I had a lot riding on this.
I had been to Europe before. But my girlfriend had not. I had, in fact, lived here for the greater part of my childhood including four years in London. Born and raised in California, except for brief dips into nearby Mexico, she had never set foot outside the country.
In 2011, we had been together 9 years. We were finally at a point where we could travel internationally.
Europe was the only place on my mind.
I wanted to take her to the places I had been. I wanted to share the amazing experiences I was privileged to enjoy growing up… the experiences that shaped the very core of who I am. I wanted to experience and share with her the places of my heritage…Germany, France, and Switzerland.
But mostly, I wanted her to fall as much in love with these places as I had so we could return again and again.
Since this was our first European travel experience together, we decided to book an organized tour. We would have a guide and the logistics would be taken care of. We booked with Trafalgar Tours through our local AAA office. The tour comprised 5 cities, 6 countries, and 7 days and London was the jumping off point.
Our experience with Trafalgar could not have been better. Our guide, Mimi, was the best. Everything was taken care of for us. We could relax and enjoy our trip. In each city, after a guided tour, we were allotted time to roam independently. We met wonderful fellow travelers who are friends to this day… Ruth, Gerry, and Casey… I’m calling you out! We had some wonderful authentic dining experiences. And, to our sheer delight, the tour culminated in a wonderful surprise.
I remember the day we arrived as clearly as yesterday. As we waited for our bags at Heathrow, I intentionally stepped outside to smell the air and feel it on my skin. It was heavy, cool and damp. It was familiar.
After all this time.
I was back.
It had taken me 36 years, but I was back in London.
If only for a day.
“It was loud. It was London. And we soaked it all in.
We spent the full day wandering the city, mostly in central Westminster… Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square. We savored a proper English lunch at Henry’s Cafe Bar on Piccadilly. There were businessmen in suits downing heavy pints of foam-laden beer. It was loud. It was London. And we soaked it all in. I had fish and chips…about the only decent dish in the whole of English cuisine! She went with bangers and mash with a side mushy peas. Mushy peas… isn’t that convict’s food?
And then it happened.
Amidst the bustling of London, the crowds, and the butt-ugly taxi cabs we found ourselves lazing in a park along the meandering Thames. As any travel photographer worth his salt, I had my Canon DSLR at the ready and scanning for subjects… London landscapes, iconic structures, architectural elements, anything that screams ‘London’. I turned my lens… and there it was.
The grin on her face said, “Yea, I could get used to this!” From that moment, I knew London had won her over and we were destined to return again and again.
Your turn: What was your favorite experience sharing someplace you had been with a loved one for the first time? Share your experiences in the comments below.