Love, Actually Is All Around… (London, Day 7)

“If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion… love actually is all around.”– Love Actually

Kristen’s watch alarm went off at a too-early 5 a.m., and I begrudgingly made my way to the bathroom for my last rendezvous with Death Tub.

Due to our pre-packing the night before, we left the room slightly before schedule, but better early than late when you’re dealing with international departures. We lugged our luggage down Shepherd’s Bush Road towards Hammersmith, waving goodbye to all the landmarks along the way.

Goodbye, hotel.

Golden Strand Hotel

Goodbye, Royal Guest House 2, sister hotel. Goodbye, Kebab Machine.

Kebab Machine

So long, cute boutique store with the red sweater I coveted but never bought. Adios, tapas restaurant. See ya later, Brook Green Tavern and Brook Green Park.

Brook Green Park

Catch you on the flipside, Hammersmith Library. Laurie Arms, we hardly knew ye.

Laurie Arms Pub

Caffe Nero, you will be fondly remembered.

We bought our single tickets for Heathrow (our Oyster cards would have only gotten us halfway there), found the lift and lowered ourselves onto the platform. The first train went directly to Terminal 4, so we hopped aboard, luggage and all.

A woman got on a few stops later, asking if the train was going to Terminal 5. Kristen said no, but there were other stops along the way where she could switch. By the end of the trip, we were the ones giving directions. The woman got off at Hounslow Central, when prompted by the announcement on the train.

We tried to check in at the automated kiosk, but we both got messages that we needed to do it manually. After queuing for 10 minutes, we checked our luggage at the counter and got our printed boarding passes.

When we went through security, we didn’t have to remove our shoes. We just had to take our plastic bags full of liquids out of our carry-ons, and I had to remove my laptop.

We had about an hour before boarding, so we got some nourishment at Corsa, a coffee shop that Brian from the Three Crowns pub had highly recommended the day before. Kristen said their coffee was as good as Caffe Nero, if not better. I had a blackcurrant and white chocolate muffin, and it held up to Caffe Nero’s offerings quite well.

I took a final spin through the duty-free shops, purchasing some chocolates for Tim’s parents and a Harrod’s tea tin for myself. We headed down to the gate about 10 minutes before they were to begin boarding. I spied an Abbey Road postcard at the last shop and hastily procured it for Tim.

As we waited for the boarding announcement, we sat in the sunlight, near the window by the gate. A woman in her mid-20s was sitting a few seats to the left of us. She couldn’t stop smiling. I’m not sure how we started talking, but she told us she had just gotten engaged the day before. She and her fiance met as contractors in Iraq. His family lives in England, and they both stopped to visit them before she made her way alone to see her mother in Vegas. He proposed to her at the top of the London Eye. She was so happy, and it was contagious. She couldn’t stop looking at her ring, and she was beaming. We congratulated her heartily, and I sent a quiet wish to the universe to keep them both safe.

Kristen and I had each booked a window seat, hoping that nobody would sit next to us, and our hopes were realized. The plane was about half full, so there was plenty of room for everyone to stretch, although the flight attendant reminded us all about five times before we departed that we weren’t allowed to switch seats until they’d matched everyone to their original seat assignments.

Unfortunately, people tend to sleep less on transatlantic flights during the day, or maybe it was just the group of rowdy football fans behind us, but we were both grateful to have the multimedia center at our disposal once again. We both watched Twilight, which should be recategorized as a comedy, or at least renamed to Dawson’s Creek with Vampires. At one point, Kristen had to punch me to keep my seat from shaking because I was laughing so hard, and it was giving her motion sickness because her screen kept moving. Oh, to be young and angsty again. I can see why teenage girls like it, and I am obviously not the target audience.

I took a break, finished the book I was reading, and chose Slumdog Millionaire as the latter part of my double feature. It was excellent– really riveting. Also, I must say I’m really not interested in visiting India anytime soon.

Our flight arrived slightly ahead of schedule, which gave us plenty of time to stand in the immigration queue. We presented our travel cards and passports again, and I was pleased with the amount that I hadn’t purchased abroad. After what seemed like forever, we made it through the line and retrieved our bags from the carousel. We weren’t chosen for a random bag inspection, so we took the escalator down to the main baggage claim area where Tim was waiting patiently, ready for some extra help with our rambunctious dogs.

Kristen and I hugged goodbye, promised to meet soon to exchange pictures, and just like that, the trip was over.


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