If only we knew what was to come the day after their return from the trip. A nightmare…a trauma… a future blog post for you to read. Alas, this post will be written as experienced- in blissful ignorance of March 25, 2017… the day my beloved Uncle Cameron, the husband of my late Aunt Rachel, and the father of my only cousin Dash, suddenly passed away.
Ten days earlier, Dash and our Nana Sharon flew out of Vancouver to Heathrow. I was unable to meet them in London for the first day and was rightfully concerned that they would get lost on their way to the hotel without me to guide them. My multiple Google maps and written instructions were deemed unhelpful… but with the help of a bouncer from a nearby pub, they found the hotel (which was 3 blocks from the Underground Station) about an hour after wandering around. Jet-lagged and disoriented, they went to bed and met me at the Natural History Museum the morning after.
I hadn’t seen my family since December and I missed them very much. If you, dear reader, don’t know- I am very close with my family. We are a weird jumble of freaks and I love them with all my heart (even when I show it through furious eye-rolling and constant shade-throwing). We walked around Nat Hist, and headed to the Victoria and Albert for an early lunch- so early in fact that the café was just setting up and we impatiently stamped our feet until it was ready.
After a mediocre lunch (but in the gorgeous setting of the V&A), we went to Harrod’s to sniff their perfume, then walked to Piccadilly to get some better walking shoes for Dash, who had only packed uncomfortable boots (been there, done that buddy). On our way, we passed through Neal’s Yard where we met a lovely homeless woman who said my Nana looked like Diana Rigg. I’m not sure about the exact accuracy of this but I agree that my Nana would be just as likely to kill a real-life Joffrey character.
All in all, we clocked about 20kms around tourist London, hitting up Hamley’s (where Dash got magical light up thumbs and a UFO), Liberty London, and finally the Houses of Parliament (three days later there would be a terrorist attack on this exact spot).
We went for dinner at Wagamama, the Asian-Fusion restaurant chain I had been avoiding since moving to the UK. I really wanted to order their ramen, but hated mussels. I asked for them to leave the mussels off, and when they asked me if it was an allergy I just lied and said “yes.” Mistake. This lead to a big ordeal involving the manager and the head chef to ensure I wouldn’t die by eating their food. I felt bad, but hey- I have to say their customer service was delightful! (even if their food was not so much)…
After ten long years of longing, I finally got to see Wicked! I was worried that it would change my opinion of the Wizard of Oz (of which I adore) and I was correct. That said, it changed it for the better. Wicked was one of the best shows I have ever seen! Absolutely hilarious!
The next day we started East and made our way to the West of London.
We began the day with a terrible greasy full English but happiness was immediately restored when we got delicious hot chocolates from Dark Sugars. I had been eyeing up these cocoas since September and now felt like the time. Totally worth it! Pretty much cream and chocolate shavings.
As Dash had never been to London before, I ensured that I would take him to the ultimate icon of Britania, Buckingham Palace. We had a lovely walk around Green Park and admired the vast quantities of marble, then headed off towards Marylebone to visit the John Soane’s Museum and British Museum.
I said goodbye to Nana and Dash and headed off to the bus station to go back to Cardiff. I had decided to leave a day early to do some work and go on a hike with my conservation class (terrible decision). On their last day in London, they visited Platform 9 3/4, the Tower of London, and my grandpa Keith’s cousins in Greenwich. In hindsight, I wish I would have stayed with them every minute I could have. Oh hindsight, what a marvelous thing you are.
I met them in Cardiff two days later and took them to their hotel. No need for Google Maps or a random bouncer to help them navigate! We had dinner in a pub (because children are allowed in pubs in the UK) and Dash even nagged a sip of my beer. We are a good family.
Starting the day with a nice breakfast at the Barker Tea House, we headed off towards the Museum of Welsh Life, St. Fagans. This museum is an open air museum (think Barkerville or Burnaby Village on steroids). Real Welsh farmhouses, cottages, and buildings from around Wales have been resituated on a large acreage. We got to “walk through time” as we visited houses through the centuries and wandered through beautifully manicured gardens.
It was also the peak of lambing season so we got to gawk at the adorable lambs. When we came upon a barn full of sad looking lambs, we thought some of them had died. Apparently they had just been castrated minutes earlier and weren’t dead, but in fact sulking. We made our way back to town and I showed them my tiny flat and made pasta primavera. I got points for buying the correct wine, Oyster Bay Chardonnay, for my Nana (even though I made her drink it out of a plastic skull wine glass).
Dash had now run out of clean jeans so I got to give them the most authentic British experience of all time- a trip to Primark! It was honestly worth it just to see my classy Nana step through the rows of sweatshop junk. I loved it. Also, Dash looks dapper in skinny jeans!
We walked to Cardiff Bay in the torrential downpour (another authentic Welsh experience). I took Dash to the Doctor Who Experience and my Nana wandered through Mermaid Quay in the Bay. We nerded out hard! I’m so lucky to have this little geek in my life. After a Cheeky Nando’s, I took them to the National Museum Cardiff where I work, then went on the double-decker carousel in the middle of town. We ended the evening at the yummy Persian restaurant I found with my mom in September and had a well-deserved sleep.
Unfortunately, on their last full day in Cardiff, I was in and out of class all day. It was mostly sad that we couldn’t spend the day together but it was even worse because I was their navigator! That said, they managed not to get lost that day. Good on you guys! They went to the Cardiff Story Museum in the morning, then met me at school. We took a long jaunt around Cathays and made our way to the vegetarian restaurant, Milgi. The yurt was closed but we still had a fantastic time. Three greased-out British Columbians in the UK desperate for “clean food,” we were very pleased with the spread. After lunch, I put them on the train to Caerphilly Castle and I resumed my academics. I met up with them for our last night in town and stayed with them in their hotel (for them of course, not because I wanted to use their bath hehehe).
We had a final fry-up for breakfast, then I stuck them on the train. None of us had any idea that the following morning would change our lives forever. Instead, they made their way peacefully to the airport and I made my way peacefully to my flat- both glad for the visit.
I love you guys and can’t wait to see you again.