After our long awaited airport reunion, we experienced our first venture on the Tube, and located the flat in Islington, London we were sharing with another soldier family. We talked and I kept reaching over to touch his arm because I finally could. No longer were we looking through the computer screen longingly – I could finally touch his arm or grab his hand. It was something I took for granted before the deployment, but never again. We also exchanged early anniversary presents. I got him a fancy Fossil watch and he bought me a new camera to chronicle this great adventure we were on together. After talking most of the night and walking around the town a bit, we went to bed early to avoid jet lag and prepared for our first full official day in the great city of London.
Day 2 – August 29, 2013
Hawk and I decided to do a two day Double Decker bus tour around the city. We left our quieter little part of town and entered into the busy bustling city. We slowly but surely got the hang of the city life and public transportation (aka Tube). We exited the Underground and right in front of us was Trafalgar Square. To our right was the National History Museum, and to our left was Big Ben sticking up out of the city skyline. I think that was the moment that it finally sinked in. I was in London. Here were the places that I’ve dreamed of seeing, yet never thought I would see other than on a photo or a postcard.
We wandered around the city a bit, and walked past Buckingham Palace and got ourselves lost in the parks by the palace. We walked past the gardens, holding hands, and just soaked in each other’s presence. I saw other couples everywhere holding hands, laughing together, smiling, joking, talking sweetly, and I smiled and squeezed Hawk’s hand. It had been a while, a long while, since I had seen the couples around me, everywhere around me, and was able to fully smile. For five months I saw other happy couples and thought of the day where I could finally stop missing his hand in mine, I could stop the ache of missing a part of me, a piece of me. But, here, in St. James Park in Westminster, England, I no longer had to miss him. He was right next to me. And I sure do love it when he takes my tiny hands in his massive ones.
Our big excursion was to Westminster Abbey. Hawk and I are both history buffs, so we could’ve easily spent all day there. Surrounded by such history was surreal. So much history in such an intricate and beautiful place. We walked the path from the Royal Wedding and I whispered to Hawk “We should get married here!” 😛 We weren’t allowed to take pictures, but Hawk snuck a couple. It was an incredible experience to see the Coronation Chair where so much history was made, so many decisions, rulers who have shaped the world. Of course the English major nerd in me loved the poet’s corner where so many poets and authors were either buried or memorialized there, like Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Robert and Elizabeth Browning, the Bronte sisters, and Jane Austen, amidst many many others. It was a beautiful and memorable experience I will remember for the rest of my life.
After a late lunch in the Westminster Abbey cafe, we soaked in the majesty of the Parliament buildings and Big Ben and the infamous telephone booths.
Of course I tested out my fancy brand new camera. Taking lots of pictures of my favorite subject. My favorite person.
It was a long and full first day in the city. We returned to the flat pretty early to rest knowing we would have another full day in the morning. Hawk and I sat on the little patio outside in the most beautiful weather and shared stories and secrets and thoughts and dreams. We reflected on how far we’ve come together. The accomplishment of getting halfway through the deployment together. I memorized his laugh, his smile, his joking smirk, his “Emily” face all over again. The separation was extremely difficult, sometimes seemingly impossible, but this was a major milestone to make it halfway through. And here we were together again, in London, for some of the best days of my life.