Lucy Jensen

The plane from the Isle of Man to London was only up in the air long enough to take a look at the clouds, and then it was back down again. We landed at London City airport in a timely fashion, hooked a cab and chugged off to a street near Trafalgar Square, right in the heart of London town, and a nice hotel called the Club Quarters.

It’s hard booking hotels from afar, but I think I pretty much nailed this one. We were in walking distance to Trafalgar, the theater district, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament — who knew! Oh, and apparently Buckingham Palace.

It was a funny old time to be in London town, right after the death of Queen Elizabeth. The funeral was on the Monday and the country had been pretty shut down for several days already. We arrived in London on the Wednesday and it was still pretty somber with crowd barricades all over the downtown from the funeral procession and RIP china cups available in the souvenir shops.

I wanted to show my daughter’s boyfriend the palace, if we were able. It was doubtful, but we could try. The Mall, as it is called, the road that leads up to the palace, was closed off to traffic, but a few pedestrians seemed to be going around the barricades. We were Americans, what did we know?

We kept walking and, before we knew it, we were stock in front of Buckingham Palace, accompanied only by a few bunches of old flowers. There was an eerie feeling to the place, and a quiet sadness filled the dark airs. We all agreed on that. But we felt super honored to be able to stop at the palace and pay our respects. A night cap was necessary at the hotel bar after our own version of pomp and circumstance.

The next day was my daughter’s 28th birthday and we did exactly what she wanted to, as you should when it’s someone’s birthday — we took off on an open top tourist bus adventure to see the sights of London. I have done this many times with friends from overseas and I never tire of it. You learn new things every time.

We were also blessed with a most deliciously sunny day and that never hurts at all. After checking into our next hotel at the end of my dad’s old road — again, my daughter’s choice for her birthday — it was time to make our way back downtown to my daughter’s dinner choice — the oldest restaurant in London — the establishment of Rules. I could have stayed there a long time without eating or drinking and just soaked in the ambiance and the memorabilia, for want of a better word, on the walls. That place is steeped in history, and I highly recommend it for its atmosphere, classiness, historical context, service and, of course, food.

The next day was a quiet one for the tour guide, because we were staying in the one place, and we did not have to pack up and go anywhere, which was a lovely treat. We ate a good breakfast, and the young people took off and I went to have lunch with a friend. I also took photos of my dad’s old house, which was all a bit strange, but I felt fine with it. Dad is in a lovely situation now close to my sister and with lovely people all around him. We don’t worry about him in the same way we used to.

In the evening, friends came and joined us for a lovely celebratory dinner up at an old pub we used to frequent in Hampstead village. Then we got stuck in the lift (elevator) of our old hotel — should have been a little funny; it was in retrospect! And then we needed to pack up for the next adventure that was going to happen on my birthday, the following day.

It was up and out in good time again and the young people were now dragging a little. However, it was my special day, and I wasn’t having anyone rain on my parade. We were headed to my hometown of Aldeburgh on the East Coast, and I always love going home to that place. I get so incredibly excited, knowing that it will always be the same and the soul of the town will have remained intact since my last visit.

Friends were meeting us there and I was so incredibly happy. Never mind it rained on the evening of my birthday and we were not able to actually eat the fish and chips on the sea wall as I had planned, we all squashed into our friend’s cottage, and it was very special indeed.

I had turned 59 years of age and I was OK with that. My husband sent me photos of some unknown calf and I eventually came to realize that this beautiful jersey calf called Rosie had been born on my birthday, and we didn’t even know that her Momma was pregnant. It took me a while to get over that.

The next day, the sun was out, the rain had disappeared, and I got to witness the exquisite sunrise, as I try to do every time I am there. It can be very special on that coast. I walked quite a distance on the pebble beach, took a lot of photos and joined everyone back for a stupendous English breakfast at the hotel. We had some lovely days in my hometown and there are never enough days for me to be there. It was time, however, to make our way home.

On the journey back, my daughter wasn’t feeling that great. Our friend was supposed to come by the hotel for drinks and she wasn’t feeling that good either. A change in the seasons, perhaps. We medicated my daughter for the flight home, put a mask on her and made it happen. Sure enough, when she got home after our mega adventure, she tested positive for Covid. And then so did her boyfriend.

But her mother — the tour leader, the leader of the pack — did not come down with the Covid. She dodged the bullet and swiftly got her next booster and flu shot in the bag on her way back to work. One can never be too sure.

I think it is fair to say that I completely wore out my daughter and her boyfriend on our celebratory adventure. We had so much fun in Dublin, the Isle of Man, London and Aldeburgh, that we are still recovering from it all and — ahem — some of us have not even completely unpacked.

As we troll through our photos and laugh at things all over again, I am reminded of my sister Rosie who told me, later on in her life, that she wasn’t going to buy me stuff anymore, she would just buy me an experience — and she so did.

From concert tickets to theater and hotels … she taught me how to live your highest life while you still have it to live. I think I managed to share some of that with my young travel companions on this go-around and maybe they will take that along with them for the ride.

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Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].


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