Wandering around aimlessly can bring you precisely where you need to be

I am so glad that I brought 90 lbs. worth of travel guides with me to Europe, just to totally ignore them and wander around aimlessly, she thought with just a touch of sarcasm. 

I had this grand idea before my trip that I was going to read through my tour guides of Italy, France, London and Reykjavik to pull out individual pieces of information that would create a strong game plan for what I wanted to do. Unfortunately, as my trip quickly approached and I became bogged down with all the hyper-necessary details such as "where am I going to sleep?" and "how am I going to get there?," my sightseeing plans fell by the wayside, and I decided that I needed to bring all of the books with me.


Fried haddock and "chips" (fries, for Americans out there,
as "crisps" are what we would recognize as being chips in the
U.S.) from Nick's Fish and Kebab Bar in Debden
on Oct. 29, 2014. Photo Credit: Lauren J. Mapp

Travel Tip: download e-book versions of travel guides 
to a Smart device or iPad instead of lugging them around from
one side of the continent to the other.

Despite not having a game plan, nor having time to read the guide en route to London, I still managed to see quite a bit during my short amount of time in the city. 

I stayed at my friend Alyssa's house in the town of Debden, a little village on the outskirts of Greater London. Upon my arrival, Alyssa and I got a plate of fried haddock and chips to share from a local fish and chips shop near her house (Nick's Fish and Kebab Bar). The fish was a huge portion, so we shared one order and brought it back to her house to eat before we both did a little bit of writing and headed to bed. 

The next day, it was time for me to venture off to on my own, so I took "The Tube" from Debden to Piccadilly Circus, which was really two clowns and an elephant short of being a real, three-ring circus. With what seemed like a million people buzzing past me in every which direction, I realized that I needed a backpack for my camera and other belongings, and I needed to create a better plan for my day, thus I purchased a backpack and a map of Harry Potter sites in London (because, dork alert), and set off to follow this wizarding-inspired, self-guided tour of the city.

The Harry Potter, novelty map that I purchased from a street
vendor in London on Oct. 30, 2014.
Photo Credit: Lauren J. Mapp

After the confusion of trying to read/follow a novelty map, I gave up after approximately 10.75 minutes, and I meandered into St. James Tavern for my first proper "All Day" or "English" breakfast plate. Comprised of chips, a sausage link, blood sausage, a rasher of bacon, grilled tomato, beans, a sunny-side up egg and mushrooms, this rather large plate and a pint of Noble lager from Green King/Morland Brewery pretty much kept me full for the rest of the day (though I did find other opportunities to eat).

St. James Tavern is one of London's "last traditional pubs" (according to their website), and it is widely known as one of former stopping grounds of Charles Dickens, author of such works as "A Tale of Two Cities," "Great Expectations" and "David Copperfield." While sitting in the somewhat crowded pub (crowded in that tables where close together, not so much in the population density around brunch time on a weekday), I tried to imagine what it would have been like in the 1800s, prior to commercialized beer taps and televisions showing football games.

Instead of tourists and sports fanatics, the room would be filled with women in extravagant dresses and corsets, men smoking tobacco from their pipes and the musty smell of an era before the regular use of soap and deodorant. As great as it would be to see what it was like back then in person, I'll keep my sanitized, contemporary version.

All Day Breakfast of sausage, blood sausage, roasted tomato,
mushrooms, beans, bacon and egg from St. James Tavern in
London on Oct. 30, 2016.
Photo Credit: Lauren J. Mapp

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