|Parliament and Big Ben from the London Eye at dusk|
So I've been to London and back in the past week, safe and sound despite Hurricane Sandy who ravaged the East Coast between the day I left and the day I returned. My family was spared the worst of it, and I am thankful for those who checked in to see how we fared. I can't believe all the damage in New York and New Jersey... unreal.
London was amazing. It was my first trip there, so my plan was to see as much as possible in the very limited free time I had. Immediately after I arrived on Sunday, I dropped my bag at the hotel, donned my gloves and hat (it was cold!) and hopped on one of the open-air bus tours for a guided ride around the city. It is such a quintessentially touristy thing to do, but I love doing these types of nerdy guided tours wherever I travel. This time it was especially helpful in seeing the maximum amount of things in the allotted time, as well as knowing what I was looking at (and for) when I rode the London Eye (see above) later in the week with the folks I met through my meetings.
Parliament and Big Ben were my favorite sights because they are beautiful and so historic, and also because my hotel was right across the Thames and I loved seeing how dramatic they looked at different parts of the day as I came and went.
|Parliament through the trees|
Few people get to see what the actual palace looks like behind the centuries-old stone walls, so I felt pretty privileged to be there. I even found a poorly-hidden-but-still-hidden door in the bookcase of one of the meeting rooms. When I opened it, I found not a secret passageway as hoped but some random junk, including what I can only assume was the Archbishop's personal Tigger collection. Interesting.
|Super secret hidden door at Lambeth Palace|
I also managed to squeeze in a couple fun experiences, such as a brief and claustrophobic walk through Harrod's (it was Sunday at the beginning of a Europe-wide, week-long school holiday, so it was PACKED) and a ride on a carousel on the South Bank. Even though I got kind of motion sick, this was an especially fun experience because I rode it with a 37-year-old woman from Ghana who had never been out of her home country before. She was completely enamored of the whole thing, which made it so much fun for me as well.
It was also a productive visit from a work perspective. I was there as part of a workshop on Gender-Based Violence, and from 9am to 6pm every day that was our focus. It was not a particularly fun topic, but it was very informative and eye-opening. I was humbled to be in the same room and the same discussions with people who have made this their life's work, and to talk with them about real solutions for putting an end to things like rape as a weapon of war, female genital mutilation, human trafficking and other terrifying things that are easy to mythologize because they most often happen to other people in faraway places. It was a stark contrast to my surroundings; one wouldn't expect to go to staid and proper London to talk about such inhumane atrocities, and maybe that's why it felt so necessary to be there.
I am glad to be home now though, reunited with my much-missed family and wrestling with the smaller problems of my own household (teething! schedules! house things!) instead of the problems of the wider world. However, last night the combined weight of these things (plus some shockingly significant jet lag) got the best of me and I, exhausted and cranky, went to bed at 7:30pm when Johnnie did. I woke up feeling much better, and consequently much better equipped to wrap my mind around work things and home things and world things -- all the things inexplicably trusted, at least partially, to my care.
The next task on my life's to-do list: making sure this sick little creature gets over her sniffles as quickly as possible. Big, important stuff.