My First Solo Trip: Day 14/15
I managed to get a reservation at the Blackbird Pub for breakfast this morning and arrived just in time for my 10:00 booking. I ordered the Full English, since I had yet to enjoy one on this trip, and a pot of tea. The food was good, but I remember the tea being the best part of my meal, so good that I ordered a second pot. The service was also very good. When I told the waitress about my issues with dairy she brought me a fresh teacup because she was concerned that there might have been cross contamination with the first one. While, my issues with dairy are not quite that severe, I really appreciate those who go the extra mile to ensure that everyone can safely eat in their establishment.
I took my time over breakfast and obsessively checked the weather app on my phone, waiting to see if the rain showers were expected to last all day. I really wanted to spend a day outdoors enjoying nature before getting on a cramped airplane for my return home the next day. Thankfully, the weather cleared and I decided I would head to the Royal Botanic Gardens.
The Earl’s Court tube station was very convenient for catching the tube bound for Richmond. From the stop at Kew Gardens it was only a short walk through a charming neighborhood to the entrance of the gardens themselves. It was still a bit early in the spring season for all of the flowers to be blooming, but those that were looked beautiful. The Pavilion was closed for restoration work, but aside from that I was able to enjoy most of what the gardens had to offer. The gardens were not too crowded on this Saturday, perhaps owing to the fact that spring was just beginning. The gardens turned out to be the perfect spot to stretch my legs and admire God’s handiwork.
The only part of the gardens I didn’t particularly enjoy was the Treetop Walkway. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I’m afraid of heights, and the whole thing is made of metal mesh, which happens to also be see-through. Even worse, the mesh pops and flexes under your feet and the whole thing sways in the breeze. Terrible! I managed to very quickly and very nervously walk the full way round before running down the stairs to safety. The children present all seemed to love it, but there were a number of adults clinging to the rails and gasping with each bend and sway.
I made it back to Earl’s Court Station around 16:00. It was too early to eat dinner, but I felt like I should do something other than sit in my hotel room. I grabbed a soda (with ice, yay!) from McDonald’s and decided to head towards the area of Fulham, to do a little exploring. Some of my mother’s ancestors were from this area of London and she even has photos of them enjoying a drink outside of their favorite local pub. Unfortunately, I ended up setting off in the wrong direction, at least not in the direction that I had wanted to explore. To make matters worse, there was apparently a Chelsea or Fulham game that evening and so the hordes of people out on the streets were massive.
On my walk, I ended up passing by Warr’s Harley Davidson. Apparently, Warr’s is the oldest Harley dealership in Europe. I managed to run inside and buy my dad one of the collectors pins just before they closed. By this time it was getting later and I had lost my motivation to explore so I used the City Mapper App on my phone to point me in the direction of a tube station. I easily found Parson’s Green and hopped on the first train back to Earl’s Court. I was worn out by this time and decided to go back to Gourmet Burger Kitchen and try out the chicken sandwich this time. Turns out I liked the beef burger better, but the french fries were just as delicious as the day before.
After dinner, it was still fairly early, so I crossed the street to grab a latte and dessert at the Costa Coffee. This is where things took an interesting turn. While sitting near the door enjoying my refreshments, a man walked in and swiped all of the coins out of the tip bowl. It was the end of the evening and there was a fair amount of change in the jar at this time. The timing of this incident would suggest that this is something that this man does frequently and typically gets away with. One of the male barista’s saw what he did and confronted him. The man kept denying what he had done and tried to make his way back toward the door. The barista ran and stopped him and then proceeded to lock the door so that the man couldn’t leave. This was all well and good, except I was concerned that the argument might escalate to violence and the rest of us inside the coffee shop would have no means of escape. I tried to calm myself by thinking that surely the police had been called and would be arriving shortly, so I was doing my best to prepare mental notes of everything I had witnessed.
The heated argument continued until the other barista (also a male) came out and together they confronted the man and were able to convince him to return the money and apologize. I’m still not convinced that he returned all of the money, nor was he being compliant when they told him to stand back in a corner away from themselves and the customers. At any rate, the baristas were somewhat satisfied and finally unlocked the doors. The police were never notified.
The first barista seemed quite shaken up, so I asked him if he was all right. He said yes and that thankfully everything worked out without coming to violence. He then informed me that they aren’t allowed to do anything if someone becomes violent. I smiled and assured him that as an American, I wasn’t about to sit there and watch him be assaulted (not to mention I had no escape route myself). I also asked him why they hadn’t called the police, and he shrugged and said it wouldn’t accomplish anything and it was a big hassle. I think I would have called the police, because this is something that I believe the man does frequently and is likely to do again. Other businesses and employees will be victimized because no one wants to bother with the hassle of making a police report. Thankfully everything worked out that day and I made my way back to my hotel, ready for the journey home at this point.
I slept in this morning because my flight wasn’t until early afternoon. I checked out of the hotel just before 11:00 and made the schlep back to Heathrow Terminal 3 for the long journey home.
To recap my time in London and some things that I wish I had done differently. I could have planned everything a lot better, but I wanted to have flexibility and not feel the added stress of keeping to a schedule the entire time. I probably should have gone to another show, perhaps a comedy. I completely missed the markets, with the exception of Greenwich. I also wish that I had had time to take a day trip out of London, I had wanted to make it to Westerham to visit Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s estate, but when I figured the logistics and cost it would have been roughly £100 and I felt that was too much money to spend on myself for one day. I still haven’t made it to Windsor Castle either. I also want to go horseback riding in either Richmond or Windsor Great Park someday, but the travel logistics and expense, coupled with having to schlep boots, breeches, and a helmet all over Europe convinced me to save it for another time.
Hopefully, I can enjoy some of these things on a return trip, maybe with the help of a rental car. There are still so many places I want to visit; including Cornwall, Wales, York, and the Peak District. There is just so much to see!
Thus concludes the travel journal for my First Solo Trip! I hope maybe this log has inspired you to branch out and explore a few places on your own. If I can do it, anyone can!