Monday, 30 June 2014

There and Back Again from Blighty

'Returning' is always a difficult thing for a globetrotter; at least it is for me. Being back in Blighty was a bit like seeing an old lover again: briefly awkward at first; both having changed and moved on, and yet there is something in the other that makes me wistful. There were good times had here. However, it was only a lightening trip, so there wasn't much time for being wistful.

Flying from Groningen
Flying into London on a sunny afternoon was most pleasant; it was fun to be on a small plane (it makes me feel rather intrepid...) and the journey only took a little over an hour. It never fails to amuse me how much England looks like a patchwork quilt from above.
Patchwork Blighty

 I hopped on the train to the deafening sounds of young lads discussing football at the absolute top of their lungs. Though their voices had not yet broken, their language would have shocked a sailor. Ah, today's youth... And so I was back in Blighty, in amongst it all again.

Stepping off the train at Liverpool Street station, the city was at my feet. A quick jaunt through the bustling financial district and dropping my bags at a friend's place, and I was ready to take on the joys of London for the evening. Meeting up with an old friend, we wandered down to the river, having a bite and a chat in the sun. London is at its best when it is sunny, I think. The bright lights aren't so bad either, and we enjoyed the West End, stopping off to see my favourite Constable, The Hay Wain at the National Gallery.

Pie and mash
The next day was mostly 'Hen Do' fun, but we also had a moment to experience a bit of the East End. With Pie and Mash. What a glorious dish - hearty, warm and filling. I opted to go without the "liquor" - a sort of gravy you're meant to have with it, and had mine plain. I felt very much the tourist when taking the photo, but nevermind. I also made sure to stock up on tea (Twining's Earl Grey) and shortbread. There are some things you just can't get on the continent...

It was also incredibly easy having everything in English again after nearly half a year. I don't mind in the slightest that I have to use Dutch daily, but it was nice for a change. I rushed out to WH Smiths to buy magazine's and stopped at every bookshop in Charing Cross (there are a lot...) just to browse. I was very good, however, and didn't buy any books...hand luggage and all that...

London at my feet
 As much as I don't like returning to places, London is a bit of an exception; the moment you arrive you blend in with the crowd and become anonymous. I always feel like I'm on a film set whenever I take the tube or cross Picadilly Circus. There is so much culture around too, with each neighbourhood unique and lively. Additionally, it was London Pride this weekend, so the city was very colourful. Never a dull moment!

Which brings me to the football. (There is no escaping it, I'm afraid...) I made sure to arrive early at the airport a) because it was Sunday and British Rail is rather notorious and b) the Netherlands was playing against Mexico. I made a beeline for the nearest bar (which sounds like I was in need of drink, when in fact I was after a television with the match on...) and found my entire flight crammed in front of a telly. Typically, right as we were meant to board the match became exciting. The Netherlands were a point down, but they then scored in the 88th minute; half of us began to queue to board as we were told, while the other half remained in the bar. Luckily, the shouts let us know that the match was going in our favour. When the second goal happened, I think we raised the roof on that little airport. Needless to say, the flight back to Amsterdam was a jolly one, as was the train ride and walk through Groningen. The entire country was celebrating!

It was a lovely weekend with friends in London town, and as the summer gets well under way with football, tennis, BBQs and (hopefully) warmer weather, I will look to further enjoy this time.