Every once in a while I need to sit back and take a look at what it is I do and why I do it. I fly because I love it! I love everything about it and my job. Sure there are rough days but there are a lot more fabulous days. Even when things don’t go as planned they end up as stories I regale to family and friends. This past weekend I met a girl who was newly hired as a flight attendant. Meeting her made me stop and ask myself “why am I here?” I still love my job and company and cannot see myself anywhere else at the moment. We were headed to London somewhere I had been weekly, sometimes twice a week, this summer but it was her first time. Ever. She was a veritable UK virgin. Since London is one of my favourite cities and I have dedicated many a layover to explore it and all of its nooks and crannies I offered to take her to see whichever sights took her fancy as had been done for me when I started flying by those more knowledgable than I. She was not very well versed in what London had to offer but was eager to see a few attractions.
We started our expedition by setting her up with an oyster card so she could easily travel public transportation. Explaining to her how they work made me think I really need to write a step by step Oyster Card post again as she is the 5th person I have educated on the card in as many trips. With the payment option all sorted out we started our informal tour. The top sites for her were the Tower bridge and Big Ben. I was quite surprised that other top ten stops like Westminster Abbey and Buckingham palace weren’t on her list. They were lacking for one key reason. She had no idea of their existence. I do not intend to be snide, rude or mean when I say this but What?!!! How could one have never heard of these??!! Sure this does not cast a favourable light on the Canadian educational system. I forget though that sometimes not everyone is as enamoured with history, foreign lands, politics, exploration and culture as I am. This is to say I am no smarter than she only that I have different interests. She is very smart in areas I am lacking. I am not a rocket scientist. I would be able to hold a very rudimentary conversation with any layman on maths and sciences but put me in a room with those considered to be the best scientific minds of our generation and watch me flounder and sink.
I have a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in history and just a credit shy of a minor in political science so it makes sense that I absorb the sights of London, their historical significance and can regurgitate it at will at any time. I took the new hire past the fictional residence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes and the throngs of tourists waiting to tour the museum at 221b Baker Street. She hardly bat an eye. It turns out she had not been a detective mystery fan and had no clue who he was so it was good I had not planned on stopping but had just thought it would make an interesting point to travel past on our way to the Underground and Baker Street Station. I indoctrinated her on the tube and proper etiquette on the escalators, stand right walk left, or get trampled at rush hour. We made our way to Tower bridge disembarking at Tower Hill Station where I pointed out the starting points of the various Jack the Ripper night-time tours, if she were so inclined on another layover. Her first glimpse of The Tower of London was rather lovely. She was very excited to hear about the role it has played in history and what it is home to now. I pointed out the Yeomen guides and we stopped to chat with one who it turns out had been stationed just outside of Calgary for quite a while and had spent winters skiing in the mountain town of Banff an hour and a half from my doorstep. It truly is a small world sometimes. He gave the girl a few new places she should add to her list of spots to see and was surprised to hear that I, a foreigner, had been to them all and was showing her around his fair city. After snapping a few pictures with him we made our way over to the bridge. I don’t think I had been this close since the Olympic rings had adorned it. It made me smile to see her face light up when she laid eyes upon the attraction. A few more pictures as I pointed out a few notable buildings in the skyline and we were off on our way. Back on the tube as she was quite jet lagged, from the flight over, and we got off at Westminster station so she could see the Clock tower, Big Ben, at Parliament, the bridge there and then I wound us through the sightseers to Westminster Abbey. Her breath was taken away by the cathedral and its detailing. We wove our way through the crowds and streets to St James Park and its pretty paths, and bird ponds while I pointed out notable buildings once more. The sight of the London Eye poking up over the tree canopy was worthy of a few more photos. From there we proceeded by foot to Buckingham Palace. Sundays are my favourite day to view the palace as traffic is reduced diverted on the roads leading to the Queen’s residence. A few items were pointed out by me so as not to overwhelm the newbie on her first foray in to English history. I started off with things she had probably seen, the balcony where William and Kate shared a public married kiss and spoke about the changing of the guard that she should try to catch at least once whilst on layover. I ended with the Canada Gate which leads to Green Park. I love the trees in this park and have photographed them in different seasons and many stages of bloom. The last stop was to walk past the iconic Ritz Hotel and catch the tube back towards the hotel. We did not stop for dinner as she was exhausted by the end of the impromptu tour. I ventured out to do a bit of grocery shopping alone and hit a favourite café for a quick bite to eat whilst she ordered room service and slept dreaming of the streets of London.
I felt lucky to have spent the day with her. She lent me a view of London that I do not usually consider, one of wonder and amazement. I was able to see how overwhelming the metropolis could be to someone who had no idea what treasures are hidden within and what gems are offered. I have said before that I try to have a plan of what when I visit a city and today only reinforces my desire to do my homework so I do not miss anything I may otherwise have not known about had I not