Monday, April 17, 2017
My last and final day of an incredibly amazing trip.
As I have been travelling with just a small backpack, I have saved my shopping for this last day so I wouldn’t be carrying it on my back everywhere I went. I did buy a few gifts for family in some other towns, but I had decided to save the most of it today. I started out going to the nearby Tesco grocery store for some interesting food things that I couldn’t find at home, then made my way across the city to the district of King’s Cross where there is the Vx Vegan store – a junk food haven that I knew would be dairy-free. They had jelly-filled doughnuts which I had with a cup of coffee and it was pure bliss! A real doughnut that I did not have to make myself, and was not gluten-free or tasting like cardboard. I sat there savouring the flavour and told the employees that they had made my whole day with that one doughnut.
As it is a bank holiday and many places have reduced hours, I took the time to simply wander the streets and people watch. I have been enjoying watching other tourists, or watching families interact; no matter what the language people are all the same wherever you go. I must have been looking like I knew where I was going by this point, because I had different people ask me for directions. I couldn’t help them quite like a local could have, but I could at least point them in the right direction and tell them how many minutes it should take to get there.
Next on my agenda was the British Library. I had almost missed this little gem in planning my trip, not realizing it held some of world’s most famous documents and original writings. No photography was allowed in their display room, so I cannot share the treasures I was seeing at every turn. When I first walked in and turned to my left, there right before my eyes was Handel’s Messiah written in his own hand, and the original scratchings of Mozart, notes made in margins and between staffs. My old friends – Jane Austen, George Eliot, John Keats, and Charles Dickens – neatly lined the walls, each with their own unique handwriting with lines drawn through unnecessary words and other words substituted. There was a whole section dedicated to Shakespeare and other playwrights of his hour. Leonardo Da Vinci’s original sketches of his inventions were there. Then there were documents that were the making of nations, turning the tides of world events. A letter of Queen Elizabeth I to her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots (she had a very clear and legible hand), decrees from King Cnut, letters from Winston Churchill, the Magna Carta of 1215 upon which many countries base their own charter of human rights and liberties. A Gutenberg Bible from the original printing press, changing the theological world forever. There were papyrus fragments from the gospel of John that somehow survived from the 600’s from Egypt. I was overwhelmed in awe of it all. The heart of a multitude of artists, reformers, and people willing to take a stand lay bared before me. The labour and the cry from their very soul was gathered here in one room.
To experience such a blend of words and history – two things that are dear to my heart – was the perfect summation to my journey.
Lunch time had passed and I found out the sandwich I had picked up from the vegan shop was not a sandwich at all, but a donair meat-substitute – 4 servings ready to be cooked and added to other ingredients. Oops. So it was off to Wasabi again for some pineapple chicken and chicken fried noodles, followed by some dairy-free frozen yogurt at Yorica! Then my shopping commenced. I browsed through Oxford Street’s shops and stores with a multitude of other tourists who had taken their Easter holidays in London. I hoped for dinner at an Indian restaurant, but they did not take reservations and apparently many others had the same idea as the line up stretched down the street. A little independent coffee shop across the street did the trick and I was able to sit and rest my feet and reflect upon the day over a salad and a cup of tea. The tea was an interesting blend of mint, sage, and dittany; smelling of the mint, but it had a smoky, savoury flavour. I so enjoyed its uniqueness, I bought some to bring home.
My final London experience was to attend the play The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie at St Martin’s Theatre. I was worried, as tired as I was, I’d end up falling asleep. No worries necessary – the production kept me at the edge of my seat for the entire performance. A great who-done-it set in the early ’50’s. The audience wasn’t full (in fact, I had the entire back row of the dress circle to myself) and I think that just enhanced the experience. It felt more intimate, and I wasn’t worried about elbowing the person beside me, my head being in someone’s view, or too much noise from the audience when people cough or shift in their seat.
The next morning there was a bit of a struggle to fit everything into my backpack, but I was off to the airport with plenty of time to spare. An easy journey home, chatting with other travelers and people-watching. The only difficulty was finding dairy-free food on my lay-over at a Canadian airport. I had travelled prepared, though, and the girl at the Tim Horton’s coffee shop kindly added hot water to a instant noodle bowl I brought with me.
All too soon my trip was completed, but I am left with wonderful memories I can pull out and peruse like a good book.