For Spring Break this year, my mother and I chose an unconventional destination: Europe. With the perfect combination of a favorable Euro to Dollar exchange rate, and a round trip flight of just $400 if I could agree to the stipulations of a four hour layover in Reykjavik, Iceland – just long enough to get bored, but not quite long enough to leave the airport and packing requirements that limited me to just a small Jansport backpack, I could make my dream of visiting Europe for the first time a financial reality. Our first destination was England: four days in London, with a day trip to Bath, a former home of my namesake and my mother’s literary idol, Jane Austen.
My mother and I stayed at a little studio Airbnb just blocks from Victoria Station and Buckingham Palace. Because my mom went to bed early, and I was too nervous to go out at night on my own in a strange country, I took advantage of the extra time and set myself daily 6:30AM alarms to go on little 3-4 mile runs throughout my local neighborhood. I would never normally have the discipline to get up so early to exercise, but those runs turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the trip. On my runs, I had the opportunity to see the visiting cities tinged by the rainbow colors of dawn and feel alone at normally-packed tourist destinations. When there was no one else around as I circled Buckingham Palace on my run and headed into Hyde Park, I could imagine seeing the Queen just on the other side of the walls, slowly sipping her morning tea.
On a whim, for our last night we managed to snag tickets to Kinky Boots in the East End theatre district just moments before the curtain opened. It felt a little silly to see a show that had just recently left San Francisco – and had also been playing at our local Issaquah Village Theatre – but laughing alongside my mom about subjects we almost never discuss together made the trip feel intimate in the way it hadn’t yet. Afterwards, we debated various points of the storyline over red wine and pasta at a little Italian restaurant (later in the week, in France, the waitress would be extremely confused to hear us Americans refer to pasta as an “Italian” dish) and laughter.