Ladies and Gentleman, thank you for boarding the 8pm flight to London. Unfortunately it’s not good news, we have at least another 1 and a half hours before we will be taking off.
It seemed the whole plane shifted from the almighty harmonised groan of the 200 and something easyJet passengers. Each one seated and buckled, waiting to go. And so we sat in our seats, already on a fairly late plane headed to London, now going nowhere.
We’ve been to London quite a few times. We’ve stayed in our share of hotels, apartments and places we rather not mention.
And so when our delayed flight touched down at Gatwick a lot later than expected, and we were dragging our sleeping kids, plus several pieces of luggage from the taxi you can imagine the mood we were in.
Often we will choose a hotel over an apartment if we are flying in late because there’s someone waiting and ready for our arrival. Well, Citybase Apartments actually went one better.
There was no one waiting.
Our London City Apartment
Don’t worry, this is a good thing. There was a key inside the lockbox and we had been provided with a code for the box in advance.
Why is that better than having someone waiting? Because we were free to be grumpy, free to let the kids wail and cry, free to curse as we kicked our heavy luggage over the doorstep and free to peel off layers of travel clothes, lay on the bed and stare at the ceiling. All this without any obligated small talk with a well-intentioned hotel staff member.
And despite the late hour, the exhausted children and the hefty bags, coming into a luxury apartment just steps away from St Paul’s Cathedral would make anyone feel happy, relaxed, at home.
All of us climbed into our giant king size beds, pulled up the covers and fell fast asleep. And it was a luxurious, deep sleep - safe and welcoming in one of our favourite cities in the world. London.
The next morning we discovered the apartment was everything it promised – well-appointed, tastefully decorated, superbly spacious (in a city where space is at a premium) and an unbeatable location. Josh stepped outside for a few minutes and returned triumphantly with breakfast for everyone. And later that day we took a stroll along the Thames River towards the Tower of London.
The Poppies At London Tower
The walk from the apartment was riddled with unusually dense throngs of locals. It was quite a curious thing. Until we happened upon the Tower and the other 24,000+ people come to see it that same day. I mean, it’s not everyday London gets 21°C weather… let alone in late October! It was a friggin' miracle.
We squeezed our children between bustling bodies to commandeer precious spots along the fence, before we stopped and stared at the breathtaking sight before us.
By the 11th of November some 888,246 poppies were added to the moat around the Tower of London transforming it into a crimson sea. One handmade ceramic poppy for each British person who perished during World War I. Each poppy was pre-sold to an individual looking to keep a unique piece of history.
After many minutes I asked my kids if they had seen enough. My 5-year-old daughter briefly looked up at me and then back to the flowers, eyes narrowing and unblinking.
She said, “I can’t stop looking at them. They are so beautiful.”
And from the inspired mouths of babes we can only but start to comprehend the profoundness of the ultimate sacrifice of those men and women made for their nation. Those men and women who did something ‘beautiful’ for someone else.
The poppies were a well thought-out expression and something I am pleased and privileged to have witnessed during my time in London.
We headed back to our apartment and spent the rest of the day enfolded in its warm walls. We realised how blessed we were to have the centrally-located accommodation as reports came in of Tower Tube Station being closed down due to the overwhelming numbers of visitors coming to see the poppies. We had simply been able to walk, and a leisurely one at that.
I bet I don’t have to describe how sad we were to depart the next day. But Josh had business to do at the World Travel Market at ExCeL and it seemed only fitting to head to an apartment on that side of town.
It was easy enough to vacate the property, place the keys back in the lockbox and close the door. But it wasn’t as easy to turn our backs and walk away.