Woke up on our last day in Europe and got packed up from our brief stay in the hotel. Had a full English Breakfast of hard boiled eggs, toast, and coffee. Certainly not the grand Swedish treatment, but good nonetheless. The hotel held our bags for us while we set out for an excursion to London's Soho shopping district. We popped by Victoria Station on the way out to buy a day Transit pass. The line-up at the ticket office was terrible, so we went to an information office for the Southern Railway. We were told that they could set us a combined transit pass plus ticket for the train trip to Gatwick Airport. When we got there, there was only a very brief queue of aged people. When my number was called, holding Alden, I asked for the combined pass. The little man behind the desk was fairly irate that I would ask such a thing. "Where does it say that I would sell you a pass?" But like a good Englishman, it was too rude for him to refuse, so with grumpy faces, and muttered comments, he reluctantly sold me a pass, "because I had a young child".
So we were set for transit for the day, freeing up significant waiting time later. We hopped on a double-decker buss and headed past Westminster Abbey, and back up to Trafalgar Square. We got out there and walked up Charring Cross Road search for Forbidden Planet a London institution for sci-fi memorabilia. I really wanted to get some cool Doctor Who merchandise, while we were in Great Britain. The store was great, with a massive bookstore/movie warehouse in the basement and very imaginable model, toy or collectable from the past 60 years of science fiction. We spent about an hour, and all came out with little treats (the boys looked so cool at the cafe later in the day playing with their 12" dolls of Doctor Who (Alden) and Cyberman (Elwyn).
We spent the entire rest of our short time in London walking around Soho, popping into shoe stores, browsing in Marks and Spencers, having a Japanese noodle lunch at Soba (where I had eaten six years before). throughout many of the cities that we had visited, I noticed these little tile space invaders tucked away in little corners. They were extremely cool little displays of what I am guessing is gorilla art of some kind. i think we need a couple such space invaders in Ladysmith. We hopped on the London Underground, made our way back to the hotel, strapped on all our bags (Karen had bought one extra roller-luggage for some of the things we had bought) and walked to Victoria Station. I felt a little tense, hoping that we would not be late, but we made in in time enough for Karen to buy Belgium chocolates for the trip home.
Gatwick airport was extremely busy, the heart of the crowds pulsing around the security gate. The UK seems to be on heightened security, and we had to do the thorough check, removing our shoes, opening bags, and so on. Once we made it through, we had a few hours to kill, watching aircraft come and go from the 95-gate terminal. We finally boarded, being the first on the Airbus 330, and occupied our 3 seats in the centre isle, and the one on the right side across. The boys were fairly antsy for the first couple hours of the fight, bickering with each other, and feeling more hungry than we had anticipated. Karen and I switched seats to share the Alden-management a bit, but finally we were fed and the movie started. The boys fell asleep, Elwyn awkwardly curled up in one chair, and Alden sprawled out over two. Karen and I tried (with success for the most part) to stay awake for the entire 9 1/2 hour flight home, not wanting to suffer jet lag too badly in Vancouver. Three movies played, made it through a bit of my new William Gibson book, and at last the long flight ended. Tired, we dragged outselves out to the long term parking lot where Brian Olding very graciously had parked our car the day before, and we drove to the Holiday Inn for a long nights sleep (our bodies at about 5am London time).
Woke up Tuesday in Vancouver feeling fairly refreshed. had some debate over where to have coffee and breakfast, not knowing Richmond well, and having expectations that exceeded our options. got back in gear by spending a few hours at Ikea, reminiscing about our great trip to Sweden, before heading to the ferry home. The boys are very happy to be back, exploring all their old toys, picking blackberries, and telling little stories. Elwyn remarked that he just couldn't believe that he was back from Europe, and that he had forgotten all the little things that were here at home. It is like a rediscovery, with the common-place and everyday feeling special again.
It was good to see all my old friends again. We all seem to be in a similar life place, working, having bought our first home and having had children. It seemed for all of them that we had just been together the other day, though it had been years in many cases. Hopefully it won't be so long before we all meet again.