Sunday, November 27, 2016

Eurotrip Days 13 & 14: Harlow and the Trip Home

Here it is. The very last post. The last few days. The wrap up of my trip to Europe. How all the fun and visiting came to an end. Read on for the emotions, the fun, some pictures, and a wrap up! Just a note: I've put a sidebar on my blog next to the archive list if you'd like to go through and read any posts you may have missed (for those of you coming from Facebook, I know I didn't post all of these there so you might want to check it out)!

Thursday (Day 13)
Thursday morning I woke up (first again!) to the mad clucking of hens in Katie's backyard, and made my way downstairs for some tea and blogging. When I got to the kitchen I thought to myself that it would be lovely to feed the chickens since it was my last day there, and it's not something I normally get to do. So I went outside and...

...the back gate was open.

Katie has four hens, and only one was still in the yard. She was the timid 'runt' of the bunch, and I'd seen the other hens bullying her for food. I think she was hoping the others wouldn't come back...but I wasn't going to leave them to the wilds of Saffron Walden, and I walked out front looking for the others.

It didn't take long to find two of them pecking around the neighbor's car, and I lured them back to the garden with some chicken feed (note: chickens are super dumb). I could NOT find the fourth though. The largest, 'alpha' hen was still missing. I went back inside, resigned to tell Katie I could only find two of the three when I heard cooing and clucking, very obviously coming from the front garden. So I went back out and peeked into the front hedge, and there she was. Sitting on a little nest she'd made for herself a mere 50 feet from her coup in the backyard. I bullied her into the back and shut the gate...and thus ended my unexpected foray into hen hunting!

Four hens, collected again. Little miss in the back was the only one nice enough to stick around while the others ventured off.

A little roost for a rogue chicken.

Fortunately for me, the rest of the morning was much less eventful. Katie had worked a nightshift so we all agreed Matt should drive me to the train station, and in no time I was on my way to my Aunt Margaret's, just a few stops down the train line from Katie. I'd decided to end at her house because my plans got changed so suddenly and I knew it would be easiest to get to the airport from my Aunt's since I could walk to the train station and not disrupt anyone's day. (Hah. More on that later.)

My 'Auntie M' picked me up at the station and we made the short walk to her house - another place I feel totally and completely at home. It's like walking into a living memory every time I go there it's like no time has passed and I pick up with my aunt right where we left off. That said...SO much has happened since I visited two years ago, so we spent a good chunk of the morning catching up, enjoying tea (and biscuits) in the garden.

While she prepared lunch, I set to taking pictures to share with all you lovely people. My aunt will probably be mortified that I'm sharing the VIDEO I made walking through her garden, but I absolutely love her garden no matter what time of year it is, and I wanted to share a little bit of that with you. It truly is one of the most peaceful places I know! Enjoy!

This oversized urn was a gift from my mom after we stayed with my aunt one year.

After my dad died my aunt took a small portion of his ashes 'home to England' with her - so a piece of him could rest where he was raised. She planted this magnolia over the ashes, but this year the magnolia died. My aunt decided to leave it to return to nature, and said she will plant something in it's spot when ready.

Runner beans!!

More runners!

The reading room.

The living room...on top of the chest is a picture frame that has a collage of pictures of my dad... :')

Storytime: When I got home from my study abroad my mom threw a 21st birthday party for me with all my family and friends since I'd missed Thanksgiving, my birthday, Christmas, and New Year's while abroad. After I'd opened all of my gifts, she brought out a huge box and handed it to me. Inside was a quilt, made of squares with all different plaid, striped, and solid patterns. I was at a loss for what it was, until my brother said, "Do you recognize the patterns?" and my heart stopped as I realized the entire quilt had been made out of my dad's old shirts. I (naturally) burst into tears while everyone in the room gradually figured out why I was crying, and then started crying with me.

The next time I went to England (for Hannah's wedding in 2010) I told my aunt this story, and she left the room, tears in her eyes, and stoically continued making dinner while she cried over that living memory of her brother. It took me over four years, but when I went over in 2014 I was finally able to gift her two pillowcases out of the same shirts.

And yes, we all cried when she opened them...

I tell you this story because, when I am in England with my aunt, I can allow the world to stop and let the memories we have of my dad feel real and alive. She helps make them feel that way, and I will always be grateful that she loves and misses him the way I do.

After lunch I asked my aunt to take me for a walk, which is only kind of a joke. My aunt has retained her youth and vigor, even at 72, by walking a lot. Like, take what you think is a lot and multiply it by 3, then add in some long walking holidays and you'll be about where my aunt is with walking. Every trip over includes walks every day, and one year she and her friends took me on a great walk/hike through Epping Forest that still tops my list of favorite walks because at one point a 65 year old man helped me cross a wide stream after he leapt over it in one bound. Fun times!
A picture from said walk in Epping Forest, which my aunt keeps in her office/guest room :)
Anyways, we walked about (in the hot and humid - I definitely broke a sweat!), I got to help lock a dam, we spent some time looking around a small independent art gallery, and then stopped for a pint at a pub along the path.
Before I helped with the locking! When the men at the lock saw I was curious they told me I could help!
It was a fun little walk (always is), and I was grateful to have that time with my aunt. When we got home we had a cup of tea and talked some more, then she started on dinner while I went through my pack again, preparing for the trip home.

We had a classically delicious dinner of bangers and mash...

...and I left a note for my cousin Molly...

...and then we popped to the Snooker club for an evening pint before climbing into bed for the night...

In short...a perfect last day of traveling.

Friday - the trip home
Oh, Friday. Oh oh oh oh OH.

It was a day. A long, loooooong day.

I've mentioned plenty of times on Facebook that it pretty much never rained while I was on my trip, which is unheard of in Europe. I think it rained very early two mornings in Germany, but absolutely nothing that upset any plans.

Well. The rain caught up with me on Friday morning. Very, very early.

It had been warm all week so before bed I threw open the window in my Aunt's guest room for some fresh air, at at 3am awoke to pouring rain coming down outside. I shut the window a tad just in case, but the cool breeze felt nice and it felt cathartic. Like my last day in England gave me rain, as every trip to England should include.

Well. A little later I didn't feel like that.

I wanted to get to the airport at least 3 hours early so I gave myself nearly 5 hours for the trip to the airport. After breakfast my aunt walked me over to the station and as we got closer it looked like there were a lot of people standing outside, to which she commented, "It always worries me when the people who work for the trains are standing outside the station..."

When we were within view of the turnstiles to go to the platforms I realized that every one of them had a bright red "X" displaying that they couldn't be used. The (very nice) woman in a national rail vest told us that there would be NO trains from Harlow Town. None in, none out. There was debris on the tracks.

Because of the rain.

I looked at her and said, "NONE? None at all?!" and she confirmed, to which I responded, "Fuck."

Of course, the one time I relied on the ease of the train journey from my aunt's the fates decided to mess with me.

I asked where I could get a train into London, and the woman said the Epping station was open, so we walked over to the first cab in line and my aunt said, "How much to Epping?" Which I promptly followed up with, "It doesn't even matter, I need to get there no matter how much it costs."

However, if you're wondering: In heavy traffic and rain, adding a stop at a cash point, and with a cabbie who knows the back roads to Epping because his sister lives costs £30.

The cabbie was super nice and put up with my slightly panicked and distracted demeanor as I sent my mom text after text about my super exciting morning and PS-Mom-I-might-have-to-put-a-bunch-of-extra-charges-on-the-NatWest-card...but he got me as close to the station as possible which was a feat given that busloads of people were being transferred there from other stations. It turns out the rain ruined a lot of Friday morning commutes. I made my way into the station and asked the first employee I could find how to get to Heathrow. He told me to change at Holburn for the Piccadilly line to Heathrow.

Alright. Sounded easy enough.

The ride to Holburn was a good 40 minutes, but I made it and hopped off ready to get on the train to LHR. At which point I was thrilled to see this 9:40am:
Daniel Radcliff's photobomb face is basically what I looked like when I saw this sign.

I followed the signs to transfer anyways, and when I got to the area blocking the halls to the Piccadilly line one of the tube agents said, "Well you can just hop on this one and transfer here and..." and I cut her off (politely) to say that I would just wait. She was shocked and said, "But it's 20 minutes!" and I was like, 'Yeah...but I KNOW it will get me to Heathrow. My flight is in 3 hours. I'll wait the 20 minutes."

She still seemed shocked, but a lot of people had the same idea as me, and elected to wait (what ended up being only 10 minutes) for the gates to open. I was able to hop on the first train that came through, and another 40 minutes later was at the airport. Here are some pictures for your enjoyment:
This guy was actually barefoot the entire ride. On and off the train and up and down the escalators...he was also wearing a VERY tight and uncomfortable looking outfit...think a wrestling onesie. And he had no shame. Okay dude, you do you!

What two hours of slight panic looks like.
I made it to the airport and sent my tenth text to my mom to let her know I had arrived, and also found out that my flight would be one hour late to depart. Yay, just what I was hoping for. I checked my bag and went through security, then got coffee to calm myself, did some last minute candy buying (what else do you spend the remainder of your money on?) and eventually meandered over to my gate, ready for my flight home.
Less panicky now.
 Fortunately, everything after that was smooth sailing. The boarding and taxing were normal. The flight to Reykjavik went without a hitch. I spent $18 on a terrible chicken wrap and orange juice during my layover (and I thought US airport food was a ripoff) and did not have any un-do seat changes for the last leg to Chicago - which also boarded and left on time.

By the time I got to Chicago I was ready for landing. I waited and waited at baggage claim and then realized our corral had been switched and easily found my bag and made my way out of the airport...where Anthony greeted me with a kiss and a steak burrito. Both were very, very welcome.


I can't believe I left on this trip almost three months ago. Everything leading up to it was crazy, the days I traveled between continents was stressful and aggravating...but the time with my family and friends was absolutely worth it. I never know when I'll be back overseas or when I'll see these people again, so I hold onto the memories from these trips. It took me forever, but I'm glad I finally got all of these posts up so I can remember everything just a little bit better, for longer.

Hopefully you enjoyed these posts - if you made it through how crazy long they are!

And with that...


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