Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Last call for booking enquiries

I'm busy readying the house today in anticipation of our 28th American visitor, who will be arriving tomorrow morning for a weekend stay. My friend Kari is leaving her children (including a beautiful new 4 1/2 month old daughter) in her husband's capable hands and escaping to London for a weekend of girl talk and sightseeing, and I could not be more excited about her impending arrival. Her visit will be the highlight of my May, just as my parents claimed that honor for April, close family friends for both March and January, one of Julia's best friends for December... the list goes on and on.

I suppose that the fact that we've had so many visitors here speaks as much to the appeal of our current location as to the allure of our company. If we lived in Podunk, USA and people came to visit in droves, now that would be a testament to our friendships and our great charm as hosts, but London's a slightly easier pull. With the price of hotels and the exchange rate being what they are, who wouldn't want to take advantage of free lodging in one of the world's most amazing cities?

Nonetheless, I can't help but feel incredibly touched that so many people have made the transatlantic trip to see us in the past two years. This will be the 15th time in 20 months that I've stocked the fridge and prepared guest linens and laid out extra towels, and each time it's given me a thrill to know that the relationships we hold dear have stood the tests of distance and time. Kari's not the first person to leave a baby behind to come see us. Others have even brought their kids (if voluntarily flying across an ocean with small children for a visit isn't a sign of love, I don't know what is). A few hardy souls have actually come back to see us a second (or even third) time. Each time, our guests are our whole world for as long as they are here, and the warm glow of familiarity and cameraderie that their presence brings to our London home lasts long after they've left.

I will do the Buckingham Palace/Trafalgar Square/Big Ben and Parliament/London Eye loop for about the eighty-fifth time this weekend. I will make yet another trip to Kensington Palace and I'll point out the highlights of my neighborhood for the gazillionth time. We will visit a classic English pub for a pint, a classic English park for the pictures, a classic English tchotchkie shop for the requisite souvenirs. I've got the tourist shtick down pat by now and I'd be lying if I said it still holds the same "wow factor" for me that it did two years ago. I could very nearly give the full Thames boat ride spiel myself. I'm kind of over Diana's dresses. I still don't much care for warm beer. And yet, somehow it's still fun every time.

It was great to see my father in law's delight at the sight of cars with steering wheels on the right. It's been fabulous to watch Julia and Evan show "their" London to other American kids. It was exciting to host our friends who are Giants fans for a game played on London soil. It's been lovely to welcome back people who've come to feel a bit at home here themselves. And most of all, it has been unbelievably important and wonderful for us to discover over and over again that despite the fact that we up and left everyone we cared about to move here, our American relationships remain strong and true and real. The whistle stop tour of London may be getting old, but our guests provide all the "wow factor" we need.

I'm hardly a natural hostess and this is not a huge flat. Our lives and routines are thrown out of whack every time someone turns up on our doorstep. And yet surprisingly, that's been just fine with me. I'm going to miss these intense stints of sharing time, adventures, and tight living space with the people we love. I'm even going to miss the extra meal planning and the schedule juggling and the tour guide routine intrinsic in each house guest's visit. Kari's the last scheduled guest on our calendar, but we've still got a few months left here in London and fares are pretty low right now. The sleeper sofa still has some life to it and there's some more money left on the extra mobile phone and Oyster cards we keep ready for guests. Anyone else want to see Big Ben?


Blogger Iota said...

What's that about living in Podunk USA? No need to get abusive.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Victoria said...

Me. Is it too late to come visit?

6:29 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home