The Last Little bit of London

 Ok… it’s official I am made for London. This is our last day here… well it’s only really a half day as this afternoon we are jumping on the Eurostar and heading to Paris… but the last 3 days have just been a delight.

img_1546I have decided that I was made to be in London, and to a monarchist, as we waited for the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace I imagined that I could do this fairly regularly and because my head fits perfectly in the fence I am quite happy to hangout, just hoping to see something royal! I love being surrounded by royal things, castles, gardens, even just looking at things with royal decorations… I could use royal looking teacups and saucers for the rest of my life and love every minute of it. I don’t know why I love royal things so much, maybe it’s my Disney obsession, or my royal blood (thanks to Jesus), it doesn’t really matter, I just really love being here and being able to indulge the not so secret monarchist in me.  We have walked the Mall, checked out Westminster Abbey and Kensington Palace, visited and toured Royal Albert hall and finally checked out the Tower of London, complete with crown jewels and a photo with the junior royal guard (yep… you guessed it, that was no. 64 on this year’s list) and I have wished I could some how get all of the wonderful royal souvenirs I’ve seen home… but alas I have left them here… for now anyway.  Seriously if Australia ever leaves the Commonwealth… I might have to leave Australia.

img_1547London is also home to some other pretty neat things, we visited the Blind Beggar to tick the Salvo box in my heart and popped into the original London Langham Hotel, just to see how our dream home away home in Melbourne compares… which it does. Oh and we couldn’t have visited London without seeing at least one Harry Potter thing… even if I am still trying to work my way through the books… so we stopped at platform 9 and 3/4 which lent it’s self quite nicely to a super cheesy tourist photo for no. 11 on the list… thanks to the lady who stands there all day just to make my scarf fly… using magic, and not her hands, of course.

I think this has been the hardest place to say goodbye to, maybe it’s because of the length of time we have spent, or because of what else is here, but I am really sad to be leaving London… I really hope it isn’t too long until we return.

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London Calling

London1wmAfter my journey to London yesterday I can’t tell you how glad I am to be here. Last night when we got off the tube and headed up to Notting Hill I was greeted with the best hug I have ever had. So much can be said in a hug like that, I’ve missed you, I’m glad to be here, It’s actually you… Nothings changed… all at once. And even though Dave and I have been back out exploring today while K and R have been at work it has been so nice to know that I when I get home they would still be there. They have almost completely filled the hole that has been unexpectantly left by our tour group and our ‘what’s on sheet.’

After a false start this morning… turns out today is the one day they are close the Tower of London for ‘training’,… we have walked all over London… in the sunshine for lots of it too… who would have thought. There was so much that I wanted to see while I was here in London, so many things I had been planning, it’s really the only country that I knew enough about to have actually have an opinion. I suppose that given this was our first unguided stop it was good for me to know what I wanted, but it also meant that I had pretty high expectations and limited time. But so far today we have already crossed off some pretty big ticks, we have strolled the London streets, caught multiple tubes, climbed to the top of St Paul’s Cathedral, stopped for a spot of tea and some scones in a beautiful and massive bookstore looking out over the city… seriously how much more British can you get? We’ve spotted some monopoly sites, posed in a telephone booth and then explored the Churchill War Rooms for some Allies perspective on WWII. All before sitting down to my second home cooked meal in a month and then heading out again to catch up with my Cousin Bec, who also lives in London, in a swanky little pub with the most gorgeous desserts.

It dawned on me today that this is the first country in a couple, and sometimes even compared to home, that I actually feel at home. In so many places I have felt horrible about being white and middle class, but here for the first time I feel like this is all I need to be. That I don’t need to apologise or feel ashamed, I can just actually be me. London also seems to be filled with all the things I love, the royal family, beautiful churches and houses, fancy and pokey little shops, and tea, oh and for the time being, my bestie.

If I had to be relocated anywhere in the world, this is where I would go. Of all the cities I have seen so far in my life this is the one where I feel I belong… it actually feels like home even though it is not. My identity has been something that I have been struggling with for a while. Not… who is Emma, but more… how can I be satisfied being a white, middle class person when the whole world seems to hate me. Apart from the fact that I am a female, I am in the privileged category for almost everything… which is a huge blessing, but I am constantly feeling guilty for being born into the family and lifestyle I was… and I kind of hate it. I hate that I can’t just be what I am without also being classed as oppressive, racist, ignorant and exclusive… I am not any of these things… in fact I am constantly trying to not be these things, but even at home this is how I am taught to feel… and then when I say it out loud like I am here, I am sure someone is rolling there eyes thinking I have no idea. It’s not fair. But here… even within the diversity I feel like I am ok, like its ok to be white… Like I am just one of the rest… it’s probably actually that no one even cares that I am there… but it’s such a strange feeling and I really could get used to it.

Getting Some Perspective on the Bus

Today has been a challenging day, before we started on our European adventure getting to London was my main goal. I was excited about seeing Europe and ticking off some lifelong bucket list items, but I was really excited about getting to London… why? Because in June last year my best friend moved there so it had been a long six months since I had seen her face to face. It was the reason we chose to go now, rather than waiting another 12 months and something that I had been counting down to since the moment she left. Yet the journey to get here has been an incredible to say the least we had a jammed pack end to 2015 and the last 3 weeks has completely over shadowed my initial excitement. But today is the day we have finally arrived in London, and even though I am super excited to tell you all about being here and being reunited, today’s travel’s have been quite overwhelming and emotional and I think I need to stop and let it out… Today has not just been our last bus day, but it has included so much more. One last day stop, some confronting scenery, a ferry across the channel and a long drive through peak hour traffic and saying goodbye to our remaining tour friends one last time before we part ways for the first time in just under a month and get on the tube to our home for a week in Notting Hill.

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We stopped in Bruges, Belgium, the home of fries, chocolate and waffles and indulged, longed for more time once again to take it all in and then jumped back on the bus and headed across the country and down through France towards Calais where we would catch our ferry across the English Channel. On our drive to Calais we were confronted by just a glimpse of the thousands of refugees who are currently living in what can only be described as squalor, outside Calais port. Many hoping to make the same journey we did, across the English Channel into the UK. This moment of reality thrown into our dream trip was jarring. I had never seen anything like this before, I had completely underestimated what a refugee camp would look like and how I would be affected just by seeing it. I was also completely embarrassed by the constant political squabble of Australia and Australians in response to refugees. I had previously been disappointed in our response to people seeking asylum, but now I just feel angry, frustrated and completely powerless. I just don’t understand, why we, the lucky country, have so much difficulty processing peoples requests for refuge, why it takes so long and why the conditions for people who wait need to be so poor.

I know there are a number of issues that impact this, but I am convinced there has to be a better way. When I think about the relatively small number of people who seek asylum in Australia, and then see the camp that I saw today, we must be joking when we talk about a ‘refugee problem’. When I see how these people have ‘chosen’ to live rather than stay where they were, my heart breaks and wonders what more I can do… I don’t really know what the answer to that is yet, but it is something that I need to think more about. Something that I can not… and like so many of the other lessons I have learnt on this trip… I should not forget… Australia does not have a refugee problem… it just needs to re-read the question and try some different answers because we have to be able to do better than what we are doing right now.