Today was a very long but eventually very lovely day.
We had to check out this morning so we woke up, repacked our things, wished our roommates well and headed downstairs to eat some bananas, peanut butter and seed bread. Both of us still felt sort of terrible and we realized it was probably the lack of coffee.
Next stop: O’Neill’s for two (bottomless) coffees. We talked about our trip, future trips and our incredible ability to get way ahead of ourselves. After an attempt to get on a double decker to Paddington (have to go to the Underground to get tickets, buses won’t let you pay them directly) we made our way an alternative way.
Choosing today to travel was maybe a really terrible idea. I have a difficult time in crowds and Henry is starting to recognize what my face does right before I totally shut down and engage panic mode. There was an overwhelming amount people out today, all hoping to get home to their loved ones. Our tickets were the cheapest ones we could find which meant that we were only allowed to be on certain trains, one of which we missed, the other which was completely full. After sitting and looking at the board of departures and debating whether we just wanted to wait until the evening, we got up and upgraded our tickets so that we could catch the afternoon train.
We rushed to get through the gates, an old lady shoved my backpack with all her white-haired might in an attempt to get by me and Henry and I rushed to get to the cabin where we were allowed to sit. He politely asked a young woman if she would mind sitting by a stranger so that we could sit together. We got settled, I pulled out my computer to write and as he was getting situated with his journal he turned to me and said: “I know we’re in love, but can I put this arm separation down…for a moment?” and the two of us set to work.
It was a terribly stressful train ride. There were more people than seats and everyone on the train was cranky and anxious to get to their homes. We tried to tune it out as the sun set and thankfully, after not too terribly long, the two of us arrived in Newton Abbot. Dave picked us up and drove us to his home where I met his wife (and Henry’s cousin) Erin and their daughter Sophia.
Erin had prepared an incredible meal of two lasagnas—one with meat and gluten, the other “special needs” lasagna: vegetarian and gluten-free. We ate until we were more than full and laughed until tears threatened to fall as Dave and Sophia told stories using glasses and cheese as characters while the candles burned down.
We cleaned up a bit and all moved to the living room—pardon, the lounge—where Erin taught us to fold paper lanterns. She quickly acquired an assembly line and we set them up on a string of lights to make a gift for Maya. While the lot of us were folding music was playing, the wind howled outside and the Christmas tree lights shined. Henry leaned over and whispered “this is hygge” and I had to agree. The whole thing was so warm and welcoming.
I opened the package my mom had sent to their house and found a few wrapped things along with the ingredients to make pecan pie and ugly cookies, my usual Christmas duties and what we thought would be a nice gift for our hosts. I took what was the best shower I think I’ve had since leaving the states and Henry and I set up our spot in the living room before passing out, exhausted, full and happy.