Today was amazing. We slept in and watched an amazing sunrise from bed. It just goes to show that sometimes the best things in life aren’t planned. I like that theme for today, because it embodies our trip to London.
We started with a hearty breakfast at our hotel, where I was reminded that my eating habits are ridiculously restricting and that Europeans dress for every occasion, including hotel breakfast. Luckily Philip had convinced me to put on “real” pants before we ventured to the lobby for an impressive breakfast spread. We were surrounded by guests dressed in suits, with Burberry coats draped neatly over their briefcases as we dined and I was ever so glad that I had left my fuzzy PINK pj pants in our room. I scored an amazing window seat while Phil explored the breakfast offerings. He returned with coffee, croissants, fruit and a multitude of eggs and morning meat. I constructed an acceptable meal of egg whites, potatoes and roasted tomatoes on mini croissants, while averting my eyes to Phil’s less than desirable breakfast concoction. Runny eggs and meat in casing just doesn’t do it for me. Sometimes I really do wish I had his iron stomach.
After our meal, we returned to our room and got dressed for the dreary London weather. We were determined not to let the rain stop us and we set out for another busy day. Of course that meant a stop at the local Starbucks. There are only 2 on the street between our hotel and the underground! We keep hitting the same one, it’s newer and closer, but I do want to go to the other one, for old times sake.
We boarded the Angel train, black venti in hand and made it to the Tower of London. We’d been passing this amazing landmark every day and finally made a point to go inside. Admission was 21 pounds but definitely worth it. We were hoping to take a guided tour but it was cancelled due to the rain so we decided to brave it alone. It is a deceptively large compound and I truly felt like I was taking a step back in time with each footstep through the ancient halls and towers. We got to see the crown jewels, the torture chambers, the site of the royal menagerie, the prison cells, weapons, armor, chapels, living quarters and even some amazing art exhibits.
We’re big fans of the TV shows Tutors and Reign and basically anything having to do with those historic centuries of rule, so it was magnificent being in the actual places that some of the characters we’ve learned about walked, slept and lived. It was great to see all the school groups that were there as well. They all seemed so wide eyed and mesmerized. I did feel for the teachers, who proved that a British accent really can make anything sound better. I overheard one poor teacher muttering that taking his class to the Tower on such a rainy day was “an endless disaster,” before he scolded one child that had pushed him too far.
After we made it through the entire encampment, we grabbed a Pepsi and some chips (called crisps in London) so I wouldn’t have a hangry attack and we headed to the city ferry. We picked up where we had left off yesterday and took the ferry to its last stop in Greenwich. As soon as we disembarked and entered the quaint little town we instantly felt a connection. It reminded us of a British St. Augustine. The streets of the harbor town are lined with pubs, shops and galleries. There was even a farmers market, full of local venders and visitors strolling about with their dogs! It made us miss our dog Vince so much!
We grabbed a meal and some drinks after a quick jaunt through town and then had to catch the ferry back home so we’d have time to get changed for the London Book Festival. We navigated the underground like experts and grabbed an espresso and sandwich at Pret a Manager and a vintage purse at a thrift shop next door when I realized I hadn’t packed a purse for my award outfit (darn!) and then headed back to the hotel to do a quick make over.
Hair curled, make up on, we met our cab and were whisked away to The British Library. I feel I should mention that our cab was a ridiculously sweet looking Mercedes. I’m not really a car person so I don’t know what kind/class/model it was, but it was really pretty. But, what wasn’t cool was it was more expensive than the old school looking British Cabs and our driver totally looked like a serial killer. If you’re picturing Matthew Fox in Alex Cross you’re dead on! After reigning in my imagination, he let us out a block from the library and we hoofed it the rest of the way.
The British Library is amazing and it refueled my love of libraries! Why don’t I go to libraries more often!? I love the way they smell, of pages of knowledge and limitless possibilities. The British Library is huge! There’s a café, a restaurant, restricted floors of rare books and music, exhibits, there was even a literary event going on while we were there. It seemed to be for children’s books and I so badly wanted to sneak in, but I behaved and after a quick tour, we headed to the London Book Festival award ceremony, held in the conference center.
I truly didn’t know what to expect of tonight, but I just want to say I am so glad I came and it was truly an honor to be in a room with so many talented and creative people. We were greeted warmly with a cocktail reception and mingled with all the other attendees. I met so many people from all over; France, LA, Arizona, England, Australia. All of them had exceptional life stories and literary tales. It was so gratifying getting to meet people who know the struggles of writing and hearing their passion and channels for success.
After our meet and greet we were invited into a reception room where all of our books were on display. The event coordinator gave a great speech, reminding us that what we do as writers is a gift and that we should be proud of our work and having the courage to put it out there. She then introduced each award recipient, reading a brief synopsis of our work and then gave us the floor to make a short acceptance speech. I was so moved by what everyone was saying, who they thanked, what they’d learned and appreciated as well as what inspired them to do what they do. I felt a connection to each author and was honestly humbled to be among the people in that room.
When it was my time to accept my award for Runner-up in the Young Adult category for The Geneva Project, I was doing my best to hold back tears of happiness. My toast was short and sweet:
“Writing is truly my passion. It gives me a voice, where at times I feel I have none. It gives me courage to dream out lout and it allows me to believe that anything is possible in the beauty and magic of this world. I started writing The Geneva Project series for my son, so we would have a limitless creative world to discover together. When he passed away, it felt like all the light had been sucked out of my world. Over time, my writing has given that back to me. The hope that I can share the beautiful world of The Geneva Project with other children and their families. Bringing joy into their lives through my writing makes me happy and I know it would make my son proud. He has inspired me in so many way, but particularly to let go of fear and to embrace life. I am so honored and grateful to be here among so many talented and inspiring people who love to write as much as I do. Thank you.”
Attending this event has really ignited the fire that I’ve been missing lately. It makes me realize that literature is so valuable. It fosters imagination and creativity and it offers a place of refuge, where it’s safe to dream and where there are no restrictions. Few things in life are so precious and liberating as the limitless power of literacy. I can’t wait to finish book 2 in The Geneva Project series and get it out there to all the readers. Thank you all for your love and support. You are all my inspiration.
London Lessons for the day:
- Bacon in London is not like Bacon in the states. It’s either completely raw or just a large slab of ham.
- If you need to use the bathroom ask for the “toilet.” If you say bathroom or restroom people look at your weird for a second until they figure out your American.
- Teachers in London, want to murder their kids on field trips as much as teachers in the US. They just use a cute accent when scolding them. Very amusing for tourists like myself.
- Tipping: I guess you don’t tip bartenders, waitresses or cab drivers here? Everyone looks at us like we’re mad when we do and say things like “you’re very kind.”
- Trash is called rubbish. I usually call Phil the “land-phil” because of his endless ability to eat, but now I’ve dubbed him the “Big Ben.” Not as catchy I know. Also, people here think it’s weird if you try to throw your own trash away, like at a Starbucks or fast food places. And there are definitely not enough trash cans, sorry rubbish bins, around.
- Do NOT wear your PJ’s to breakfast. You will be sitting with people in expensive suits and feel like an American Idiot!
- Potato Chips are called crisps, French Fries are called Chips. Confusing I know.