And here is goes – finally here is post #10 of my Northern hemisphere winter adventures. (Ironically and somewhat worryingly, the winter weather appears to have come back with a vengeance for those of you on the other side of the world to me – I hope everyone is safe.)
It was hard to leave Prague but it meant I now had five days to spend in London with Christian and Sophie. Had a lot planned – full Christmas tourist/shopping mode was activated.
Even in the two and a bit weeks since I left London, the Christmas vibe had been ramped up. There were now Salvation Army brass bands playing beautiful carols on every corner, Christmas lights and decorations on every possible surface, way too many people crammed into Oxford Street and the big department stores, all frantically doing their Christmas shopping.
We caught a couple of shows and then it was time for one of the things I had been very keen to do – ice skating at the Natural History Museum. It was just as magical and fun (and corny) as I had hoped for, especially when my two young people realised I could ice skate (quite well in fact) and they couldn’t!
Sadly experience on skates couldn’t save me from a collision with a fairly tipsy person, and I ended up executing a fairly impressive and painful fall, the consequences of which I am still getting treatment for back here in NZ. At the time however it appeared it was only my pride that was hurt. It was when I woke up the next morning and couldn’t move my shoulder that I realised I may have done some real damage. The joys of getting older…
The next thing we had booked was high tea at a beautiful hotel called The Rosewood. They theme their cakes in the style of famous artists – so intricate and amazing it was almost a crime to eat them, but we managed anyway. Got to hang out with Father Christmas as well! You may notice in the photo of all of us that I am favouring my left shoulder!
And then off to Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park for our last night together. When I left London to head up to York, Hyde Park looked completely normal. Somehow in two weeks it had been turned into an enormous fairground with Christmas markets, food, roller coasters and other death-defying rides – I cannot fathom how they manage to set it up so quickly each year.
This was the perfect way to end my adventures, at basically the ultimate Christmas market, wandering round eating fairground food on a freezing evening with lots of other happy people.
And then it was over, and back on the plane for two 12 hour flights back to a summer Christmas, suitcases packed with presents for the grandchildren.
This trip changed me a huge amount. I learnt so much about myself and what you can do when you have to rely on yourself alone. It was fantastic to realise that I can travel half the way around the world safely and look after myself. It was very satisfying to learn new photographic skills and visit places I had never been to before.
The more I travel, the more I realise that the world is full of amazing people and that they all have part to play in the ongoing narrative of our world that has been woven since the beginning of time.
I do think it will take me a while to process how much I love being in the UK and how much like home it feels. I so wish my parents were still with us so I could talk with them about their memories of growing up there. I finally understand why my mum never really warmed to Christmas in New Zealand even though she lived here longer than in England.
But I wouldn’t want to live there. I love our country, it is beautiful and has so much to offer. And of course while I will miss spending time with our youngest, the rest of our family is here and it was wonderful to be back with them.
Christmas does indeed look and feel very different here but I will enjoy what we do well in our Southern hemisphere sun-soaked festive season while cherishing the experience of my heritage this last few weeks.