Our luggage engineered by Ruth (I don’t know how she does it but she is an Olympic-level packer), and stored at Paddington Station, we had one last day in London before our flight back to Sonoma County. We had a lovely afternoon in Chelsea at the Physic Botanical Garden, founded in 1687, the oldest such garden in London, a city noted for its gardens. This one is walled, next to the Thames, and didn’t disappoint. First of all, we went to its cafe which served food and drink that could have been Michelin rated. We got in line and chose the salmon, perfectly grilled and surrounded by a delicious pastry crust, with a side salad and a glass of Italian pinot grigio. Never have we seen such a meal served at a botanical garden in the States. We ate at tables surrounded by plants in the garden with yet more friendly people, this time David and his wife Maryann from London, progressives who were boycotting Harrods because of the fellow who owns it, and bemoaning the fascists in the government who were intent on regulating everything.
David grew up near Stonehenge, which we didn’t get to see, explaining that the huge prehistoric blue stones actually came from many miles away in south Wales, transported via water and overland. He had no idea how they were brought overland but, in fact, they were. How they were put upright is still a mystery. They left for a tour and we shook hands as I joined Ruth to review these gardens with plants from all over the world, including ones for edible and medicinal purposes, which was of particular interest to Ruth who uses flower essences in her practice.
We left and ambled down the Thames for a bit, finally catching a two tiered bus on our way to the Victoria and Albert Museum, for more Arts and Crafts wonders of the late 19th century. Caught by London gridlock we talked our way off the bus (the driver was none too happy about breaking the rules) and walked until Ruth went off to the Museum and I took a break at the magnificent Michelin Building, had an apple elderberry drink and surveyed the rush hour scene, sitting near a flower vendor who took whatever time was necessary to make sure her customers got the right bouquet for their needs. Lovely to watch her serve with care and expertise.
Vacation last days have a bit of sadness in them, but also a bit of anticipation for the return home and thought of settling into your own bed again. Funny that the bed is the place most anticipated. Those vacation beds are not of our choosing, and can often be just not quite right. Hobbits spend a lot of time picking out their beds and they are quite right. Quite right, indeed. But vacation is over and planes return where they started and we think back to the fine times we had and the people we met and the things we did that we never did before and the adventures we encountered, like the sprained ankle I suffered climbing the hill to the beeches and bluebells above Princes Risborough, and the time I left my sling bag in a London pub and ran back from Covent Gardens in a panic to retrieve it, finding it on the floor just where I left it, and the time Pam, our great host in St. Andrews had me try haggis with a bit of whiskey poured over it which I actually liked very much, to the time, I, a golfer of 50 years played in the rain, hail, wind, and sleet on the oldest golfing linksland in the world.
Ah yes, ’tis a mixture of nostalgia and joy on the last day of a vacation, a day that comes to us without any effort or volition on our part. It is, like every other day, to be experienced, felt, and lived, fully, gratefully.