Travel Tuesday: A Perfect Trip to a Most Perfect City

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Joe and I hadn't been in Oxford long before I planned ourselves a weekend getaway to London.  There was a bus that we could easily catch near Brasenose (where we were living), so I booked us bus tickets within days of our Oxford arrival.  Joe went to class that day and I stayed behind to pack, giddy with the excitement of getting to introduce him to one of my all-time favorite cities in only a matter of hours.

The whole bus ride to London, I kept thinking, for some reason, about the movie Pretty Woman.  I had recently seen it for the first time (I know, I know) and couldn't stop thinking about Julia Roberts' iconic 90s wardrobe, the volume of her equally-iconic hair, and, of course, the Rodeo Drive scene.

I'm surprised I was able to think of anything, though, other than the fact that we were London-bound. I.  Love.  London.  I first fell in love with it an entire lifetime ago when traveling abroad with my family (talk about a trip of a lifetime - it was pre-husbands, pre-children, just our nuclear family of five, the summer before my eldest sister got married).  My family had left me in London for a few days so they could go on to Ireland -- I was awaiting the arrival of my college roommate with whom I'd stick around for a month or so after my family eventually returned to the States.  She hadn't arrived yet, though, so it was just me, age 20, exploring the city by myself, Oyster-card in hand, riding the Tube from H&M to H&M (I had never been to an H&M before and fell madly in love with the store, as my bank account would quickly, and irreversibly, reflect).

Sitting on the Tube, en route to the Beatles store (I offer zero apologies for my shamelessly touristy agenda, ok?), I was overcome with an indescribable sensation that would later manifest in my straight-up moving to Europe.  It's a phenomenon I can't quite put into words except to articulate that it feels like unadulterated thirst for adventure in the purest sense of the word -- stomach full of butterflies, fingertips pulsing with adrenaline, heart bursting with the kind of wholesome anticipation and world-is-my-oyster optimism that is seemingly lost on nervous systems with more than 30 years of development.  At age 20, though, I was a prime candidate for such a feeling.

And it turns out that by age 26, returning to London with my husband-of-a-few-weeks, not much had changed.  The butterflies were back and just as fluttery as ever -- perhaps even more so due to the sheer excitement that is getting to share something you love very much with the person you love most.

And here's the best part -- we weren't just staying in London, we were staying in Notting Hill.  I first experienced Notting Hill with my dad, just the two of us, on a day that still exists in my memory as one of my favorite European days.  I'd since made a point to go to Notting Hill every time I'd been in London and our honeymoon would be no different.  I'd even found a converted basement apartment for us to stay in via AirBnB, conveniently located on Portobello Road, such that all we'd have to do in the morning is wake up, roll out of bed, walk out our door, and voila -- Portobello Market would await us.

As our bus ride finally neared its end, Joe patiently listened to me go on about Pretty Woman and how, for whatever reason, I wanted to watch it right that second (it isn't uncommon for me to respond to movies in this way -- I often watch the same movie over and over again within a week of seeing it, only to never again view it thereafter).

By the time we finally stepped off the bus, rode the Tube to the Notting Hill Gate Tube Station, and checked in to the AirBnB via the electronic key box, I had said some iteration of the phrase, "I mean, could this trip be any more perfect?" a total of 14 times.

Once inside the AirBnB, we took a look around, unpacked, and then collapsed on the bed, ready to get a good night's sleep before waking bright and early the next morning to take in all the sights (and Nutella crepes) Portabello Road would have to offer.  But not before a 15th "This trip is perfect!" declaration was made, for when we pulled back the covers and crawled beneath them, I turned on the TV just to see what we'd find playing.

And what did we find playing?  The opening credits to Pretty Woman.

Nev said...

Oh, I love all of this! The giddiness, the londonness, the perfect trippiness of it all. I felt the excitement of both 20- and 26-year-old you. And I agree wholeheartedly about London! My older brother has lived there for the past 10 years—he and his wife are moving to Amsterdam early next year, with a brief interlude in Croatia in the meantime—and aaahhh, there's just something about it. Well, there are many somethings about it!

I was last there two years ago in May—incidentally, just a few days before Harry and Meghan wed—surprising my brother at his apartment door (my sister-in-law had been in on it) one warm Thursday evening. It was one of those perfect trips—also, it was the first time I'd gone overseas solo; the trip lasted 15 days and included a family wedding in Croatia—and I had two days where I explored London all by myself, went to galleries and museums I'd missed out on back in 2012 and 2016, got lost on purpose, and all that jazz.

It definitely felt like I had the world at my feet. Every morning held this warm, fuzzy feeling of anticipation (I liken it to when you're on the Adriatic Coast and you wake up every morning to that perfect soft glow and the sound of the sea). Finally, every day of my six days in London was uncharacteristically sunny and warmish!

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