Leaving Cardiff and its vivid green and smoky grey landscape in the morning we had our massive bags twisting in our hands behind us like some kind of obese ballerinas. It would be our last big city change. Hours later, we drove into London as the sun was setting, at 4pm. In the last hostel we would stay in, we had managed to find another hammock style bed and a set of showers with ten second stop buttons, see-through doors and pressure so low it was like washing your hair in the rain. In the morning we planned to go back to Greenwhich where we had stayed at the beginning of the year and loved for its community feel and markets. Unfortunately, the weather report disagreed so we spent the day relaxing and reading. On our single outing for the day we found ourselves in an industrial area and decided we didn’t like it all that much.
Ella had spent the last few days applying for various jobs and on Friday she headed out for two interviews, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Hayley came in to town in between to find out Ella had been offered a hospitality job at Winter Wonderland that morning and would be working in Hyde Park through the winter. We celebrated by going to the theatre after, and took some time to decide but ended up going to see Mamma Mia. We could both imagine our mothers dancing along to the songs like many who were closer to the ABBA-generation than us, but we loved it all the same. Especially the guys with possibly the hardest dancing job on the planet – not the moves as such just the fact that they were wearing wetsuits and flippers while doing so must have been a fairly decent workout.
In the morning we made it back to Greenwhich where we retraced our steps at the markets, buying books and food from the stalls. We continued on into town for a wander later on before meeting up with Kim and Jarryd from the TravelTalk tour later on. As it were, they rang us as we were walking by London Bridge and were only a few minutes away. The four of us raided as many cheese/dips/meat/wine and relish stalls as we could manage before lining up on the banks of the Thames with thousands of others to watch the brief fireworks show in honour of the mayor and something important he had done that we never really figured out. Not wanting to leave London without the compulsory night out at the ‘Walkabout’ or ‘Walkie’, we all headed there for ‘a quiet few’. It is one of two in London and almost exclusively frequented by Australians and Kiwis as well as the odd South African. The clientele didn’t disappoint and we ended up staying a tad later than expected and made a mad sprint to the train station at the end of the night to catch the last link home.
Finally leaving the last hostel we would stay in, and feeling pretty happy about it, we packed up in the morning. We took a couple of trains out to meet Hayley’s friend Maurice who we would be staying with in south London for a couple of days. We spent all of that day eating and watching movies, and finishing it off with an amazing roast dinner. The day after we had planned for a trip to the zoo, but as plans go, the London weather wasn’t agreeable and the website ticket area crashed. Alas, we spent the day eating and reading. Somehow we managed to break a window latch and just about set fire to the kitchen as we cooked dinner that night but thankfully no Hayley’s or Ella’s were hurt. We were treated to champagne and strawberries after two very lazy and unproductive yet highly relaxing days.
The end of the trip was rapidly becoming very real as we made it to our last stop at Kate and Pete’s. Ella spent the afternoon out looking at a flat and Hayley stayed behind to play with two year old Freya, and the newest addition, Harry. Ella came back with news that she took the flat and was moving in in two days time, the day she was due to start work and the day Hayley would be getting on a plane to head home. We had offered up our services as babysitters for the night so Kate and Pete could go out for dinner and ended up spending the night trying to calm down a crying little girl and an angelically quiet sleeping baby.
Our last day went very quickly. We did what we had done for what felt like over half of the trip. We shopped. We took to the streets of central London and went into every store that we had come to know and love. It was dark again at 4pm and we watched the Christmas lights come on and look very pretty and sparkly as we caught a double-decker red London bus home.
The surreality of waking up the next morning was only to be matched by that of the morning of April 1st when we left. Ella had packed up early and left for work and to move into her flat. Hayley slowly packed up, tidied up, and walked out the door one last time for the thirty-something hour trip home.