And so ends the saga of our trip to London!
And while most blog posts were of a positive note, alas, not everything about this great city inspired awe and wonder.
The first “pinch”, if you can call it that, was the disconnect between what we sometimes read in travel-related books and what we discovered when we made our way to the actual place.
In Notting Hill, for example, we had lunch at a restaurant written up in our London travel book. Expectations were high (Naomi mentioned her anticipation at going there many times) and, although surrounded by plenty of other places to dine at, we headed for this resto that catered to people who prefer gluten-free meals.
It turned out to be expensive and very ordinary, leading one to wonder why anyone would go to the trouble of writing up about it.
Later, we looked for an art gallery that was described as interesting, even warranting a photo in our small book.
What a disappointment! The art was just so-so, the gallery itself was incredibly small. I left wondering too things: how may sales could this place have in a week? And, how can they afford the two salaries of the people who “served” us, I mean, who let us walk around?
This reoccurred a number of times during the trip, although the two above examples were the most egregious. But it did lead Naomi and I to start talking about it as a theme of the trip.
Kew Gardens was another place where Naomi in particular had very high expectations. During the preparation phase of the trip, the day spent at Kew Gardens took on mythological proportions it was mentioned so often.
One thing that we didn’t expect was the CAD $60 cost of getting in for the two of us.
I like looking at giant trees as much as the next guy, but I did find them to be a little freakish. I mean, these are giant trees, much larger, I suspect, than one would ever find outside a special park.
The silence I anticipated wasn’t there, made worse by the fact that jets were passing overhead every minute or so. (Perhaps my mood was made worse by the fact that I had just walked almost five miles to get there on very sore feet.)
My vote for favourite park would go to Holland Park; Naomi preferred Hyde Park.
The worst thing to happen to me I actually was made aware of after the trip was completed: I was scammed out of almost $2,000 in a debit card fraud.
This occurred at a Chinese food festival at Southbank where you had to buy tickets in advance to buy food. Naomi warned me about using my debit card, but I had noticed a bank logo at the booth where the tickets were sold; the place looked quite legit.
Except for the little contraption that I had to put my card into; it wasn’t your usual kind, more like something that attaches to an IPhone.
Anyway, the pin was stolen, the number on the card was copied somehow. When I came home to Montreal and looked at my bank statement, there they were: four large withdrawals in the neighbourhood of $689 each.
It took more than two weeks for the bank to act on getting my money back but I learned my lesson, or was it two? Listen to my wife’s warnings next time, and be ever vigilant when overseas with my debit card.
All in all, the trip was memorable and yes, life-changing in its own modest way, in the way that all successful vacations can change one’s life, by showing a society that is different (in a good way) from one’s own, and by turning the mundane present of the non-vacation moment into something spiritual.