Nobody outside of Iceland can really pronounce 'Eyjafjallajoekull', so in a nod to Jon Stewart, I have taken to calling it 'Kevin'. Now Kevin the Volcano has been causing no end of trouble to people travelling within western Europe of late, so I was a little concerned in the days leading up to a planned trip to London last Wednesday, especially since my visiting mum and I were both flying to the U.K. but into different airports.
Thankfully, despite erupting a few days before our trip, the wind swept Kevin's ash south towards Spain allowing us to fly into the U.K. without incident. So began, a terrific week spent in the company of my oldest friend, Sheila, and her kids whom J desperately wishes were his brother and sister. We spent our days easily picking up where we left off in March. Like always, it was as if our sentence was interrupted, we paused for breath, and 2 months later resumed our conversation. Such is the gift of friendship.
Sheila, me and our kiddos during a walk in High Elms Park, Kent
My favorite things to do when I visit Sheila is to stock up on english language books at her local Waterstone's, indulge my addiction to Marks & Spencer's organic stem ginger biscuits, and go for a walk in the English countryside followed by a pub lunch with a pint of lime and lager. This visit, I even left J with Sheila for the day and travelled up to Hertfordshire to visit with some favorite cousins and my mum. We had a grand day together visiting stately Hatfield House and touring a bit around charming St. Albans.
Beautiful Hatfield House in Hertfordshire
A small part of Hatfield's gardens
It was a few days filled with laughter, love, food, friendship and family. I can't ask for much more from life than that. Well maybe for Kevin to behave, but I guess that was asking a bit much.
Pub lunch time
Sure enough by Saturday, Kevin's belching resulted in twin ash clouds headed directly toward the U.K. By the time we went to bed Sunday night, all predictions were that London airports would be closed the next morning. I rose at 4:30am and though Gatwick was indeed closed, it was expected to reopen by 7:00am, just in time for our 8:00am flight back to Geneva.
Sceptically, I roused J and we began our journey. One car and train ride later, we arrived at Gatwick just in time for Easyjet to cancel our flight. Back to Sheila's we headed, sigh.
Easyjet offered us a new flight two days later but I was fearful of missing that flight too since predictions indicated Kevin's continued grumpiness. So after discussion, J and I decided to traipse through Europe by train instead. The following day, which happened to be my forty-ahem-something birthday, J and I set out on our great European rail adventure.
We caught the 6:44am train at Penge East from Sheila's village into Victoria Station in central London. We then rolled our bags to the Victoria tube station and travelled directly to King's Cross/St. Pancras International Rail Station. From there, we stepped onto the elegant 8:02am Eurostar rapid rail service (through the Chunnel - very cool) to Paris's Gare du Nord. Now for those of you who don't already know, the Hendricks family LOVE LOVE LOVE Paris.
J and I wandered around a bit, breathing in as much of Paris as we briefly could before jumping into a cab to the Gare du Lyon. From there, we caught the 1:10pm TGV (Tres Grand Vitesse) directly to Geneva where C2 picked us up. Door to door about a 10 hour journey, really not too bad and actually more than a little fun. Of course, our European rail adventure cost about as much as my nearly full-fare Easyjet ticket but I'll take that up with Easyjet and Kevin later.