One of my favorite parts about being pregnant overseas in sketchy places is going to London for an OB appointment or two. Being pregnant isn't that great - slowly watching your waistline expand as you get increasingly exhausted and crabby isn't anyone's idea of fun - so at least I got a trip to London out of the deal. Obviously, in the end, I'll get a baby too. Which is probably better than all the trips to London combined.
This trip to London was my third, after a short trip while in Baku and a much longer trip with Joseph this past May. I've stayed in the same neighborhood (and in the same hotel twice) all three times so this time it almost felt like coming home.
When I got off the plane and looked around at all the signs in English and heard it being spoken all around me, it was so nice to be back in a culture where I belonged. No more sticking out like a sore thumb - just blessed anonymity and the ability to communicate with anyone I saw. You don't realize what a relief that is until you spend years in a place not like that.
So I rolled my little carry-on bag through the airport, chatted with the border agent at passport control, and confidently made my way down to the Heathrow Express without any hesitation. It's like magic, the ability to just go and do something without consulting maps, checking routes, and then crossing your fingers for good luck.
When I got off at Paddington Station, I decided to take the Underground instead of hailing a taxi to get to the hotel. It was early afternoon, I had nobody but me, and it was cheaper. So out came my Oyster card and a few flights of stairs later, I was riding public transportation like I'd never left. I cannot tell you the marvel that public transportation is. If you want to go somewhere, you can get there without depending on anything but the system and your card being topped up. The whole city is available. So amazing.
With a little bit of walking (I hadn't thought to check a map when I had internet access) I found my hotel, checked in, kicked off my boots, and read a book. Pathetic, I know - there are hundreds of things to do in London and instead I read a book - but oh the beauty of reading a book uninterrupted without any responsibilities nagging me can't be denied.
Eventually, after talking to Brandon (which only made me feel guilty) I got some dinner. The restaurant possibilities in London are endless and it took a while to decide. Hmmm, do I feel like Indian? or Peruvian? How about sushi? French? Fish and Chips? Italian? British? I'm not sure if I could handle choices like these on a daily basis. Eventually I decided that Greek sounded good. And it was good. I used to feel bad for people eating alone, thinking that they had a rather sad life if they couldn't find anyone to eat with. But sometimes, it's just nice to be all alone. Not for too long, but just for a little while.
The next morning I had the reason for the entire trip, my appointment. Everything with the baby is going perfectly well, which is always a tremendous relief. Even more so when problems mean leaving for the US on short notice and an even longer separation from your husband.
And then the rest of the day was mine. I started with a little shopping. I had a few things to buy while in London and so I got business out of the way first. Usually I don't like shopping. Give me Amazon any day - make a decision, put it in your cart, and you're done - but while in London I rediscovered the pleasure of shopping. It turns out that shopping is fun when you 1. don't have children with you, 2. aren't on a schedule, 3. can walk everywhere, and 4. are in a country where there's something worth buying.
Walking around in stores with all sorts of pretty things with prices listed and nobody following you is probably something I could get entirely too used to. Our bank account is very happy we live in Dushanbe, not London. My favorite stores were the grocery stores. So many good things - proscuttio! macaroons! avacados! cheeses! olives! pears! cookies! My scale is very happy we live in Dushanbe, too.
After a nap (because, naps), I took in a little culture at the National Gallery before treating myself to dinner at the highest-rated French restaurant in London. After all, that per diem isn't going to spend itself. After a little bit of debate (can I really eat eight courses?) I went for the tasting menu. Scallops, lobster, foie gras, lamb, and sea bass all found a warm home in my stomach while I enjoyed reading a book. And after three dessert courses, I practically had to roll out of the restaurant before making my way back to the hotel and collapsing after a long, taxing day.
The next morning, it was time for Cinderella to get home to her home, family, responsibilities, and sick children eagerly waiting for her to return. Which is okay, because it's not nearly as nice to leave if you don't have anybody to go back to.
Until next time (whenever that will be), London!