We were leaving. It was the long weekend Monday in September; we were leaving that evening and thank goodness we had a day off to pack. The salon our family runs was bustling all week in preparation for our three week absence. As I explained in my previous post, I was pretty well prepared. All I had to do was some laundry and put everything in my suitcase and carry-on. Some like to use the “rolling” method: I don’t. I prefer the “fold properly and compress” method. When put to the test, the second method wins every time. If it doesn’t for you, I will be forward in saying that you can’t fold properly.
I am a pro packer: trust me. Planning and being over-prepared is my forte. So with such careful consideration as to what I should bring, my suitcase was nearly empty. After picking up a few souvenirs, it was still too big, yet was too heavy. Packing light should be taken literally: pack light things and purchase light souvenirs! Things can be heavy even if they are small.
Leaving in the evening is pleasant because you don’t have to scurry off to the airport at unsightly hours of the morning, but at the same time it is a pain. You can only stare at your luggage and question your organization so much. I think throughout the day my anxieties kicked in and I checked my packing list to make sure I brought everything almost a billion times (totally exaggerating). I didn’t forget a thing (obviously, I’m always prepared). The anticipation was murderous.
It was still so surreal to me that the day had finally come, after a year spent in preparation. We drove to the Edmonton International Airport and arrived two and a half hours early (which was completely unnecessary). We said our very happy, albeit tearful, goodbyes at the gate to the family we would leave behind, and proceeded to the Air Canada check in. These things are so much easier now that you can check in at home in advance, and I swear they are getting so efficient you don’t need three hours at the airport before boarding for international flights. Okay, maybe at an airport like London Heathrow, or LAX, but not in Edmonton. We sat at our gate for an uneventful two hours after checking in. My sister Julianna and I strolled through the over-priced airport book store and purchased a therapeutic adult colouring book to pass the time, providing us with ample entertainment on our travels.
A tiny “express” plane took us to Calgary; we had to walk out on the tarmac (fun fact: actually called the apron). Our flight was a short one, barely an hour from take-off to landing. We left the country on our next flight, an overnight plane to London, at 8pm. The three of us sat together in the middle row at the very front of economy (extra leg room!). Questionable Shepherd’s Pie was served. We popped our Sleep-Eeze pills as soon as the lights shut off, though we all didn’t sleep much. For breakfast, we were given a banana and Greek yogurt, a healthy surprise.
Landing in London, our flight was late. We hurried to customs and immigration. The shirts stuck to our backs and we had beads of sweat on our brows. The air was heavy and we were anxious to get going as most travelers are. After a long wait, we picked up our bags and headed to the ticketing office just outside the airport to purchase tickets for the National Express Coach to Stansted Airport, north of London. Our Bed and Breakfast was nearby. Our 14 hour travel day was turning into a longer one with the added one hour twenty minute bus ride. The coach took us through the outer London ring road; we caught a glimpse of the countryside, filled with rolling hills, ancient trees, brick houses and fences, and horses and sheep a-plenty. I even saw a couple smaller looking castles. At Stansted Airport, we looked eagerly for a bus to take us to our B&B, but none could be found. We settled on a cab, which took us to Great Dunmow. The cab driver was friendly, and we could tell already that Canadians were welcomed. The car was fancy.
Great Dunmow is a town with charm and character, in Essex, England. You can learn more about it here. The town seems like a great place to relax and unwind, with easy (though some might find it long) access to the city of London. I knocked on the door of #50 where the owners lived, and they showed us our rooms upstairs in #52. The little brick country home, the Harwood House B&B, was idyllic and recently updated. The room would not see us long though, as we had things to do and new places to see.