed him and I was slightly delirious from sleep deprivation.
Also: We all should know that I’m a nervous pooper. While spending a week having to pooping in places that I never would have pooped before was therapeutic in the fact that I am a slightly less nervous pooper, it was still freaking glorious to be able to take a dump in my own toilet.