It’s here! I’ve sat down to write a blog post on my trip to Africa numerous times and each time I’ve been overwhelmed by the task, and that’s possibly why it’s taken me over a week to get this baby up. And probably because I decided to back up my computer for the first time in 6 years, which took up all my nights after work this week.
As annoying as I’ve most likely become since my return, talking non-stop about my trip to anyone who will listen and posting numerous jetlag/baby animal pictures, I don’t think there is any way I can talk about this trip all in one post. I’m going to try and not get carried away (I did think about doing a post for each day), and break it up into 3 sections. I’m starting with my journey to Africa because it was such an arduous task that I can’t just skim over! Also, after flying into Heathrow 3 times in my life previously, I finally got to exit the airport and actually experience London…and reconnect with my old roomie, Robyn!!!! Then I will cover my safari experience in Botswana and Namibia, and finally wrap up with my stay in Zambia near Victoria Falls. If you’re interested to see what it’s like to travel to Africa in a weeks time, keep reading!
When I first started looking for flights to Africa, I had just over 2 weeks of travel time for the year. My sister had just gotten engaged, and my mom was planning a weeks stay on the Jersey Shore for my dad’s 60th. I was factoring in 2 trips to California, plus an additional trip to New Jersey that summer, so I knew my time away from work would be tight for the year–as it usually is when you live/work on an island 3,000 miles away from your family.
But, I was determined to make it work! Similarly with my trip to India, I figured I could travel to and from the continent over the weekends. If I left after work on a Friday and arrived back on the following Sunday, I would have just about 5 or 6 days in between. Sounds crazy right? Well at the time of booking it didn’t, but when I was boarding my third plane for an 11-hour red eye I literally thought I wouldn’t make it to my seat.
It was a quick journey from Nantucket to Boston, just a Cape Air puddle jumper. Okay, I do have to mention, it wasn’t so seamless. We “blew a turbo” and had to land in Hyannis to wait for a new plane to finish the trip to Boston. I thought my travel curse of 2014 was continuing to haunt me, but once back on board we made it there in no-time. Phew! I then killed some time in Logan shopping for a book (finally got to read Bossy Pants–and tried so hard not to laugh-out-loud on the plane. I highly recommend it!) and a neck pillow (also highly recommend the inflatable ones!), and enjoying a glass of red wine before boarding my 10 o’clock red-eye to London. I was flying Virgin Atlantic for the first time, and I have to say I loved their international service! Obviously I was flying economy, but everyone was so friendly and accommodating. Free cocktails, 3 choices for every meal, and my favorite–a usb port to keep all your electronics fully charged! I didn’t get too much sleep, but I woke ready to conquer London.
I didn’t check any luggage (with 8 planes ahead of me I didn’t want to risk losing it), but I did want to check my backpack into a locker so I didn’t have to lug it around the city. I had some spotty wifi in Heathrow so I was able to let Robyn know that I left the border with no issues and would be in Paddington Station within an half hour. I opted to pay more and take the Heathrow Express into London instead of using the regular metro. I figured if I only had about 6 hours in the city, the time I would save was worth every penny. If you buy a return ticket online in advance, you can save a bit more than buying your ticket in the station. The Heathrow Express takes 15 minutes and it was quick, clean, and efficient! It was a very pleasant experience for getting between London and Heathrow.
I had originally given myself more time to meet Robyn in case of any issues arising with flight or train delays, leaving the border, luggage lockers etc. but surprisingly everything went off without a hitch! So, I was a bit early arriving in Paddington Station. I, of course, bought a croissant and a cappuccino to hunker down and wait for Robyn. At this point I had no wifi, and I hadn’t seen Robyn in over a year–almost 2. I knew she had died her hair, but every platinum blonde that walked by caught my eye. We were literally standing right next to each other for a moment, and didn’t even realize it right away. But it was so good to finally see her! After our joyous reunion we headed out to our first stop, Big Ben.
It was actually quite comical. Neither Robyn nor I have the greatest sense of direction, so I knew it would make for an eventful day. We emerged from the Westminster (i think) tube station and Big Ben was bang-right there in front of us. We walked across the Thames to get as many good touristy shots as we could. We also got a good view of the London Eye. In the weeks leading up to this day, we had discussed touring the Tower of London or doing the London Eye. But with the stress of the trip upon me, I finally decided we shouldn’t try and do anything that would take up too much time, but rather just bash around and get lost in London with each other. I was already trying to squeeze Africa into one week, why should I also try and squeeze London into one day!? I knew that I would definitely be back.
We made our way over to Regent Street and checked out the department store Liberty–an awesome recommendation from my mom! She’s always right you know.
Aren’t those scarves gorge? Yeah, I thought so too, but they basically cost the price of my flight to London.
For the rest of the day we just kept walking all over this area of London. We stopped for lunch at Shakespeare’s Head, a pub on Carnaby Street, and continued on to Picadilly Circus, Covent Garden, and Trafalgar Square. I really enjoyed seeing this part of London, and I’d say it’s a definite must if you’re visiting. First off, it’s free to just walk around and you’ll see a lot of the iconic statues–the Eros fountain, Nelson’s Column etc. Perfect for getting those cheesy touristy pics! You’ll see mine below…
We ended up wandering through London’s China Town which was a treat because it was still colorfully decorated for the Chinese New Year.
We decided to find another pub to rest our weary feet (well my weary feet! I’ve made a new discovery that my feet inconveniently swell when I fly. Womp, womp.) and wet our pallets with another cider. It was so good to catch up and just have some girl talk! Everything from independence, travel, adjusting to work life…it’s always good to hear from others’ perspectives. Needless to say, I miss Robyn already and I’ll be back to London one day! It’s one of those places that is so close, I’ve never had any urgency to see it. I definitely need more than just a few hours to get the full experience. If anyone reading this knows me, they understand my obsession for the Tudor court and Anne Boleyn. The Tower of London is number one on my list for my next trip.
I said my goodbyes to Robyn, and hopped on the Heathrow Express. I had plenty of time to gather my bags, get through security, and sleep for an hour before my gate was announced. I settled in for the longest leg of my journey yet, 11 hours to Johannesburg. It would be the farthest I’ve travelled solo. Next stop, Africa!