Adventures: Lost in Hyde Park [It’s just a tad bit big]



I woke on Day 1, unable to believe I was actually in London. Pretty sure I squealed before I even got out of bed.

But I did get out of bed. Fast. I ate breakfast (more on that here) and then I headed off in the general direction of Hyde Park. I say general direction because I knew it was south of me and stretched a bazillion miles east and west across the city, so unless I got completely twisted around, there was no way I wouldn’t run into it.

And I did. Ran right into it. Unexpectedly, even, because I was busy checking out the “area” around each townhouse I passed. (For info on the area, I’ll post a bit about London townhouses someday. Stay tuned!)


IMG_20160414_091516So I crossed Bayswater Road and smelled the entrance to Hyde Park before I realized where I was. That’s right, smelled it. Hyde Park is gated all the way around with little entrances here and there. I entered at the Westbourne Gate (I think), which was a little hilly path. On either side of the path were all sorts of blooming spring bulbs: tulips, daffodils, those spike-y ones I think are called hyacinths. And at the end of that path was A little brick lodge which (now that I am home and can look it up) is called the Buckhill Gate Lodge. I completely forgot to take a picture of the flowers because I was so stunned by the fact that I was entering Hyde Park! But I did get a picture once I crossed through, and if you look carefully to the right of the lodge you can see a few of the flowers.


At that point, I pretty much stopped breathing.


DSC_0012I could see the Serpentine.

The Italian Gardens.

Kensington Gardens weren’t far away.

Basically, I was standing right where my characters stood. Or rode, anyway, since when Lilias in In Bed With A Spy was in Hyde Park she was on a horse both times. [I don’t ride horses, btw, because I tried that once and was bruised for weeks.]

Also, now that I’ve been to Hyde Park, I’d probably write those scenes a bit different. Ah, live and learn, no?

Looking back, it’s just a park. Grass, buildings, flowers, tourists. It shouldn’t be as exciting as I thought it was. Yet for me the excitement was twofold–I was standing in the same spot my characters would have stood 200 years ago, and I finally get to see a place I’ve read about for years. I set off that morning ready to experience–not learn, but experience. Every scent of flowers or sun-warmed earth, the breeze in my hair, the weak sunshine on my face, the crunch of gravel under my very used tennis shoes, the unleashed dogs orderly jogging beside their owners and the construction workers who saw the park as a job rather than a feast of the mind and soul–all of these and more will be imprinted on my soul.

I wandered the park for hours, breathless, taking pictures of EVERYTHING and looking exactly like a stupid tourist. I didn’t care in the least! I photoed the Italian Gardens from every angle, went into a little Grecian-looking structure (turns out it’s called Queen Anne’s Alcove), and then I sat down to journal next to a huge stone statue of a guy I knew nothing about .

DSC_0015 DSC_0016 DSC_0018







The guy named Jenner.

The guy named Jenner.













April 14, 2016     9:00 am    

I’m sitting in frickin’ Hyde Park. I’m at the fountains at the head of the Serpentine River. Beside me is a stone gentleman by the name of Jenner. I don’t know who he is, but the snake on a stick medical thingy is on the side of his chair.

The bench I’m sitting on says:

For the love of the Park
Dany and Phillip Bandawil

I wonder who they were. Did they sit here often? Dream here?




On the north side of these fountains is a lovely stone building with a wrought iron fence on the roof. [The Alcove] How long has it been here?

It’s peaceful, with the water running in the fountains, the sounds of the city faded away. There are ducks and tourists, locals and construction workers. And the vague scent of fishy water.

Off to explore and find the museum.

The museum, by the way, was the Victoria & Albert Museum, which has a fantastic fashion and jewelry exhibit. That was supposed to be my destination that day. I did eventually make it, two and a half hours later. (!) In between, I…

DSC_0031Followed the Serpentine, got super excited about trees, found a closed museum, got distracted by something shiny, realized I was completely lost, found the Princess Diana Memorial, took a sweaty selfie, crossed the road and managed not to die [I kept checking the wrong side of the road for oncoming traffic], stood on the Jubilee Steps, got lost again and walked around the same roundabout over and over until I found the museum.


Eventually I ended up back in Hyde Park again, first in a little garden spot, and later just sitting in grass. It was better, actually, than the morning trip, because by now people were out of work and taking the evening air. So I journaled again about my day.


April 14, 2016     5:07 pm                Hyde Park Again, somewhere on the SW corner


IMG_20160414_170441 IMG_20160414_170156

I’m utterly in love with this little spot. Yellow tulips and something else that looks like yellow bells are blooming. Between them are low purple flower with cheerful yellow centers. Behind me I hear the road, but in front of me there is only birdsong.

There is an arbor here that you can walk under. I imagine by midsummer it will be full of trailing blooms.


You can *just* see the arbor to the right















I will be moving on soon to Park Lane, but for now, I’m going to sit in the sun a moment and imagine Hyde Park in 1810. It wouldn’t be developed, but people would have sat here just the same.


April 14, 2016     6:00 pm

Walked down Park Lane, then cut across Hyde Park. I’m bushed! Need sustenance!

But first, impressions Day 1:

London is a mix of old, new and older. It is also a melting pot of races, cultures, young, new, traditional, crazy. If you want it, it’s here.

The locals seem to walk everywhere, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of joggers! Also, dogs. And none of them are on leashes. They are all very well trained. It must be an unspoken rule!


Following the Serpentine


More following….

I made the rounds today, getting lost a number of times.  I started in Hyde Park, the Italian Gardens, and followed the Serpentine.

The Serpentine started at the Italian Gardens, which were lovely. I entered Hyde Park through a gate bordered on either side by blooming spring flowers. Bulbs, tulips, crocuses, larkspur. Smelled heavenly!




Look. I went all the way to London to photograph a duck. Pretty sure there’s something wrong with that.



Peter Pan

Peter Pan



Hyde Park in the morning was damp, with a pretty gray light. I found a statue of Peter Pan, and took a picture of a whomping willow. Really. It looked ready to whomp.









NOTE: I didn’t journal about seeing Princess Diana’s Memorial, but I did find it. I believe it is a called an infinity fountain, and it was right on the shore of the Serpentine. It was lovely, and a little sad, too. I remember being enamored with her as a child. I even had Diana paper dolls!


IMG_20160414_100913 DSC_0041 DSC_0046




Serpentine Gallery (CLOSED)

Oo, Shiny. Can you blame me?

Oo, Shiny. Can you blame me?






I found the Serpentine Gallery but was 10 minutes early. They wouldn’t let me in! I saw in the distance a gold steeple glinting in the dull morning light, almost like the sun—it was so bright! (More later)

When I came to the other side of Hyde Park, I had intended to go left, east, but I was distracted by two things.





Rotten Row! It’s really there!


A sweaty selfie in front of Rotten Row


First, Rotten Row. I had walked right over it without realizing it. So I went back, snapped a selfie and imagined myself in a smart military style riding habit.





Second, the shiny gilt spire. I ended up at Albert’s Memorial, then found Albert’s Royal Hall.

DSC_0050 DSC_0052 DSC_0055











NOTE: When Albert died, Queen Victoria mourned him by wearing black for the next 40 years. That’s both awesome and horrifically sad.


Royal Albert Hall – And I crossed the road and managed not to die!




I meandered around to the left and rear of that and discovered “mansions” (self-styled and OMG, 7-8 stories!) and then QEII Julibee Steps and Statue.


I am NOT washing my feet ever again… I stood where QE II stood!











Then I got lost at the Tunisian consulate, then the UAE consulate, and the Royal College of London. Eventually I made it to the V&A!

I walked back through Hyde Park, Park Lane, Brounten area. What a conglomeration of cultures. Lebanese, Mediterranean, Arabic, French shops, clothing shops, Patisseries.

Park Lane was a little disappointing. Too modernized. But there are gems such as Apsley House & Grosvenor House. I shall save those for Sunday after Spencer House. Along with the rest of Mayfair.

Hyde Park was different in the afternoon. Brighter, and more populated with locals. Joggers, dog walkers, but also people just sitting in the grass, having a picnic. If only we knew how to relax in the sun in a huge park in America!

I sat there for about 30 minutes, half-amazed I was even in London, half-amazed at the unattended dogs wandering all over the park, and half-amazed (I know, that’s three halves) at all the wonderful things I’d seen that day.

I was in flippin’ Hyde Park, y’all!

A few more random pics:

Breakfast tea. When in Rome...

Breakfast tea. When in Rome…

A statue of something important I can't recall.

A statue of something important I can’t recall.
















Me, at 6 am, looking silly. Not my best time of day, hence the black and white. Otherwise, I might have frightened you.

Me, at 6 am, looking silly. Not my best time of day, hence the black and white. Otherwise, I might have frightened you.

A cool building in Hyde Park that had no purpose I could discern.

A cool building in Hyde Park that had no purpose I could discern.














I forgot. But it's pretty.

I forgot. But it’s pretty.


No idea










And therein lies the tale of author lost in Hyde Park. More on the museum trip and the cathedral I went to later. And more on the lovely woman I met in Hyde Park.

Next up, I get in trouble in the jewelry section of a museum and then spend an hour talking to the security guard about everything from Geiger counters to politics.

Adventures: Breakfasts In London

But it’s not really about breakfast. It’s about the humanity of a smile.

NOTE: I changed the name of the waiter to protect the innocent.


Journal Entry:

April 14, 8:00ish

I’m having breakfast at a brasserie. It is a partner with the hotel, so I can eat here or at the hotel using my voucher. I decided for my first morning, I’d go off site to see the city.

The buildings across the way have the most lovely wrought iron fences on the first story. The second and higher stories are set in a little, maybe five feet. I wonder how old that is? If that existed in the 1800’s, it would be great for Vivienne to jump from. Or Magdalena! [Future characters, My Dear Reader…]

Pause. Coffee. Pause.

I’ve ordered a traditional London breakfast. Poached eggs, back bacon, sausage, sautéed mushrooms, grilled tomato, backed beans.

I’m. In. Heaven.

OMG. There’s Blood Pudding!

So. Yeah. I don’t like blood pudding. I do, however love the sausage, back bacon, beans, mushrooms, tomato – and I can chew the coffee. It’s awesome!


The Awesomeness of an English Breakfast

As per usual, I got in trouble that morning. They said I could sit anywhere when I got into the restaurant. So I did. Apparently, I picked the ONE reserved table. There was a big sign on it, even. So of course, the waiter came by and asked me to move. He was thin and tall, handsome, with thick, short hair that was half salt and half pepper. Narrow featured, narrow shouldered, yet also aloof, as if he were a little detached from the rest of us. He was also a little…irritated. And he spoke to me, frankly, as if I was an idiot. Which I was. I was sitting at the reserved table with the Big Ole Reserved Sign I didn’t read.

I moved tables, but of course, I’m loud. And I get particularly loud when I’m embarrassed. So I’m laughing in my big, booming laugh and apologizing all over myself. I almost knocked over the table I moved to, bumping into it with my bag. Then, when I was trying to get myself settled, I knocked my fork on the floor. What follows, naturally, is that awful, metallic clatter when silverware hits tile. Sigh. More of my booming laugh and apologizing.

Basically, the entire restaurant was watching me. This often happens. I can’t help it.

Also, John the Waiter was looking down his nose at me as if I was not only an idiot, but had grown three heads and he wanted nothing more than to hustle me out the door. In his suit and apron, with that look on his face, I felt like an idiot.

This also often happens. I can’t help that either.

After the table debacle, I order coffee. Again, I’m laughing my booming laugh. “Make it as really big, as I’m super jetlagged.”

I got a very small, stingy half-smile from John the Waiter.

I decided to work on earning his good will back that week, because I was an idiot. So when I left, I made sure to hunt him down and say thank you.

Plus, everyone—particularly those in the service industry—deserve thanks for their work. I’ve been a waitress, and it’s a damn hard job.

April 15, 8:30 am

I’m here at breakfast now, again at the brasserie. I noticed on my walk people aren’t naturally friendly. It’s like New Yorkers – they are all on their way somewhere and in a hurry.

This is not true. I mean it is, in the fact that many people I came across that morning were on their way to work or another appointment, clearly. But it’s not true that the English as a whole aren’t naturally friendly. They are, so much so that I now consider London a home away from home. They were wonderful and welcoming!


Eggs Benedict…In England. There’s irony there. Also, the Hollandaise was amazing.

I just wanted to clarify before we went any further lest I give you, Lovely Reader, the wrong impression from my journal entry. Now, read on…

Yet a street cleaner gave me a grin, said good morning, and said “It’s Friday, no?” Just like someone would in the US. And I find, just as at home, if you smile first, the person will almost always smile back. And just like at home, I hope my smile cheers up their day!

Which brings me to yesterday’s waiter, John. He was not friendly, though I did get him to crack a smile when I said I wanted coffee because I was a bit jetlagged. Today I came in, the little waitress said hello and recognized me. John – when I sat down I was facing the counter and he was there – he smiled. A real one. Very much a greeting of recognition and hello, and a friendly one at that. I couldn’t have been more happy! I just goes to show how kindness can go a long way – no matter what part of the world you are in.

John [the Waiter] is not English, btw. French perhaps? And I saw him washing the dishes, tie tucked between the buttons of his shirt, sleeves rolled up – and to my surprise, this serious, dour man has a line of text tattooed on his forearm. I wonder what it says? Something personal and profound, I hope. John seems to be a deep thinker.

The table beside me is two couples, clearly mother/father and grown daughter/son or daughter-in-law/son-in-law. I lean to d/s, as neither are wearing wedding rings. I think they speak Italian or Portuguese or Spanish. Can’t tell. But my waiter—who looks vaguely like a young Johnny Depp with side burns—spoke to them in a similar language that the daughter then translated for the family. Fascinating.

Also, they are talking about me right now, which is also fascinating. What are they saying? Look at that chunky little American scribbling in her notebook? If so, that is OK. I was just writing about them.

But I got a smile and a wave as they left. I can’t help but smile about that myself.

For now, it is time to put my big girl panties on and brave the Underground!

Seeing John the Waiter with his sleeves rolled up was very interesting. As with the rest of him, his forearms were thin and narrow. But there was strength there, in the muscles and tendons—probably from a lifetime of waiting. I say a lifetime because that man was efficient. There was nothing he did not see in that restaurant when it came to service of patrons and other staff.

It was the tattoo that really got me. I love tattoos, though I don’t have one myself. But I don’t love tattoos for the sake of a statement. I love tattoos that mean something, whatever it is, to the bearer of it. One can argue that every tattoo has meaning, of course, but some are also for shock value or any other number of reasons. Including drunken mistakes or peer pressure or the idiocy of youth.

But when a person has a tattoo such as that line of text on John the Waiter’s forearm, it usually means something important. I very much wish I had been close enough to read it. I’ll always wonder what it said, and what it would reveal about my aloof friend.

April 16, 9ish

Well, it was an interesting evening. I did, in fact, become “in”. Jackie and my Z-girl let me take a picture! So they shall soon become part of my blog. Which I to start soon—as soon as I get home!

Then I was hit on by a very, very drunk Irishman. Bless him. He could hardly stand, and his conversation was, at best, stilted, but he was a nice enough fellow. A regular it seems, as he’s been there all three days I have. And, as my fabulous Jackie said, I’m becoming a regular myself.


I can’t recall, but I think that was an omelette. I *know* it was delish.

There was a bit more to this post that morning, going over my time at the pub the night before. But I met a lost soul that night who poured out their worries and problems into my sympathetic ear. I was stranger, a receptacle for secrets, who would never have to be faced again as I was going home to America soon. So I opened myself to their secrets, accepted them, and will keep them.

Everyone needs a place for secrets, particularly the ones that are told while drinking adult beverages.

More, I hope I helped.

But I still saw John the Waiter that day, even if I didn’t write about him. I remember specifically, because I was tired and later than usual after my evening out at the pub. I had coffee again, a big cup, then a second. And when that second cup was poured I saw John the Waiter watching me with a half-smile. Whether because he remembered how jet-lagged I was or because I was clearly a coffee-fiend, I don’t know. But I remember that little knowing smile, as if he knew why I wanted extra coffee.


Eggs Florentine

April 17, 9:15

Just finished my eggs Florentine. I have about an hour before my Spencer House tour, so I’m going to get a move on. But let’s just say it is gloriously sunny and cool, and I can’t wait!

Though, I’m unutterably sad today to be leaving London. I’ve fallen in love with the city and it’s melting pot of people and history.

My darling London, I shall miss you!

I became a regular at the brasserie. Going in every morning for breakfast. But I never had the pleasure of John the Waiter being my server again, though he was there every single day. I discovered he wasn’t really a waiter, but a manager of some sort. He directed traffic, washed dishes, handled the replenishing of the cold buffet.  Always with a cool demeanor, a sort of reserved and detached expression on his face. But he saw everything.

And every day I came in, he smiled at me. That smile grew each day so that by the end of my time there, he darn near grinned at me. All I did was use my manners, say thank you each day, smile and wave.

There is a saying that we don’t know what troubles others are having unless we are in their shoes. That’s true. But the fact is, sometimes we can change peoples’ lives with little more than a friendly smile. We can make someone’s difficult day better. Let them know you care, even if you know nothing of their troubles. The power of a smile can make strangers your friends.

On my last day in London, I stopped off at the counter for a personal thank you to John the Not Waiter. His smile and the “It was our pleasure!” returned to me was one of my favorite moments of London. It was heartfelt.

It doesn’t matter what country we are in, whether we are a Frenchman working in England or an American traveling to Europe—we’re all human. One of our most basic needs is to connect with other humans. A smile can do that. A genuine, sincere smile can make the world go round.

I hope the next time someone sits at the reserved table or drops a fork or says they are jetlagged that John thinks of me. And I hope he smiles because he met a silly American woman who scribbled in a black Moleskine notebook and drank gallons of coffee.

And also ate everything on her plate, every single day, like a good girl.

Adventures: Day 1, Hour 1, Minute 1

There I was. In London.


World-wide Electrical Plugs Mr. A bought me.


Maps. I poured over these maps. I got lost anyway!

I’d packed my overseas electrical plugs, my ticket information, my travel hair dryer, maps of the cities and subways, every cord I could possibly need and a passport belt. Just in case.

I’d managed to get to Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris for my layover, maneuver through security, take a bus (driven by a man who spoke not a lick of English, and my French is bad!) to the flight gate and was chastised for the size of my carry on. Sure, I had a few panicked moments when my first flight left Detroit an hour late, but I was determined to do this all by myself.

I flew from CDG to Heathrow, found the Express Train that traveled a straight shot from Heathrow to Paddington Station. I even bought my return ticket, so I would have that for my return trip. One better, I found a store to buy my shampoo and conditioner right there in the Station! I figured I’d have to buy it later or use the hotel’s toiletries. Low and behold, there was a convenience store conveniently located just feet from my train platform (which was not 9¾, sadly).


Paddington Bear at Paddington Station!

I was thinking I was all kinds of awesome. I’d managed to fly over an ocean, navigate a foreign airport, and arrive at my destination. All alone. Me. The woman who married at the ripe old age of 20. Who had never lived alone. Never purchased a car by herself. Never rented her own apartment. Sure, I run my household (I’m a mom!), but I’ve never fully run my own life, going straight from my parent’s house to falling in love with Mr. A my freshman year of college.

I’ve been part of a unit ever since–a fact I wouldn’t change for the world.

I’m still in love with Mr. A, by the way. Even more so because he encouraged me to go to Europe alone.

Best. Husband. Ever.

Anyway, I’d made it all the way to London by myself, after having booked my own flights and hotels and everything. I was so all about my independence. Look at me! Headline: Worldly American Author Travels to London!

IMG_20160417_181654 (1) StraightSo I exit Paddington Station, turn the corner and walk a block to my hotel. Luggage wheels are grinding on the sidewalk behind me. It’s a little bit cloudy, a little bit damp. I’m filthy from airports and airplanes and having traveled for twenty-two hours.

But I’m grinning from ear to ear. I’m in London. Pubs abound. I can hear the British accent in the passersby. Signs say “Mind The Gap”.  And there is a big double-decker red bus on the street. Seriously. Can life get any better than this?

It was a short lived exuberance.

I found my hotel, stepped inside, exhausted and hungry and thrilled—but not so thrilled to find a creepy bald man at the front desk. I check in, and I do *not* like his leer. I’m convinced women have a sixth sense about creepy men. Call it self-preservation. Survival instinct. Whatever. We know creepers. This creeper noted I had paid for a twin room, but he decided to upgrade me to a “better” room with a “bigger” bed.

Meanwhile, as he’s upgrading my reservation, I’m watching the cameras he’s got behind the desk. They cover every hallway. That’s good, I guess. But the lobby is—not clean. Not dirty, but not clean. And it’s not even remotely well-appointed. It’s Spartan. And tiny. And dominated by a leering bald man and his cameras.

But I’m an independent woman of the world, right? I’ve just traveled farther than I’ve ever been. I’ve got skillz.

So I take my key and cram myself, my bulging carryon bag, my suitcase, and the shampoo I just bought into a teeny tiny elevator. This is what London is like, isn’t it? Space is at a premium. Hallways are narrow. Elevators are small.

I find my room, walk in, close the door and look around. It’s Spartan as well. Pretty much just furniture and white walls. OK, I think. I can stay here. It’s not what I was hoping for, but I’m not some spoiled, silly American.

I put my suitcase on the nearest non-cloth service (I’m worried about bed bugs), and I look for a room safe. None. OK. No biggie.

I check my phone. No service. I can’t make a call.

There’s no wifi, so I can’t email Mr. A to let him know I’m safe.

The room is at the back of the hotel, away from the street. No one can hear me scream. (Note my overactive imagination taking flight here.)

But I’m good, right? I’m an independent, worldly woman. So I set out the toiletries I need to take a shower, step in, revel in the hot water—and start sobbing.

Hangry tears? Yep.

Homesick? A little.

Missing Mr. A and my 7 y/o Biscuit? Quite a bit.

Terrified and alone and four thousand miles from home? Yes. Big yes.

The good thing about crying in showers, though, is that the water washes away both tears and snot.

But when I got out, I was so uncomfortable I locked the bathroom door and got dressed mostly under the towel. Creeper, you know. Cameras.

I dressed and went to the bed, still not sure what to do. Above the bed were windows covered by ugly beige curtains. I pushed them apart—and realized the windows were open beneath the curtains. Wide. Holy sh!t. And the bottoms of the windows are parallel with the floor of the fire escape. Which means anyone could have pushed aside those curtains and come into the room while I was in the shower. Vulnerable.

Panic, panic, panic.

So I close the windows, but the locks are, at best, paltry. I close the curtains, too.

“I can do this,” I say aloud. “I can do this. I’m a big girl.”

I pull back the cover of the bed…And there’s hair in it. More than one piece. Dark, short hair, about an inch long. Clearly not from my bald creeper, but hair. And a chunk o’ dried dirt, as if it came from the bottom of someone’s shoe a few hours after wandering in a swamp.

“I’m not doing this.” I think I might’ve cursed too. The F-word. But I know I said aloud to an empty room, “I’m not doing this.”

So I went through my bags, looking for all the money I had brought with me. My passport. My travel documents and flight confirmations. Credit cards. I put them in the passport belt and strapped it to my waist. Then I put my phone, it’s cord, my Kindle, a few Great British Pounds and one credit card into my over-the-shoulder carryon bag. All my valuables are now on my person. I leave my suitcase in the room (clothes are just stuff, shoes I can replace), and exit the hotel looking for the nearest pub.
And I end up here. At the Pride of Paddington.



DSC_0365I’m waited on by a pretty Australian named Jackie (left), then a firecracker of a half-Italian, half-Arabic girl named Zuleika (right). Both are nice and cheerful, and Jackie ended up being a very good friend by the end of the trip. So while she orders me up a BLT and a pint o’ beer, I do my best not to cry while I connect to their wifi.

I want Mr. A. Desperately.

All my skillz, my independence, dissipated in a hangry, travel-worn minute.

It’s silly, as I look back. It was just a hotel room that didn’t meet my (apparently high) expectations. But I felt as though I’d failed. I’d come all that way, determined to be on my own, to be dependent on no one but myself for the first time in my life, and all I wanted was Mr. A.


I shall take this moment to note, I am clearly sheltered. I’ve obviously never had a truly difficult life. Some women live this life every day, with no one to depend on but themselves. Some women live through the worst life can offer—abuse, poverty, war, grief, illness. And all I’m complaining about is hair in my hotel bed. Hair in a bed in a foreign country I am fortunate enough to be able to travel to.

So what, exactly, does that make me? Spoiled.

That is a humbling realization. One I wish I did not have to type.

No, I’m not a millionaire. I don’t a have private makeup artist or a live-in housekeeper. The fact is, I’m fortunate to have a stable life, a loving husband, an adorable son. I live a lucky life, and I know it.

But I wanted a clean room in London. Windows with proper locks. Call me spoiled and selfish, but I wanted to feel safe.

So I sent an instant message to Mr. A via wifi and he sent one back. Between us (my international minutes and data were limited for the trip) we found a new hotel nearby. I called, made my reservations, told them I’d be there in 20 minutes if they had a room for me—which made the receptionist chuckle.

I left the Pride of Paddington, my eventual home away from home (more on that in a later blog post) and went back to the icky hotel. I marched in, got my bag, checked for personal items I may have left behind, and marched back out again. I told the creeper I was leaving. To charge me for one night per the cancellation policy, but no more. And I left.

There was power in that, even if that power was partly fueled by fear, partly by being a spoiled American, and partly by the financial ability to reserve a more expensive hotel.

I went back to Paddington Station, walked past it one block, and found THE BEST HOTEL. It was like staying in a Hampton Inn for those in the US. Clean, simple, not overly fussy décor but modern. And, did I mention clean? The room was tiny and I bumped my head on the slanted ceiling more than once. But everything I needed was there. An in-room safe, a clean bathroom, a comfy bed, lovely receptionists, and a pot for making coffee or tea.

Um. Did I mention clean?

So. I’m spoiled. I know it. I obviously have hotel expectations. As I said, it’s humbling to know I have such expectations. I thought I could have stayed anywhere. But at the same time, I try to tell myself there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel safe if I have the ability to make it so.

In my new hotel I sat on the bed, opened the window, and pillowed my face and arms on the windowsill so I could watch the city go by.


Looking left…


Looking straight down…


Looking right.









I saw locals and tourists. I saw the sun set and rise. I noted how the windows of every building were smaller the higher up they went. I thought the chimneys were cute. I loved how the people below bustled and the buses were full of people. I was comfortable, and more, I was in awe of the city around me.

Headline: Spoiled American Author in London!

Even as I watched the city around me, I realized what I was. A woman who did not know how to live with real hardship. And yet, I could be grateful in the fact that I did not have to stay in a hotel where I felt uncomfortable. Watched. Unsafe.

It is simply my truth. I want to apologize for it, yet I don’t know how to. Who would I apologize to? Women in situations where safety is but a dream? I don’t know. But when I said this trip was part vacation, part self-discovery, I meant it.

I went halfway across the world and discovered just how very lucky I am.