You know that feeling you get when you’re trying to grasp at something barely there, how in your half-asleep stage in the morning you’re trying to remember a dream that is fading fast from memory? Or when you have a sudden thought surge through your brain when – just before you can put it into words – it vanishes and you’re left scrambling to describe it?
That’s how I feel now.
I’m holding tight to the feeling of my last day in London – May 30th – the magic that was walking through the city, drinking in everything so acutely and solemnly and joyfully for the last time – and this past week I’ve felt that putting the pen to paper would make it all disappear.
Every minute of my trip is still fresh in my memory, and somehow writing down the last day makes the fact that I have been home for a week final, absolute. It defines my days as nothing more than what they are now: memories.
So it’s not that I haven’t had time to write. I just haven’t been able to. But, if I wait until the day I stop wishing my time in London was still happening, and more than just happy memories in my head, I don’t think my last day there will ever get blogged.
So… here we are.
On my last full day in London, I woke up with both the reality of knowing it was my final day and an eagerness to get out and explore just one last time.
I got out of bed and ate breakfast, taking my time getting ready, then – after getting some tea at Pret – walked to the Old Street Tube station.
My first stop was – of course – Parliament Square, which houses Big Ben (and the rest of the Houses of Parliament), and Westminster Abbey. This day, I walked across Westminster Bridge to look at the Square from the other side of the Thames. I wasn’t disappointed!
Then I went back up to Parliament Square to just sit and look at Big Ben and Westminster Abbey for a while. And, of course, admire the statues they have there.
This shot of Westminster Abbey might be my favorite I took throughout all my trip:
There is nothing like Westminster Abbey. I’ll travel the world in my lifetime and will never find anything that makes my heart skip a beat quite like this place does.
After drinking in every second I could in Parliament Square, I decided to head back towards Buckingham Palace so I could walk the Mall again. Buckingham Palace is about a 15 minute walk from (20 if you’re slow like me) and I thought it was the perfect time to take that walk through the city.
A shortcut is to go through the beautiful St. James’s Park, which naturally I took.
And while I was just stepping into the park, about to get onto the path that would take me towards the Palace, I caught sight of a cool little cottage a few hundred feet away so I turned right to check it out.
And while on this little detour, I came across two families of ducks that absolutely stopped me in my tracks.
The first flock had three babies, with Mama Duck resting and watching them pick around in the grass while Papa Duck strutted between them and kept a lookout for trouble.
The second family was waddling around together, Mama and Papa Duck keeping order while they walked, little ones following and looking around with wonder. One little guy kept lagging behind, curiously picking at the grass every now and then, then hurrying to catch up to his mom and siblings while Dad Duck chided him for being tardy.
It was fascinating. They were fascinating. I couldn’t watch them long enough, couldn’t marvel enough at the perfect little family units that they were.
It was so clear – so clear! – that each little member of the family had a role to play, a different place, a unique personality… and yet they all fit together perfectly.
Finally, I walked away to keep moving towards Buckingham Palace – the ducks, waddling as a unit, perfectly together, and me, headed down my path… but alone.
Knowing it was the final day made everything that much more special.
Knowing I could only wake to the sounds of the city one last time, see new buildings and statues one last time, experience the living, breathing culture of London one last time… it made me wonder just a bit. What things at home would I do if my time there was limited? What every-day occurrences would I experience while thinking, I just did that for the last time?
Back on the Tube I went. I explored a few other stops, including Kings Cross Station again, in a quest to find a few more postcards to take home.
Then it was time to head back to the Old Street Tube station, closest to my Airbnb flat, me completely aware of the bitter fact that I would only have one last Tube trip to make tomorrow.
As I packed my things that evening, cramming clothes and books and gifts into my backpack and suitcase and realizing Paddington Bear wouldn’t fit in either… I thought of the duck families again.
And as I reflected on my week of traveling solo – freeing and wonderful as it had been – it occurred to me that for all my wanting to embark on this journey alone, I knew exactly what had been missing the whole time.