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Day 1 : Travel to London

At an ungodly hour we left home, taking transit. Early, early morning, the first bus of the day when the only riders are those who REGULARLY need to get up that early for work, or those that, hopefully infrequently, are on a ride home. And then the odd, overly bright eyed, 'maybe too well dressed for 5:50am' travellers like ourselves. Suitcase, backpack too sensible for work, neck pillow, fashionable water bottle, the incessant check and double check of all necessary passes, documents, passports. I'm not saying I'm crippled with remorse looking at folks trudging to their jobs, but I'm not exactly prancing through the bus aisles either. 

Travelling with teens is a lot more carefree than travelling with younger kids. I mean, they probably won't get kidnapped, they have enough sense to pay attention when we get up from a seat and as to where we are going. They have enough just raw power, as invincible bastions of youth, to shoulder any burdens we heap on them like pack animals. 

But, as is understandable, they are, or can be, in their own world. Discording with their friends, smiling or laughing quietly at a flurry of memes being traded or just joking around, all on their phones. As a nerd myself, this socializing over screens is a very normal thing, the sort I grew up in my young adulthood doing was even more obscure. I was usually (and still do) chatting with strangers from across the continent who's things in common were not geographic but rather some weird niche activity/media/game we enjoyed. What my kids do now is almost .. more normal, more mainstream. Texting, but group. Socializing but over the internet.

So it's travelling with some chat, some silence. We are mostly efficient, laser guided. 

Ensconced in the artificial air of airplanes and airports and surrounded by other, somewhat affluent folks of the first world, flying through the air as if it were a rather inconvenient bus. The people around us, all dressed or geared up in a similar fashion. How do you dress and prepare to sit, walk, wait for hours and hours at a time. There is a continuum of expressions, from the grim determination of folks just getting their last flight at the end of a very long journey; to the cautious optimism of a young family just starting out, to the almost bored, lackadaisical way some travelers are, flight for them being about as momentous as taking a commuter ferry to a job site nobody particularly likes.  

When you go through security it's always interesting how much of a, you know, just a JOB this is to the folks manning the screening machines and who have to open and investigate that odd looking shape in your carry on. They have to be formal, and thorough, and I'm sure deal with all sorts of problem passengers. Post covid public being what it is. But if you watch them off the clock, usually when they are between shifts, it hits me how, yeah, they just wanna get through the day like everyone else. Scan that, check that, sweep this, repeat this instruction. While all of the travelers have a fixed expression of innocence and compliance, hoping to not be flagged for further inspection. The phrase of the day is frictionless. Make it as easy as possible for them to process me, be the least troublesome widget. Because I'm sure we all just become a faceless mass of folks funneling through their stations. 

The entire trip, end to end is 24 hours. With whatever sleep we could get aboard a hurtling aluminum tube filled with the driest, recycled air of hundreds of belching and humans with varying degrees of indigestion. Then there is the literal miles of walking you do across airports, trying to make sense of directions and left and right. 

We stumbled to our hotel, hoping for any amount of sleep and maybe a shower and are told that, no, check in isn't for another 3 hours. Of course. We stumble about London around Covent Garden. 

London! Packed with people on top of people. All sizes and shapes and nationalities, whirring about shopping and eating in the variegated architecture of London. All the layers of London : Old London, REALLY old London, London that looks old but was put up 3 years ago, and the 'brand new gosh dang that is new what is that building even' London. 

It's a sensory assault, with us being on little sleep. Feeling unwashed, exhausted, but still, underneath it all, delighted to see what of London we could. We wandered around Coventry Garden. The sort of place that I'm sure has been featured in innumerable romantic comedies and whose past has the dizzying highs and lows you expect from any part of London. First it was a garden for Westminster Abbey, a place to farm food and feed those in the Convent, a Convent Garden. Then yadda yadda, became a place for rich people to live, yadda, became really popular with theatre and eventually brothels, fell into disrepute, yadda, infusion of cash now a quaint shopping district filled with theatres, a marked decrease in brothels and absolutely no nuns in sight. 

The nerdy side of me, which of course, is most of me, wonders, where did the 'n' go in Coventry Garden? Why was it dropped, how? This preoccupied a disproportionate part of my mind as we wandered amongst the shops and tourist traps and very slick fashionable places to shop.

We make our way back to our hotel, unpack, shower, nap. Then off again! For dinner.

We'll go to a pub for some food, a pub, as we are made aware, can be a family place, an extension of the living room, they aren't like the pubs in Canada, a bar with a thin veneer of Jolly Ol' England. Don't be so uptight, be more in line with the Old World and how they do things! Kids drink wine! Or something!

What we don't into account is this is a Saturday night. So it's filled to the bring with the sort of young ne'er do wells just out to have a good time. What looks to be the entire smoking population of Vancouver is standing outside, well, smoking. The insides is jam packed. This is a pub as Canadians understand it. No wine drinking minors in sight. So we switch tacks and go to the old standby of any family that has to travel on a budget: eat pizza.

We get back to the hotel, collapse. Tomorrow, more walking, of course, a bit of dinner with family, and, hopefully, no security checkpoints.


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