Trying to make it through UK border control in July might not have been my finest travelling moment. I was flying with Ryanair from Berlin to London, and the night before my departure I’d been so concerned about finding a way to print off my boarding pass (Ryanair will otherwise charge you upwards of fifty dollars to print it for you at the airport) that I might have forgotten to bring along a few other handy bits of information — information like my proof of onward travel and the address of my friends Jacob and Claire, with whom I’d be staying in Cambridge. Oh dear. The customs officer made it clear that her reluctance to let me through stemmed primarily from her disbelief that someone could actually be so stupid as to arrive in London in the month of the Olympics without any evidence of a place to stay. And yet, I made it through! And thank goodness, because that last month in the UK was just what I needed before I could be ready to head home.
Now, some people might encourage you to travel in order to “experience different cultures!” “taste new food!” “broaden your understanding of this world!” — whatever. Honestly, the number one reason to travel is to meet people who live in other parts of the world so that you can show up in their hometown with little-to-no advanced notice and crash on their couches. Case in point: I was travelling in Australia and met the gorgeous, gracious Lucy — little did she know that I would months later be imposing myself (and all my stuff) on her living room floor. But she took my arrival in stride, and I owe her thanks not only for the inflatable mattress, but for the wonderful dinners, the market tours, and the glorious picnics that took full advantage of the only three-consecutive-days-of-sunshine that happened in July.
I’d also planned for that London excursion to coincide with the few days that Sky and Al (of Canadaschmanada’s First-Ever-Post fame) would be there. We may or may not have wandered through the National Gallery making up alternative titles for some of the more dramatic pieces of art, tittering amongst ourselves and offending the occasional Serious Art Student. Together, we also visited the Camden Markets, the Caledonia Road Flower Market, a few restaurants, and an un-tallyable number of coffee shops together. I know this is going to sound hackneyed, but you’ll just have to indulge me on this one: words cannot adequately describe how nice it was to see them again.
After London, I spent a few days with some friends in Mossley. Never heard of it? I hadn’t either, until, wayyy back in Thailand, when Sam I met two guys named Sam (confusing, I know) and David who hailed from this smallish town, about 14km east of Manchester. Sam (the English one) picked me up in Manchester, and we arrived in Mossley just in time to catch David and a few of their other friends at the local swimming hole. (Swimming hole? you might ask in confusion, certain you’d heard that it barely hit twenty degrees in England all summer — yes, the answer is yes, and if you somehow manage to escape the sub-zero dunk, you’ll have to let me know how you did it because these boys are awfully persuasive). The next day, their friends Steven and Stefan were kind enough to take me on a walk through Dovestones, the foxglove-studded peak district complete with an old rock quarry and humongous grazing sheep.
And last but far from least, let’s talk a little about my temporary almost-home, Cambridge:
Claire and Jacob easily win the ‘Best Hosts’ award, for allowing me to stay with them for almost the entire month of July.For those of us who weren’t finishing up our final dissertation (i.e. not Jacob, who spent many a day cozying up to the Medieval law texts in the library), the pace of life was relaxed and easy.The near-constant rain helped me feel better about the fact that I could be found in three (and only three) states during my time in Cambridge: at yoga class, baking, or napping. Which is not to suggest that Cambridge lacks sightseeing opportunities — after all, every day we watched hordes of miserable Spanish students with their names inscribed on their backpacks being dragged from church to church, historical building to historical building — but I was feeling lazy and self-indulgent.
Instead, I grew to love the walk through Jesus Green from Midsummer Common, with its London Plane trees and the path that became gorgeously flooded as the month progressed. I loved the rows of chimneys, and the bustle of Market Square, and eavesdropping on all the guided punt-tours of the River Cam. But most of all, I loved being with Jacob and Claire again. For the three years before this trip, we’d been neighbours in addition to sharing classes, and I could always rely on them for everything — from sage advice to letting me know that butter had gone on sale.
Although so much time had passed since we’d last seen each other, we were swapping stories and recipes as though we’d just left our Little Italy homes a week or two ago. Last September, I couldn’t have imagined that in a different kitchen halfway across the world, we would still be sipping on tea and dissecting our thoughts on Latin poets, philosopher kings, and Cosmo magazine’s bizarre fetishization of food — but there we were, and it was easy as ever.
This post is already proving to be obscenely long, so I’ll try to make this last bit short and sweet (–moreover, as Sam’s already going to be scratching his travelling itch this coming winter, you can be sure this is only our ‘final entry for now’):
An enormous thank you goes to all of our fantastic hosts, and to the people who came out and travelled with Sam, myself, or the two of us together; thank you to the new friends we met along the way; thank you to the strangers who helped us when we were down and out; and thank you, dear Readers, all of you, for following our journeys, supporting us with your messages, and reminding us that no matter what happened, there was a city back home full of people who loved us, and could we please come home safe and soon.
From Toronto, at long last, with love,