Monday, January 31, 2011

First Trip to London!

This past weekend I decided to take a short break from France to head to the UK for a few very key reasons:

1. I had family friends in the UK whom I had not seen for over 10 years
2. My soon-to-be extended family has an (important) arm in the UK.
3. And of course - my better half was visiting her family in the UK and flying back to Paris with me.

SO! Lots of good reasons. Oh yeah also needed to get my tourist visa stamped before the "entry time" expired for first entry. weird concepts, but it is what it is.

I left on a day of "Discover yourself" at INSEAD - in terms of career. Do you want to go into banking, consulting, industry, or become an entrepreneur? Inspirational talks by folks in the professions left me wondering - what do I want. And so I thought - I can ruminate on my flight to London.

Little did I know that the flight from Paris to London is shorter than the 3 trains from Fonty to Paris. By distance it is obviously much further but the obvious moves from train to train to train eats up a lotta time.

ANYhow. My trip to the UK was quite amazing! I got to see family friends after so many years. Some things have changed so much and some things haven't changed at all! There's this feeling of comfort... something that's almost impossible to replicate. Something that just rises from within whenever you're around certain people who have seen you at certain points in your life (in my case during my pre-teen & teen years - not to mention that I babysat the children who are now 13 & 18!)

After the short stop at their place I took the tube into London to meet my better half AND Uncle, and two very lovable cousins - 8 & 12 respectively. We spent the day touring London. Saw it all - and I mean that. Started by waiting for them INSIDE the Ritz, which was pretty hilarious seeing as you are normally not let in with jeans. I walked in quite confidently, letting the concierge know that I was there to meet someone. No questions asked. I guess that's what happens when you look like you know what you're doing. An important lesson I have learned and applied many times in Business - at times taking risks but reassuring my clients/coworkers/etc... that everything is OK. That air of confidence, albeit hard to maintain for prolonged periods - really instills confidence and/or trust in others.

Or I'm just reading into it.

What else - ah yes, Buckingham Palace, London Eye, a Protest (against the tuition hikes, I think), National Gallery, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, London Bridge, KFC... so many things. And it was about -2 degrees CELCIUS. Why I am blessed with such temperatures on such tours I do not know (refer to my trip to Paris the weekend before).

So apparently the Queen is in when that flag is up... but she was right next to me ;)
But everyone else was such a good sport! Seriously, we were really all over town for several hours.
Not sure what is being protested...

At one point, during the protest, we ducked into a Cafe Nero to get some hot chocolate. The only hot-drink break the whole day!

Upon returning home, I was welcomed like a King! It was really quite sweet. And a night of celebrations continued with some of their family friends being invited and playing charades with the kids! Team Awesome vs. Team Fabulous. Some of the most interesting moments in terms of acting, but also in terms of seeing how words, thoughts, and phrases are perceived by others. Some clues, like barber, are easily explained. But there are others that have such a deep context in experience that you have to, at times, really bow down to the folks that thought up charades.

Anyhow, the rest of the trip continued in a similar fashion. Spending time with my (soon to be) newly acquired family. It was great to see family after the first month at INSEAD. I have become used to seeing my own family only once a year, so I don't really yearn in the unable-to-function sense, but I do yearn in the when-I-have-some-family-time-it-is-fully-capitalized and at times stored in my heart to be rationed over several weeks/months ;) I basically hold on to memories and, as the times get difficult, reflect on a late night run to a grocery store to pick up mama noodles or barbecuing in -2 degrees temperature!

All in all, twas really worth it, init.

It's that London Bridge that was always falling down... at least s'how I remembered it.

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