A few months ago my sister mentioned that she was going to London with my mother and my aunt in order to see family out there. In brief, I hold a UK Passport, but have never visited that side of the pond in my life. And I hadn’t seen my mom’s uncle Terry, who visited a number of times when I lived in Grenada and remember fondly, since I was nine. I used to write letters (when I first learned how to write) to mom’s aunt as well, who sadly passed before I ever got to visit.

My sister was kind enough to spot me a ticket as I couldn’t afford one quite yet, and on the 12th I flew out to the East Coast with my mum, joined up with my sister and my aunt. And on Tuesday the 13th then flew to Toronto and onwards to Heathrow on a roughly eight hour flight.

That’s a long haul.

Tired and totally confused by the five hour time change, we landed in London. Terry picked us up, kindly enough, and took us back to his house (where my sister and I would be staying) [cute view of countryside from the window of my room below]:

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Since we had a few hours to wait until we met with more of the family in the London area that I had never met before, I took a moment to slip off to a train station, barrel the 30 minutes into London, and do a little bit of bookish-related business [cross your fingers for me]. Then turned right around to meet Terry’s daughter Karen (my mum’s cousin) and her side of the family, who were insanely welcoming and awesome to us. They lent us a small Vauxhall, and I volunteered to be the Guinea Pig that learned to drive on the left, with a stick shift, with roundabouts [my internal monologue for a day was: left left left lef], and drive us everywhere.

With a car, my sister handling navigation, and some quick reading online of guides to European road signs, we day tripped out to Windsor Castle:

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We couldn’t take pictures inside, but my favorite moment was recognizing a Rembrandt before leaning in to read the painting’s plaque and seeing I was right.

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The next day I led everyone into London and scoped out one of those touristy buses you can just hop on and hop off of so that we could see all the various high points in rapid order, and stop for anything that got our interest:

Big Ben, etc:

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A giant shrubbery! At Covent Garden (I popped into the Apple store for an iPad charger as we enjoyed lunch):

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The London Fog was out in force in this quick pic of The Shard:

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We only had an hour, but we ran through the Tower of London, saw the Crown Jewels:

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Back at Terry’s, there were pictures of my family from when I was just a little kid I had no idea even existed (some were pictures of events I actually have memories of, and some stirred up the feels of remembering what a crazy childhood that was, and others were strange, like seeing my biological father’s face. It’s strange to see my facial expressions and some posture on someone I haven’t seen since I was nine and is, essentially, a stranger). But, seriously, who is this kid (my hair goes blond in the sun):

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The next day we drove a few hours out to Stonehenge:

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And to Cardiff, Wales. Lots of my grandmother’s side of the family came from the Swansea area, I gather. No one is there anymore, so the family all said to go to Cardiff for the shopping (holy shit… the shopping). My mum’s a huge fan of Torchwood, so I took her to Cardiff Bay quickly via taxi for this shot:

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Also, for those of you in Wales, not all the candy in here is American. I just want to say:

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The Cardiff Library was pretty amazing:

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And then, before we knew it, we were packing up and making our way back. A week sounds like so long when you’re planning, but when you arrive in a whole new country, it’s just a whirlwind.

One of the strange things about my life is that my passport is English (mum was born in the greater London area), but I’ve lived in the Caribbean. And then the US. So getting to visit was cool.

Another strange thing is that I don’t have much family. I’m not connected well to my biological father’s side of the family for various reasons. I’m not super connected to my stepfather’s side. And my mum’s side scattered off from pieces of family in the UK that ended up in various places around the world. But getting to visit Terry’s family, my mum’s cousins, and all their family, was something that doesn’t usually happen to me. Outside of a small number of people on the East Coast, this is some of the first extended family I’ve ever really known of or met. So getting to know them, and see Terry again (who I haven’t seen since I was 9), was worth the trip alone.

I didn’t get as much work while in transit as I’d hoped, but I don’t even slightly regret that. It was a rare opportunity, and now that I’ve met the family over there and been, I really hope to get a chance to go back again.

Also, we went out and had drinks at a 900 year old pub that was just down the road from the family.

900 years old, man.