I wandered around Leicester Square with a Haagen Daas ice cream cone in one hand and my suitcase in the other. People looked at me. I looked at the sky. I was taking a holiday.
On Saturday morning I had taken the 11:55 to Kings Cross to spend the weekend with my aunt, cousin and my grandparents, who had come over from Ireland to stay with my aunt for the few days. It was such a restful time, family time, setting the table and eating dinner and washing up and finally gathering around the TV to laugh at X factor hopefuls. Sunday morning was equally restful. I learned two new card games from my ten year old cousin and was trounced five times in a row despite my hardest efforts to learn and win. I went with my grandparents to the airport at midday, had coffee and croissants with them and then walked them as far I could through security. I had a tight throat as I watched them go and stayed until I couldn’t see them any more.
I went downstairs feeling a little travel sick from the cab and worried about my grandparents flying alone. I bought a ticket to Kings Cross and hopped on the next underground that came through.
About a half hour into the journey, I began to feel a lot better. I scanned the poster over the row of seats across from me which outlined the stops along the route. On impulse, I decided to jump off at Covent Gardens, and so I found myself pressing my suitcase against my legs traveling in a lift jammed full of people up to street level. I pretended I knew where I was going. I strode out of the station and walked purposefully in any direction until I got my bearings. Then I doubled back and found the Covent Garden markets. I have wanted to come here for a long time, and now I have crossed this off the list. I loved the markets. The atmosphere, the stalls, the people milling about, looking and chatting and browsing. I fingered scarves and studied hand-made crafts and stopped into a tea shop to taste some white tea and then didn’t buy any. I couldn’t afford to. But it was a lovely taster cup!
I spent a little while watching some acrobats perform to a crowd and then strolled innocently away before they could ask me for money! I decided to walk back to the station, so I again walked purposefully in what I thought was a good direction. I ended up somewhere entirely new, but that was fine because I found a lovely Italian restaurant. And again, entirely on the spur of the moment, I walked in and asked for a table for one. I ordered spaghetti and meatballs, with lots of parmesan and black pepper on top. It was very tasty.
Again I tried to find the station, and saw an underground sign in the distance but this was Leicester Square and I had obviously walked too far. I didn’t mind because it was still early afternoon and I didn’t have to be home until night. This is when I decided to throw caution to the wind and just wander. The first place my wandering feet found was a Haagen Daas ice cream shop. So it was that I came to be walking around Leicester Square with a two scoop cone in one hand and a wheelie suitcase in the other, strolling and staring and perfectly happy, enjoying the salted caramel and belgian chocolate dripping creaminess. Oh my.
In this Holly Golightly state of mind I bumped along over the cobble stones, wandering, wandering, until I found myself in Chinatown.
In Chinatown I took pictures of the multitude of red lanterns hanging over the street, I stared at shop windows packed with produce I did not recognise and finally I gathered the courage to enter one of the grocery shops where I could read none of the labels and the people spoke hard, fast, Chinese over my head. Stereotypically, Asians are seen to be small. I don’t know how accurately that represents the actual population, but I did notice that their aisles in the grocery shop were very narrow. I made a Chinese middle aged man rather cross because I rolled over his toe with my wheelie suitcase. He gave me an aloof glare. Oh well, I thought, I’m in Chinatown, another thing to cross off my list. And so I smiled sweetly at his glare. To no effect.
After Chinatown, I thought that I really should find the Piccadilly line again. So I (ahem) began to walk purposefully, but got totally distracted by a window displaying teacups and loose leaf tea in mahogany drawers and chests. This looked like the real thing. Without thinking, I pushed open the door from the noisy street, and suddenly found myself engulfed in silence and stared at by several unblinking Chinese store clerks.
I was a little taken aback, this was totally different from the loudness of the other Chinese shops I had been in. In my confusion, I ducked my head and walked over to a table and began to study the labels. Then I saw the flower tea. I had seen flower tea online several years ago, and I wanted to try it. I tried it in a upper crust restaurant I was taken to by my aunt in July, and I loved it. It was served in a glass tea pot. But other than that I had never seen flower tea available anywhere. I was approached by a sweet sales girl who also showed me rosebud tea which she said was good for ladies skin, but I only wanted the flower tea. I bought the smallest packet, which cost me seven pounds fifty. My mom was a bit shocked when I mentioned the price, but I was only aware that I was on a spontaneous holiday and I wanted my own flower tea.
Trying to find my way out of Chinatown, I ended up in a Japanese home goods shop. Minimalist, monochrome, and exactly what I would expect from a Japanese label. I impulsively bought a glass mug so that I could properly enjoy my flower tea in all its glory.
Walking purposefully aside, I popped my head into a card shop to ask for directions. And then I hopped back on the Piccadilly line, caught a train at Kings Cross, and was home in time for tea.
What a lovely time in London.