A retrospective: Welcome to London
At the passport checkpoint I was studied closely by the customs officer:
– When did you arrive in Brussels?
– This morning.
– And you’re leaving for England now?
– Well… I’m visiting my sister who lives in Belgium but she and her boyfriend have had some car trouble in England, so I’ve arrived without her here and am going to England to meet up with her. We’ll be coming back to Belgium together on Sunday.
– Ah. That’s ok then. I thought it strange that you’d just arrived but were leaving already.
With that, she stamped my passport, permitting me to enter the UK.
A few hours later, after a smooth ride on the Eurostar but getting a little lost due to building works near Paddington station, I checked into the Cardiff Hotel in Norfolk Square. I was pleasantly surprised to have been allocated a room overlooking the gardens and had a lovely chat with the receptionist who had recently visited family members in Perth!
I offloaded my luggage and set off for an afternoon walk. I meandered through Kensington Gardens, enjoying the Italian Garden with its fountains and the playfulness of two squirrels. I made my way to the far side of the gardens to the Albert Memorial and the Royal Albert Hall as the natural light faded and buildings were lit up. I strolled alongside Hyde Park and to the south eastern corner of central London to begin my search for the Hard Rock Café. My first evening in Europe was a cold one and my body was not impressed with the sudden influx of movement following almost two full days of sitting on planes and trains. The HRC seemed to be playing hide and seek, so I was on the verge of aborting my dinner plans and heading back to Paddington where I’d seen some restaurants and pubs that looked promising, when two young women asked me for directions to… the Hard Rock Café. I agreed to accompany them on the search and have dinner together. It was delightful to meet sisters Anna and Alex and to chat over some delicious food. They asked if I was nervous travelling alone then answered their own question, suggesting that if I could survive all the dangerous Australian native animals, then surely London posed no threat. With the throngs of people I encountered the following day, I would beg to differ.