Taking the #7

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Travel note

Lessons Learned

 

  • London Buses don’t take Euros.
  • Quick Shops don’t like to take credit cards for Oyster Cards.
  • Money Changers take your money.
  • Ask people and they will help you.
  • CityMap app is invaluable.
  • Buses and trains have great signage

Late evening in London after a night flight from Florence, I am landing in the smaller London City Airport to avoid the nightmare that is Heathrow. A grey mist and clouds greet me as I stepped outside to wait for my Uber ride to North Kensington and my AirBnB lodging. I pulled my scarf a little tighter around my neck and shoulders; the chill while expected is sharp contrast to my sunny Italy. Ping, my messenger rings and a quick flash of headlights signals that my ride had arrived, a sleek and clean four-door Mercedes.

The wet streets glistened in the streetlights as we drove due west, nearly skirting the River Thames; my view obscured by the tall buildings and darkness. Traffic was light at this hour and the city seemed quiet along this roadway, belying the pulsation of over eight million souls and their everyday lives. Like a cocoon, the warm cab sheltered me and my driver, in quiet conversation for thirty minutes as we made our way to the white planked and iron gated townhouse that would be my London home. I had considered taking public transport, but I did not relish the idea of spending an hour and a half on a bus, a train, and night walking in this unknown city. This was worth the price.

My fatherly driver waited for my host to greet me before rambling off for another fare. The door opened immediately to a long staircase and in hushed sleepy tones SJ ushered me up the stairs to my room, my nest, and soon sleep. My cheerful morning was delightful; getting the rundown of the house over fresh baked bread and jam while chatting up children in school uniforms, and practicing locking and unlocking the front door. Old houses are tricky.

What on earth was I doing in London? Traveling solo, yet not alone. Sometimes despite my best planning the reality of bracing myself against the unknown can be daunting. Making ready for today’s travel assignment, taking that first step out the door with a combination of apprehension, a little deep gutted fear and a too real desire to hide in my cozy room. Yet, heading out to meet my dear friends (whom I’ve not seen in nearly three years) gave me that necessary push. They are purpose of my long layover. Hayley, Jeanne, and Valentina.

We met in Tuscany at a food photography and writing workshop. We became fast friends after an intense, joyful, and creative long weekend filled with good food, laughter and generous amounts of Prosecco; Plate to Page it was called. Each woman is gifted with a warm heart, incredible insight, and an able regaler of tales. These gals, my pals, together again for one night only.

Take a breath sweetcheeks — out the door you go.

Down the tree lined block, leaves just sprouting with a show of vibrant green against the monochromatic bark. The mist dusted my face but no promise of real rain. My Oyster card in hand. I am ready and excited having plotted my route; taken my test ride on the #7, studied the maps, installed the apps, and verified my numbers.

London Bus

Photo Credit: Julian Walker, Creative Commons License

  1. Take the #7 to Langbrook Grove, Circle Line,
  2. Then to Baker Street Station,
  3. To Brown Line to Bakerloo South,
  4. Platform 8 to Waterloo.

“This seat is for you,” I motioned to the woman with the one armed crutch.“Beautiful day,” she said looking at the sky. “We need rain for the flowers. ”Her eyes sparkled beneath the crinkly salt and pepper hair that seemed determined to escape the worn scarf that failed at containment. Her face echoed her lifetime, yet held a kindness that came from within. “Some people complain, but summer is not until the 21st – it is still spring. Some people get in a hurry just because we’ve had a few warm days. “Not yet. Not yet.”

We sat for quietly two more stops, the rhythm of the ride rocked the bus, the air escaping the pneumatic lifts punctuated each on and off.

“Oh, I’ve changed my mind,” she said, suddenly surprised, if not bemused, and then she was gone.

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Next Installment: A London Walk and Dinner at Clos Maggiore

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