Some people, when they travel, stay in hostels in order to save money. Some people couch surf or sleep in rest stations. Not me. No, when I travel, I like to stay in a room with fewer than 30 strangers and one with my own bathroom. But since I rarely have money to spare after booking a week’s tour of England, I usually have to resort to other means of shoestring budgeting my way around a foreign country to ensure that I make it to all the best sights. That is how, one late June afternoon nearly four years ago, I came to be eating a gluten-free date and pecan bar for lunch at the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
My mother and I had booked the seven-day Euro trip only a few weeks before boarding the British Airways flight to England. I was recovering, healing from illness and a difficult season, and we decided to bite the bullet and go. I had been in England the previous year and was (and still am) desperate to return. And so we went. It was my mom’s first time in Europe, and everything about her reaction to the new setting was wonderful and remains dear to my heart. It was worth it, and by “it” I mean “the money we spent on the trip.” Just how “worth it” it was became extraordinarily clear hundreds of feet up in what felt like a very rickety whispering gallery of a stunning church in London.
Instead of saving money by staying in a hostel, we just skipped lunch most days. We ate the little snack bars I had brought from home, or just ate from the huge, traditionally English buffet breakfast offered at the lovely Novotel Greenwich. We filled up on that and then ate an early dinner.
Before anyone gets so worried about my financial state that they start sending my charity checks (Just kidding! Please $tart $ending charity, or job offers), you should know that part of the reason we didn’t break for lunch was that we were just too busy trying to see everything we wanted to see. That day in particular, we started out in the early morning by strolling through Greenwich. We then went to Westminster Cathedral *glistening tears of joy* and walked Whitehall through to Trafalgar Square and St. Paul’s. It was our last day in London, and we had yet to make it to the British Museum, Platform 9 ¾, and a 19:00 showing of “Henry VIII” at the Globe.
This is not my favorite way to travel. I like sleep and I like ease. But I was so enamored of the city that I couldn’t help but squeeze in as much as possible. (That, and I just caught up on my sleep at the British Museum, in an evensong service at Westminster, on the train to Salisbury, on a park bench in the Tuileries in Paris, etc. — basically anywhere that I could, I fell asleep. It was a busy trip, and I’m a big sleeper. I’m also a big eater, but that didn’t matter on June 30, 2010. I had my baked beans for breakfast and my pizza for dinner and only snack bars in between.)
I wouldn’t trade a second of it. Those days, those moments, were and are precious to me. They were incredible, and when Mom and I leave for Spain in T-minus 39 days, I will be packing my bags with raisins, almonds, and about 14 peanut butter Larabars. And I will glory in the simplicity and the wonder of those blazing, solid days.
Previously from Laura Creel:
♦ Viral Video of the Week: In Honor of MLK Day
♦ BFFs Dennis Rodmas and Kim Jong-un’s Relationship Shaky
♦ Heads Up, Parents: Your Kid’s College Education is Built on Tired, Poor, Sometimes Even Homeless, Teachers
♦ Waiting for Christmas in America
♦ Grocery Stores: Expensive? Yes. Universally Designed? No.