So we made it. It’s always so intense, the journey over. Seems to go the same way too. The first part, you wonder why all the fuss, but by the second leg you just need it to be over. Especially the queuing at either end, that’s particularly tedious.
A different experience this time, flying Cathy Pacific, through Hong Kong vs Dubai. Much prefer Hong Kong as a stopover, the rich scents of chilli, ginger and garlic wafting through the food court vs the noxious smoking rooms at Dubai.
There were a few highlights. With the benefit of a window seat, seeing the oh so unfamiliar jaggered coast of the Northern Territory, its bright beaches illuminated against an azure sea, even from 35,000 feet up. It’s the first time I’ve felt an urge to explore it*. Chris will be thrilled. Watching the night lights flying out of Hong Kong, they were pretty spectacular, the neon blaze of the city followed by the quieter glow of surrounding towns, intersected and connected by rivers of light – traffic! The most spectacular perhaps though, was watching the moon, hung low in the sky, atop a blanket of cloud, curving away from us. You don’t often get to to see a visual representation of earth’s curvature.
We’re staying in Paddington, in a white terrace house, mere metres from Hyde Park. It’s a studio apartment with gorgeous views and everything we need, but the real attraction is the park. We’ve not stayed on this side of the park before – usually we are on the other side, in Kensington. As is our (my) custom, it’s here we explore first, having addressed and choked on my first London coffee. Was rather desperate for one. I’m sure there is good coffee in London, but I’ve not found it yet.
The park is in glorious summer mode. Birds a twitter and squirrels a plenty. We wander through the Victoria garden with its Italianate ponds and fountains, recently restored thanks to a generous donation from Tiffany & Co in New York. Londoners are out in force taking advantage of the sun. Many, many tourists about too.
It’s not long before we spot a squirrel. Just as well I’m prepared with a bag of almonds in tow. With a quick call of “tch, tch, tch” he’s on full alert – it’s clear he knows the drill – he bounds over and happily, gently accepts a nut. I love them so. This little one is very sweet – he hangs around for a while flashing his lovely tail in exchange for treats. A few friends join him. It’s amazing how clever they are. I coax one up Chris’s leg and from there on, they perform this trick happily.
We’re dragging by this stage and Chris is dying for sleep. The plan is to burn through the jet lag tonight and start fresh tomorrow. We head home but are distracted by a fabulous sight. A man feeding what seems to be wild green parrots at the edge of the park. What parrots are doing flying free in London, I do not know. He’s not chatty, the man, and eventually moves on. There’s no way I’m missing this, I take my chance, hand full of nuts, outstretched in hope. The parrots look down in contemplative judgement. Is she trustworthy? I pass it seems, and they land in my hand, very politely, one at a time, and collect their nut. Their weight is surprising, they’re quite big. Emboldened, a long tailed tit, takes his chance. He’s tiny, a matchbox bird – he lands, scores his treat and zooms off. Oh! So exciting!!! Wild birds, eating out of my hand. Thrilled. I’m having my Snow White moment and loving it. A small crowd has gathered, my enjoyment is somewhat infectious. Chris drags me away, a squirrel has caught whiff of nuts on offer and wants to be friends.
I’m too excited to go home, so I send Chris back while I set off in need of coffee (no better than the first) and to find Paddington Bear. It’s a cosmopolitan spot, lots of restaurants and cafes to hand. A good deal of development too. The station is getting a major overhaul and it takes me a while to find him, but there he is, red hat tipped in greeting, on platform 12. He’s pretty cute.
I dare not go too far without data on the phone, direction not my strong point. I do look very longingly in the direction of the park on my way home. I’d love to go back and settle under a tree with a book, but drag my tired self home I do.
Tomorrow, there’s always tomorrow.