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Overheard in Mayfair

June 19, 2014

I always imagined that I’d be a spontaneous traveler. I pack fast. I like camping and hostels. I don’t need anything fancy. But it turns out I’m an obsessive planner. I may pack at the last minute, but I have the most crazy-ass schedules for this trip you ever saw with phone numbers and schedules and tickets galore. I emailed one of the people I am meeting with to check where I’m supposed to meet him and he emailed me a map. If he weren’t on another continent, I probably would have kissed him. I love maps.

I love maps of places I’ve been but not in a long time. I’m pouring over maps of London and speaking aloud the names of places I remember but dimly — Regent Street, Camden Town, St. Johns Wood, Bakerloo. I also love maps of places I’ve never been. I read those places out loud too. Blue Boar Street, Brasenose Lane, Osney Mead, King Edward Street, Aristotle Lane. It’s like falling into a story.

I’ve been marveling at the differences since my last trip to Europe, which, shockingly, was more twenty years ago. This is perhaps the area where I am most aware of the technological developments in my lifetime. I no longer have to schlep giant, heavy transformers for my hairdryer. My ATM card will work in Europe. I can use my cell phone — something I don’t think I even knew existed when I went last time. And I am bringing a laptop, something I only dreamed of back when I was feeling lucky for having my very own Mac SE30 and a dot matrix printer. But I still need comfortable shoes, for I plan to do lot of walking. And although everyone has told me it’s unnecessary, I picked up some British pounds on my lunch hour today. I wanted to look at them, as if they’d tell me something. When I got home, I showed AJ how to hold them up to the light to see the watermarked pictures and we marveled at countries who put not presidents but regular people on their money (okay, the Queen is there too), people who did things like Charles Darwin and Elizabeth Fry.

I’m running out of things for my to do list. There’s laundry and packing of course. And I need to paint my toenails blue (my personal ode to May Swenson). That’s a must. But I’ve downloaded Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night onto my Kindle for inspiration — I own it in print, but my copy dates to my first year of college, so its pages are old and brittle. I was afraid it wouldn’t survive the trip. And a few of my friends have been helping with suggestions for an England-themed playlist. My favorite below. Additional contributions gratefully accepted.

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