Note to reader – the first half of this posting is sponsored by the two glasses of Merlot I had before boarding my shuttle to the airport. The second half is sponsored by sleep deprivation. Cheers!
As I begin writing this entry I’ve skipped about almost two weeks because the ADD kid in me just doesn’t want to have to concentrate on what happened two weeks ago! I’m sitting in the Stansted airport….it’s 12:30am… and my flight is not til 6:20am! I decided it was a good idea to just “get to the airport” tonight so I didn’t have to worry about it in the morning. I found a super cheap bus to get me here and decided I would fulfill my last day in London by meeting some people from couchsurfing.com and having a few adult beverages before boarding my bus!
I started my morning by waking up in my couchsurfing host’s flat in the Poplar section of England. He so nicely offered to host me for two nights and the experience was good – my first couchsurfing experience EVER! NOW NOW NOW before you go thinking I’m going to get tied up and murdered (again) – the site does include reviews of people who have stayed with them and a bit about themselves. I had messaged several people but the dude that offered to host me was the one who came through first. He had good reviews from other females so I decided to just go with it. I figured…if worst comes to worst then I’ll just find a hostel or pay for a hotel room…. I’d at least try to go the adventurous route first! (All in all he was super polite and respectful and only made about 4-5 innocent comments about wanting to date me 😉 — OOOOH if only he knew. JK I’m a catch… I think? … or so I’ve been told (I’m just looking for something super special and unique and I’m willing to wait it out to find that person — SQUIRREL! Ok back to my travel blog).
Where was I… OH my morning…. I got up with my couchsurfing host and we took a bus to Canary Wharf. I managed to finally track down some coffee and totally felt like a ninja warrior who could do magical things after drinking my hazelnut latte (sadly I crashed about 2 hours later but it was TOTALLY worth it). We walked around the waterfront which was more of a business district with not much to see but I was able to snap some skyline photos. My host had to work at 2pm so we started our trek back to central London – which ended up being a shit show because we got on like 3 wrong buses! I had an inkling of an idea that we were going the wrong way and suggested we go to the other side of the street but he seemed confident so I just went with it… life is an adventure. Sometimes you just gotta roll with it!
We got back to central London and had to go to a Western Union so he could send some money back to Hungary… as I was waiting I figured it was a good idea to change over my last $80 that I had in my bag. NOTHING feels more disappointing than giving $80 and getting 50 Euro back. FAIL. Double Fail. Robbery! Stupid American dollar! Booooooooo.
My host was off to work so that left me on my own to explore. I headed back towards Covent Garden (which I went to before when I was in London a week ago) – but this time I took some more time to walk around the market and explore. I had plans to meet someone else from couchsurfing at 3pm and managed to figure out the bus situation and head that direction. I got there a bit early and then finally connected to wifi and got a message that he was going to be late…. So I saw a pub across the street and thought WHYYYYYYYYY not! I ordered a pint of cider and as soon as I took a sip I got a message that he was at our meeting spot. I didn’t see anyone but decided to walk over anyway… after a bit of time I realized that I went to the first spot he told me to go… NOT the new spot he recommended a few messages later. WHOOOOOOOOOOPS. My bad. Since it had already been 40 minutes we just scratched the idea and I started wandering by myself again.
I meandered past Buckingham Palace again then made my way up through St. James park and managed to catch the end of the guards band practice which was outside in front of their barracks – nice random discovery!!! My phone died at this point so I just went for it – I had a good idea of the lay of the land but decided to take some turns and found myself catching the end of the march of the horses (or something like that… not sure its specific name).
I found my way back to Trafalgar Square and into Garfunkel’s to drink a pint and charge my phone. The place was pretty empty so the manager walked over and we started chatting… low and behold he had lived in Tenerife for 6 months!!!! BAM – insider information! He said he loved it and gave me some tips and whatnot. I had been in communication with another couchsurfing person who was willing to meet up and show me around a bit so I walked over (in the rain of course) to the National Gallery to meet him in the café. I only have a few hours before having to catch my shuttle to the airport so we walked back through Chinatown and Soho and grabbed a pint and a glass of wine at this really cool wine bar that was below ground in this cave-like setting! He pointed out some really quirky places and explained the history of them – awesome tourguiding Alan… thanks again!
My backpack was being stored at my host’s hotel (where he works)… I went back to collect my stuff, print out my passes for the shuttle and flight… then catch my bus to the shuttle station across town. The first guy I was supposed to meet with was still in the area so we did manage to connect and have a quick drink. He was a very nice guy from the Philippines…been living in London for 15 years… but his mom and brother live in Brooklyn and he hasn’t seen them in 4 years!! He explained that getting a visa to the USA was quite the process – stupid visas!
My shuttle came and I had about an hour and a half ride to Stansted airport. Naturally I struck up a conversation with the young man next to me. He has just finished university and was jetting off to Rome and a few other places before going home. I ended up nodding off at some point and he so kindly notified me when we arrived to the airport. It was a bit after midnight at this point so it was time to hunt down a nice nook to set up camp for the night! Reflecting back on my last experience of having to sleep in the Philly airport I knew what I was in for…. Hard surfaces, noise, and being cold.
I did manage to find a hidden little place behind one of the coffee shops so I sat and tore into my purse kebab that I had saved from lunchtime. It had only been sitting in there for 9 hours… that’s safe to eat right?? Eeeek! Well I haven’t thrown up and it’s been about 5 hours so I think it was a success! Given the internet at the airport was complete crap I decided to just plug in my earbuds and listen to Robin Thicke’s “Lost Without You” on repeat (it was quite the lullaby oh la la) til I dozed in and out of “sleep” for a few hours. My ass only went numb about 5 times – not bad! Once 4:15am rolled around I pulled it together enough to get through security… just in time to have to hurry up and wait for my gate to open. Tenerife HERE I COOOOOOOOOME!