I See London, I Don’t See France

Three months, no posts, and no excuses, tsk tsk! Quick re-cap of my time in Europe.

I sat next to a cute guy on my flight from Chicago to London, who just so happened to be heading to Paris that weekend. I had exactly two things on my agenda, meet a cute guy and lure him to the Eiffel Tower with a bottle of champagne in hand for a late night French kiss! We exchanged numbers and cards and agreed we’d be in touch once we were settled in London the following day. One down, one to go! I arrived in London on top of the world, everything in life was falling into place and nothing could get me down. I was ready to begin the best two months of my life, starting with a little rendezvous in Paris!

My first stop was at the hotel where I was going to be staying following my trip to France. I decided I would leave my two large bags with the hotel so I would not have to lug all three, two weighing over sixty pounds, with me. Upon my arrival, my perfect plan slowly started to crumble. After spending forty minutes convincing the girl at the front desk that I was going to be staying at their five star hotel for seven weeks and that it should not be a problem for them to hold my luggage, I then received news that my train to Paris was overbooked and my ticket was cancelled. I immediately booked another ticket and headed to the train station. When I arrived I stood in the wrong line for forty five minutes, sprinted to the line I was supposed to be in, only to be faced with an evil, horrible, woman who told me that my ticket did not go through and that my credit card was being declined. I assured her that I had called both my banks on the way to the airport just the day before, but she insisted that there was nothing she could do. She stared at me and I swear on my closet if i had stood there for two more seconds, two snakes would have come out of her eyes and sunk their teeth right into my neck. I turned and left.

So there I was, in the middle of busy St. Pancras Station… I had no cell phone, no money, no internet and it finally dawned on me that I was completely alone in a country where I knew no one and had nowhere to go. I wanted to throw myself on the ground of the busy train station and cry, but refused to let tears be real. Afterall, I was in London, the easiest foreign place for an American to be. I started to wish I were in some remote town in the middle of Asia so I could have my breakdown. It really would have made me feel better.

I bought a cup of coffee with the three pounds that I had and went outside and sat on a curb for about an hour trying to get internet connection, no such luck. This is when I started to get a bit frantic. Should I go to the police station?! The American Embassy?! Who could help me?! I started staring at strangers with a sad look on my face, hoping that they would offer help. I figured that at least one of the construction workers would take pity on me and offer me food or a warm place to stay…they didn’t. I needed to take a more proactive approach. I decided I would head to a bar, get really drunk and cry, and hopefully the bartender would take pity on me and after his shift take me to his place and let me crash on his couch for the weekend (My girlfriend and I did this in L.A. once, but only got one night on a couch and had to bounce the next day). I then realized I did not have money to get drunk.

I got up and walked to four hostels, hoping they would see I was desperate and not some druggie, homeless girl and let me stay the night and pay them later, but they were all booked solid so I finally accepted reality, I was homeless. I literally had no other option than to sleep on a bench in a park with the homies. Just me, my computer, and a carry on with some clothes and a couple of handbags…homeless chic was going to take on a whole new meaning. Before hitting the bench, I decided to stop at a hotel and give my credit card one more try and what do you know, my card was accepted! (Totally convinced that devil woman was not even running my card).

The crack den aka my hotel room, was itty bitty and in the basement of the hotel. I am pretty sure a seven day drug binge had just taken place prior to my check in, but compared to a bench in the park, the room was a dream (Kind of like when a homeless person salivates over a half eaten burger in a dumpster). I could not have been more relieved and happy and for the record, the next time I hear someone say that money does not bring you happiness, I am going to slap them and step on their expensive shoes because clearly, they have never been homeless and even though I technically have not either, I came pretty damn close to being a lady of the park.

After a seven hour nap, I connected to the internet and was placed in touch with someone who knew a good friend of mine. The girl took me in for the rest of the weekend and following that, I checked into the hotel which was my home for the next seven weeks.

The rest of the summer was amazing. I fell in love with London, especially all of the outdoor markets where I stocked up on little dresses and tons of great jewelry. I went to Wimbledon and Stonehenge, Windsor and Bath, and even spent a week in Spain…..it was fabulous. I fell in love with the Victoria and Albert museum and my afternoons spent walking around the parks and the city. And although I never ran into my obsession, Pete Doherty, life in London was a total dream.

Lesson Number Two Learned On The Road: Always have plenty of cash on hand when arriving to a foreign destination.