Traveling Pt. 1, Internationally

The things that happen, happen.

Hopefully, you don’t get lost.

Hopefully, you don’t get on the wrong train.

Hopefully, you don’t get ripped off.

Hopefully, you speak the native language.

Hopefully, you know where you are staying.

Hopefully, you have at least a connection in the area.

On my most recent trip to London, England… I did all 6 of those things.

When I travel, especially internationally, I like to get lost intentionally. I want to feel like a local. If I am traveling internationally, my goal is to experience the culture as best I possibly can. I believe that the best way to do that, for me at least, is to travel to a spot on the map and then just wander.

I didn’t do that too too much while I was in London. But, I did get on the wrong train and then it kind of happened…

I was on my way to the London Coliseum. Because they had a musical performance of Man of La Mancha, I thought I would attend.

London is always quite the city

If you’re familiar with London, the Coliseum is on the southwest end of town by Leicester Square and I was staying up in Kentish Town, the northern end of town.

To get there, I intended on taking the tube (the metro/subway) as I had utilized during my entire stay to get around.

Unfortunately for me, I got on a train heading south, the Northern Line, but then made the mistake of not properly checking for the end route and ended up on the east side of town.

At this point it was about 7:05 and the next train wasn’t coming for 8 minutes. The show started at 7:30, I wanted to be there.

So I head up out of the station. I am lost.

Traveling in England was a lot of fun for me. I did a few things. My first day I hung out in Camden town and got a feel for some of the local norms as my red-eye flight got me into Heathrow at 6:30 am.

After initially leaving West Palm Beach from a place I just finished moving into on Sunday, I got to the airport at 1:00 pm. Then I flew to JFK, departed from there at 6:00 pm, and with the time change, landed at 6:30 am the next day, Monday, May 27th. I took a bus into the city.

But, I got there. The first night I kind of laid low. I dropped off a piece of luggage (a Nike duffel bag). Which… is, by the way, the lightest I have ever traveled for an international trip, much less one that as an additional 3 nights tacked onto the end once I return to the states.

After that, I headed over to the London Eye and spent some time by Big Ben, as a true tourist.

Time to be a tourist.

I took pictures of maybe one individual plus 2 couples and maybe a family also. I think that’s what it was. My thinking was, I’m just walking around and they’re taking pictures, maybe I can help out.

It worked out for me well also as I got a picture of me taken by a Brazilian photographer, I met a couple from Atlanta who was able to pay cash for a piece of art I wanted on the bridge and I sent them money via CashApp, and I got some tremendous gratitude. It was a great first day.

I’ve learned that people are driven psychologically to help others. By asking someone to take a picture of me, I present others with an opportunity to give. I present others with an opportunity to express gratitude when I take a picture of them.

I followed that up with a relaxing morning and a wonderful romantic dinner the next night at Bob Bob Ricard. That was just wonderful and I’m glad that the night was as it was. Though, I was a little late so I ordered an Uber rather than taking the train. But, the lavish experience was all worth it.

On Wednesday, I was up early. Got some breakfast and took it a little easy in the morning. After that, I decided I wanted to go to Harrod’s. On the way there, I saw stores like Porsche Design, Ted Baker London, and Bentley. I was reminded of how my style is so European inspired. Then I made it to Harrod’s before jumping over to the Borough Market. That was a wonderful time, I liked checking out the various brands that they had presented throughout the store. While the market was cool and a good time for food and everything but then, I headed back over to Harrod’s for a little tea. Once the “tea time” with my love was finished, we departed. I went home after that, then back to King’s Cross and then returned back to my Airbnb.

Thursday was the last full day for me in the city. Slept in a little and went to an Italian restaurant and then went to Buckingham Palace. My food was nice at the Italian restaurant but I didn’t love it. I’m glad that I made it to the palace and had such a marvelous photographer. I always enjoy admiring architecture and elegance in that way. Following the palace, I decided that I should check out Man of La Mancha. That was quite the experience. After my whole “horrendous experience” as one manager at the theatre stated, I was able to get a private box for the show, for no cost. That was wonderful. I loved it, every moment. After studying Don Quixote in an earlier Spanish class, I loved getting to see the musical take on it.

My last day, or kind of. After arising at 8, I packed up and headed out. Jumped on a train after getting to King’s Cross and then realized midway to Heathrow that my flight was out of London Gatwick… oops. Made it there with hours to spare and got ready for my flight. Note to self… do not fly Norwegian Air. After being charged $101 for an “overweight” carryon and flying for 7 hours sans Wifi and food, I made it back to the states. Goodbye London.

I’ll finish this though…

So I was lost, right? I got out of the train station, Victoria I think it was, no that’s not right… I blocked it out of my memory. Whatever station it was, I couldn’t get a gauge on which way was west and I went the wrong way for 2 minutes. Now, it’s 7:12. Wow. Oops. Directions say 1.8 miles. Okay, what if I run it?

Let’s do it.

So, I started to run. I made it maybe a half mile and realized wait… I haven’t conditioned in a while, I’m tired. Maybe, I can rent a bike, I thought.

Turns out, I couldn’t rent a bike. But, midway through a tunnel, I saw one of the bikers that carries people, a bikercab, or rickshaw or whatever you’d like to call it.

I thought that could get me to the 7:30 show in time. But… I got there at 7:35. And… my driver (biker) asked for payment in GBP (Great Britain Pounds). I didn’t have any cash.

After sharing that I needed to go within the theatre to get cash withdrawal, he waited outside. Well.. they couldn’t do it for me, and I needed to pay him 60 GBP… for a 10-minute ride??? We walked to the bar down the street and again, they said I couldn’t do a cash withdrawal. Then he said let’s go to a Tesco and I can buy him some cigarettes and Corona.

Off we went. I started video recording him at this point as he said that only 40 GBP would be sufficient. Then, I was walking too slow for him and he said he would bike me over there. I was able to get him to lower the amount to only 20 GBP. After getting to Tesco, he found 2 packs of cigarettes and as I continued to record, he finally accepted that as payment for the 10-minute ride.

I hung out with the security at the end of the store to ensure that all was settled. Someone else also checked on me as I was leaving the Tesco, he said that the interaction seemed strange, and that was intentional. I was not comfortable and knew that there was no way I should ever pay that man that much.

Man of La Mancha.

After he left and biked away, I returned to the theatre and was able to get a seat in the lower section that they said I could pay for during the intermission. During the intermission, the manager woman said that I was really alright and didn’t need to pay anything, “you’re already here, you might as well just stay.”

So, even though I had quite the experience and I missed the first scene or two, I spent only 22 GBP for a show that would have cost at least 35 GBP.

The entire trip was quite the experience. This makes 4 countries in 4 years, but it’s time to up that a little bit and make it 4 countries in 1 year. Where to next?

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