This morning I had a lovely ride with Marie, my taxi driver, who picked me up at the Salmon Bookshop in Ennistymon and brought me out to Shannon Airport. I learned of her travels, her granddaughter with the long blond hair, that she and her husband both drive taxis, that she knows Jessie (my publisher) from when she and her husband owned a filling station. She told me of some places to visit on my return. I told stories aplenty, too. It’s an hour from the town, which was just awakening with bird calls, to the quiet airport. 70 Euro is quite expensive, over $100 for a ride, but I did receive my share of stories.
The flight was uneventful and happily short, and then the real adventure began.
I got a train ticket on the Stanstead Express – in the future, I should always take the bus – which was quick, but unnecessary in its speed, in the end. I paid too much for a ticket to Liverpool station, when I could easily transfer at Tottenham Hale, which is what I did. I transferred there, took the Victoria Line to Seven Sisters, and then the Rail to Silver Street. That’s where I began my 10 minute walk into a neighborhood that didn’t seem like what I wanted for my London experience. I was expecting pubs nearby, quaint and quiet neighborhoods with main streets filled with people, particularly on a Saturday. What I found were closed restaurants – closed down for good or closed for the day – and the markets that were open were dusty with construction debris from the roadwork underway. Other than the few white women, I was the only person not in a hijab. Though totally covered, I felt underdressed and different. This, generally, would have been welcome as I enjoy exploring new places and learning from others. I didn’t like that, to get to the “hotel”, I had to go down one long straight, then take a left, then a right, then a left, then a right, and finally a last left, before arriving at the building. When I arrived, there was no one there. Turns out it really isn’t a hotel, it’s a building with rooms to let out. There’s no receptionist to wait for a guest’s arrival … or maybe there would have been if I had made reservations for the right dates.
That’s right. Turns out that when I made my reservations for Paris, I also made the reservations for London, but with the same dates. I arrived at the hotel 4 days early for my reservation. The hotel makes no cancellations, and while they would have just switched the days if they had room, unfortunately, they didn’t.
So I called home. Luckily, my mother picked up. Not always the case. I told her the situation, gave her my credit card number with instructions to find something around $150 or less for the night, if possible, near the city centre. Next thing I know, I’m staying at the Chamberlain Hotel, a 4 star hotel, for 162 pounds (nearly $350 with the taxes and a hotel hold). I had forgotten that our tastes are very different. I favor the inexpensive and social, while she prefers the luxury hotel.
As I stewed from the lost money and the money that I would be paying for the second hotel for just one night (more than the 4 nights combined), my face unscrunched at this: I just got paid and I have the money; I deserve to be spoiled on one night in a hotel; I didn’t feel safe in that neighborhood; Maybe the universe knew that I needed to be someplace else and made it happen long before I arrived at that door, expecting the answer that never came.
I think that the universe did want me somewhere else. Enter Jessica Elizabeth, an old friend from New York, who now lives in London with her husband. Maria, my New York sister, connected us when she happened to read my post on Facebook. Jessica Elizabeth happened to be online and have a free couch, so tomorrow I’ll go to enjoy the day with her and a friend of hers. She’s invited me to crash for a few days with her. I couldn’t have asked for better. Feeling safe is priceless; even more so is friendship.