Around The World In Fifteen Days With Only One Stop

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IMG_0787I’ve been home for just over two weeks since we returned from London.  The first week was great.  The second week I had a nasty cold. I’m over it and the jet lag, though last Saturday’s time change is setting me back a bit. I’m very happy to be home. It’s no fun being sick when you’re away from your own space and without the usual comforts I keep stashed away for just such an occasion. Like my  “Sure-to-Cure” Elderberry syrup and sweat inducing chicken soup, filled with big chunks of carrots, parsnips, shredded chicken, and brown rice. I frequently clicked the heels of my ruby red slippers together while sniffling away, and repeated “There is no place like home.”  But I didn’t wake up like Dorothy did, to find myself in my own bed with Auntie Em and Toto welcoming me home.

But really, it wasn’t all that bad. The Organic Planet grocery shop right around the corner from the flat we rented was a huge help. They had dynamic smoothies and carrot/apple/ginger juice which I enjoyed several times a day at the peek of feeling aweful.  And I wasn’t alone.  Bill got it too. But it wasn’t like the time we both got the flu with severe body aches and fevers while visiting New York City.  We were staying in a not so great hotel in Chinatown, that didn’t have room service. It was in the middle of winter with snow on the ground and freezing cold winds whipping through the canyons between skyscrapers.

We arrived in England to temps in the 70’s with clear skies and sun, though it turned into typical London weather a few days later with on and off rain and a bit of a chill.  Our second day out, we walked four miles through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, enjoying the glorious day, the swans adrift on the pond, and lots of dogs running free, playing frisbee or ball with their people.  We ate a lovely lunch right in Hyde Park and in the evening went to St. Martin in the Fields to hear the music of Beethoven and a host of other composers. How sweet it was. The following night we met a friend and went to see the play, “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time.”  It was a “WOW” show. Bill has written up a brief review of it and the other shows we saw, on his blog if you’re interested.

The first week ended perfectly with an overnight to Canterbury where we caught up with friends we haven’t seen in years, their gorgeous daughter, and amazing grandchildren. Back in the city we returned from dinner and a movie to find a terrorist arrest happening just around the block from our flat. There were dozens of police, guns, roads roped off, and gawkers standing about.

Then the “Cold” hit the fan. During “Much Ado About Nothing,” with Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones, my throat was sore and my nose started running a marathon. I had no tissues with me. Despite the big names, we were both unimpressed with the show. At intermission we hightailed it out of there and went home to bed. I pushed myself to go out a few nights later for dinner and another show, (Ibsen’s, “Ghosts,”) with friends. The meal, the show, and seeing our friends were great, but I was feeling worse and by then Bill was sick as well.

We spent the next few days, like two caged birds, lying about and shlepping out to the Organic Planet for juice, lozenges, and vitamin C, while mountains of yucky tissues were building around us.  Happily I read a lot and finished up Part II of my memoir.

Bored and pretending he felt better, Bill took in two more plays while I languished at home. Stubborn as mules, we took to walking again, saw a few movies and made a visit to the fabulous, Chelsea Physic Gardens, where I was in seventh heaven.  It is a small (3 1/2 acre) garden with plants that are used for food, medicine, and cosmetics.  Before we went, I envisioned shelves of the gift shop filled with plant tinctures and bottles of elderberry syrup to help me get through our upcoming return journey across the Atlantic.  No such luck, but I did enjoy a delicious salad made from plants grown right there.  Then there was the arduous seven and three-quarter hour flight back to Washington which made things even worse. I was weak, impatient to get home and very grouchy.

IMG_0885Would I do it again? You betcha!

Getting out of town and our own country to see what is happening in the rest of world is one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself and your kids. It is a learning experience that brings new perspectives on how we view ourselves and the world around us. I haven’t been out the country for a long time and while I was busy here at home, I found out that we are becoming one big global village. In some ways it’s frightening, but it’s also very exciting.  If the creek don’t rise and I continue to have the stamina to spend all those miserable hours just getting there and back, I’ll go again and hopefully to other places on my bucket list as well.

The last time I was in London was well over ten years ago. Things have changed. This time, walking down the streets, I heard languages from every corner of the planet. I heard much less English.  While the U.S.A. is mostly attracting people from South and Central America, England and the rest of Europe are attracting people from the Middle-East, the Balkans, Asia, and North Africa. Food from all over the world is served in an amazing variety of restaurants. In some areas of the city, women with head covering or full face coverings are a common sight, as well men sitting at outside cafe’s smoking hooka pipes.  When I left on this journey I didn’t realize I was going to have a mind-bending cultural tour around the world.

I came to realize that we as human beings are doing what we have always done: migrating from our homelands to find a place where we imagine work is easier to find and we’ll feel safer. But we’re doing it on a much grander scale than ever. Many of us are uncomfortable and threatened by the many problems it brings. I see us needing to begin adapting to an era of change, in which the entire world becomes the melting pot. Hopefully we will tolerate and celebrate each other’s cultures with love, not war.

If anybody out there wants to know what is really happening beyond your back yard, buy a plane ticket. Go visiting instead of relying on American media to show and tell. In a country that is as close culturally as we can get to our own, I found the whole world just waiting for me to step into it.

IMG_0848Yes, at heart I’m a homebody. Yes, it was hard. Yes, I was sick. Yes, I came home exhausted and I was at times unnerved by the numbers of people I had to navigate through. But I had a look into what the future is perhaps going to look like. I came home a much more tolerant person and hopefully wiser. All in all, it was simply a lovely time.


  1. I enjoyed following your journey on Facebook, and I love traveling to England. I’ve done it at least five times in my life and would go every year, but then I wouldn’t get to the rest of the Bucket List: Ireland and Scotland, Scandanavia, Australia and New Zealand. Hmm, a lot of the old British Empire . . . I love Canada, too. Just came back from Victoria, BC. Highly recommended!

    • Joan Rough says:

      Welcome back! I love Canada, too. Especially, the west coast and also have a soft spot for the Niagra area. We’ve been twice to Niagara-On-The-Lake for their Shaw Festival. Lots of fun and great wine!

  2. Joan, I really enjoyed these tales from your travels as well as your philosophical musings, they are so spot on and reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by Lillian Smith: “I soon realized that no journey takes one far, unless, as it extends into the world around us, it extends an equal distance into the world within.” I have always loved London for its true cosmopolitan nature and I am so excited to be moving back close to it. Oh, and as far as coming home is concerned, especially when feeling poorly, that’s also one of the best parts of traveling, in my view anyway 🙂

    • Joan Rough says:

      Kerstin, I’m so glad you enjoyed my musings. That Lillian Smith quote is wonderful and true. I’ve tucked it away in my quote file, to be read over and over and will perhap use it in a post sometime in the future.

      How close to London will you be when you move? We are about 2 1/2 hrs to Washington, DC by car and it’s a perfect distance. We’re tucked away in the countryside yet close enough to the big city for us to enjoy it’s many museums and theatres.

      And I agree, the best part of any trip is returning home.

  3. Holy Toledo, girl — I’m exhausted just reading about your adventures! THANK YOU so much for sharing them with your readers.

    • Joan Rough says:

      Thank you, Laurie, for enjoying my adventures. Yes, it was very exhausting but so worth it. Here’s to happy traveling adventures to you!

  4. Sounds like such a good trip but boo to the cold. Being ill away from home is truly horrible.
    I love that London is so diverse, but the increase in the number of veiled women in the UK is something that doesn’t sit well with me. It seems to be a bit of a hot potato here at the moment and I’m interested to see if Britain follows France in banning the veil.

    • I definately felt an edginess about Middle Easterners in London. I didn’t see a whole lot of veiled women, they were mostly all using head covering and from there dressed like anyone else in jeans or slacks. It will be interesting to see what happens. The forming of global villages is difficult. My brother didn’t like my using the words “melting pot,” in this post saying it’s more like a tossed salad, because some people don’t want to melt. I think he’s right. It’s a fascinating process.