Summer 2015, IcelandAir lost my luggage on my way to London. The city was in the middle of a record setting heatwave and the only clothes on my back were the ones I was wearing in frigid Iceland the day before, a coat, sweater, pants and heeled boots. My dresses and sandals for a Cambridge study summer were gone and London was sweltering.

I had a few options open to me. I could sit around the airport all day and hope my luggage showed up on a later flight (highly unlikely as it seemed it had been lost back on my first leg through Boston), I could go to my hotel and strip down to my underoos and lay around on the bed postponing the inevitable which was finding things to wear, or I could use the technology in my hand and find a cheap clothing store and get myself kitted out as the British say.

I pulled out my cell phone while I still had airport wifi. I used Google Maps to find London’s version of San Francisco’s Union Square, SOHO, the place where I knew most retail stores would be cobbled so close together that they amassed into a corporation’s wet dream, and I planned my route, taking screenshots for when I knew my data would disappear. I had just finished two days of travel, three plane flights, was looking down the barrel of an hour long train ride and all I wanted to do was sleep, but I knew I could do this, I would get myself clothes to wear. I was born to shop…as we Americans say.

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So tired on the train

Bleary-eyed, tired, literally carrying all I had on my back, I popped out of the Tube at Oxford Circus and followed the crowd of people into the packed intersection like a lemming. There in front of me was the big box glass H&M store, shining like the Eiffel Tower…oh wait, I’m getting my similes wrong. Well, anyway, it was there. I stocked up on a dress, shorts, a skirt, two tank tops. I was hopeful that my luggage would arrive in only a day and wanted to compliment what I already packed rather than doubling up. I opted out on getting a pair of sandals and got some dress flats instead, thinking they would go well with some things I already had to wear.

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I took myself, backpack, shopping bag, camera bag and all to a restaurant for lunch down the street. The waitress sounded familiar, close to home. I told her about my harrowing travels and lost baggage and she brought me a free glass of wine. We got to talking. She was from the San Francisco Bay Area and had moved to London about a year ago to pursue acting. She gave me information for a performance she would be going to later that evening if I wanted to join. The travel writer in me, wished that I had for the story, but the exhausted traveler in me made myself find my hostel so that I could successfully navigate to Cambridge the next day.

I hopped back on the Tube, having gotten the appropriate pass back at the train station, and found my hostel, Clink78, an old courthouse converted into a shared dormitory. In the ten minutes that it took me to walk from the station to the hostel, my new flats opened a large hole in the back of my heel and blood dripped into the sole of my shoe.

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I couldn’t let this get me down though. I was about to shower, change and go to sleep at 7 pm as I always do when I’m jetlagged. I was proud of myself, happy that I wasn’t scared off by an unfamiliar city or lack of sleep or proper clothing to get myself what I needed. I was even more proud of myself, retrospectively, when it turned out that my luggage, that I was told would arrive at Gonville and Caius College the next day, didn’t arrive for another five, leaving me without my belongings for a full week.

I also think my shopping navigation bolstered my solo travel skills that whole trip, causing me to travel to more little pockets of London on my own, then I would have ever considered trying to find by myself before. I went shopping in Notting Hill, wandering down Portobello Rd and brunching at Farm Girl Cafe.  I ventured out to pick up iced cookies (or biscuits) from The Biscuiteers. I walked through Hyde Park, meandering by the Serpentine Gallery and the latest outdoor art pavilion. I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum at 9 in the morning and waited in an hour long line to get tickets to the acclaimed Alexander McQueen exhibit that was hands down one of the best curated museum experiences I have ever had.

 

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Inside the entrance to the V&A

I’ll be leaving for my first winter in Europe in less than a week, heading back to London, but this time with a very private tour guide, my boyfriend, where he will show me all his childhood haunts. In that spirit, I want to look back at some of my favorite memories of trips to England. This one will be my third.

Here are some things I remember and/or look forward to experiencing again:

Men roasting chestnuts outside the Tower of London.

Eating scones and clotted cream in a cozy tea shop.

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Not a scone but a Fitzbillies’ Chelsea bun is a good substitute

Sitting amongst the pink velvet cushions of sketch for afternoon tea and being dazzled by its opulence.

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Punting down the river in Cambridge accidentally feeding ducks and drinking wine.

Traveling on a coach with my fellow high school students visiting historic landmarks like Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the place where King Arthur might be buried if he’s a real person, as well as Stratford-upon-Avon and more.

Being wary of fish pie in a pub when I was fifteen and then later drinking a pint in a pub when I was thirty-three.

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Mayflower Pub in Cambridge

And in that spirit, here’s to all the pints that will be had very shortly. Cheers and Happy Holidays!

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Obligatory telephone booth shot
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One of my happiest moments on the trip…being reunited with my luggage in time for my hiking trip through Iceland.

*Sidenote: The posts have been few and far between as I am on a deadline to finish writing my novel by the end of the year. I hope to start posting more frequently once that is complete. Wish me luck!

2 thoughts on “Lost Luggage in London

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