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I am still processing all the emotions and feelings from the trip
I thought about starting this in the airport yesterday during the layover between my return trip and last leg back to Reno but I still didn’t have the words to really describe my experience. Hell, I am not sure now I still have it but I will try my best.
I had never been to Europe before this trip, and I was certainly looking forward to it but also I had no idea what or how to set my expectations for how things would go, and now with hindsight maybe that made the overall experience better, because it really let me just float through and have fun.
Here is a brain dump of my trip and thoughts, if you don’t care to read I understand, and if you were one of the very many people I met along the way, just know you helped make this a very special trip for me and you have my gratitude and thanks.
I love living in Reno, and I don’t think there are many places in the world I would realistically consider changing to. That being said having only a midsize airport and no direct flight to London is not great. Thankfully my layover in Dallas (which has a very nice international terminal, in an absolutely Texas-sized airport) was just long enough for an easy people-mover flight and a beer. I cheaped out on my trip and didn’t pick a seat on the plane but ended up in two seat row with three seats in front of me giving me adequate legroom and enough room where I was able to manage 4-6 hours of sleep.
Getting through customs at Heathrow was a breeze and catching the train into central London a piece of cake. I ended up at my hotel and fought the urge to try to take a nap (that felt like it would only lead to a harder time adjusting to the 8-hour difference and I think it was the right call) in favor of renting a bicycle and just going on a self-guided tour.
Bike riding probably isn’t for everyone but I would absolutely recommend it. London is a bike-friendly city (certainly by USA standards) and is pretty flat and easy to ride. It can be a little bit confusing and easy to get turned around and know where you are going because you can’t as easily pull out your phone and see directions but it was still a nice way to see some of the big sites.
Friday afternoon after the bike ride included a stop at a couple of pubs because you have to and they really are literally on every block.
With the weather, it was a very nice way to get acquainted with the city and do a little bit of exploring.
The evening was dinner at a nice Italian restaurant in Islington with the crew, plus getting to celebrate Tim’s birthday. It was a great time and the first time I got to meet Clive, Paul, and Tim in person. Lots of great food, some good wine (my choice was the good one, no matter what Elliot wants to believe), and very nice conversation.
Afterward, the night was still young so a double shot of espresso and off to the pubs for a nightcap. We ended up at a couple of places and met a few more people along the way in what ended up a very nice night. The walk home was an adventure with my natural wayfinding points of mountains thrown off, as I ended up in the wrong direction making my way toward Highbury rather than King’s Cross. Thankfully I had enough processing power in my brain left to realize that the minutes to get home getting bigger was a bad thing and that I should turn around.
Saturday started off with a startle. The sun rising at 5am was not something I was ready for, and with the sun fully blasting at 5:30 am I was jolted awake thinking I did not set my alarm correctly. I was able to get a bit more sleep before deciding to get up and start the day. I had a few more hours thanks to my natural alarm clock than I had planned, so I decided to head to the Emirates Stadium.
This time I took the Arsenal exit off the underground and came over the bridge to see the Stadium for the first time and it did not disappoint.
I had restraint and respect for my suitcase and didn’t go overboard at the Armoury.
From there I had my way to the South of the river to do the Bermsody Beer Mile. It was the perfect day to be in the sunshine and drink new beers. I met, what I would certainly call now a friend, Matt and eventually a couple of his mates and spent the next several hours going arch to arch trying different beers. I am thankful for the half pint and lower alcohol because otherwise I probably would have gotten myself in a bunch of trouble. I should have taken more care to check them in but the conversation and vibes were too good to want to pull out my phone.
After the beer mile, it was time for the live event at the Union Chapel. Here I got to meet so many people and had a fantastic time. It was a beautiful place filled with wonderful people.
I wanted to interrupt Paul from time to time like usual but was able to sit back and enjoy the show. The after-drinks portion in the bar was a trip, all the kind words of encouragement and love really made it a special time. I feel a little more disconnected to Arsenal (and the podcast) but people still coming up to talk to me about what I do and how much they like it (or even tolerate it, lol) was super cool and helped make it feel like even tho I am thousands of miles away I am still a part of this community.
Things ended on a quieter note with a drink in a small little pub where we all tried to recover from the massive high of meeting so man people and not go overboard before the match on Sunday.
I started Sunday better, remembering to close the curtains tighter and got up feeling quite hungry realizing that I had skipped dinner and went with a liquid bread choice, so I stopped and needed an English Breakfast.
I didn’t know I needed beans for breakfast but it worked out pretty good (I could have used a real cup of coffee tho). The bacon is different, and not how I typically enjoy it (I prefer it to be nice and crispy) but still bacon. The sausage was nice and had very nice seasonings. And fries well, it felt like a choice I needed to go with more drinking in my future.
After breakfast, the next stop was the Tollington.
The weather was perfect again for outdoor drinking and the crowd was large (even several hours before the match it was heaving). I will appreciate that the bar tenders even obliged my request to have my water with ice. The beer was cold, the atmosphere was wonderful, and getting to meet even more people was great.
Finally it was time to make my way to the stadium. With some direction from Clive on which turnstiles to use I got in and found my seats. I was fortunate and was able to get seats in the club level in the southwest corner and the view did not disappoint.
The actual match was a blur, and I have feelings over actual memories of what happened. Normally during a match, I take pretty detailed notes of events and I am looking at stats in real-time. Here, I decided that it was going to be a soak-it-all-in moment.
I may never get to go back to what a game in London in person, I would like to but you never know given how big of a trip it is and I wanted to just be there in the moment and I think I did a great job of it. It helped to see the team put five past a team that was pretty clearly on the beach, but it was still amazing to hear and partake in the songs. To high five and hug random people in the seats next to me and just overall enjoy the spectacle.
After the match, rather than try and to squeeze and at the Tollington again, we went to a place a bit further down the road called The Swimmer at the Grafton Arms. It was a perfect way to end the afternoon, with a few more beers but in a slightly more relaxed setting.
We called it a night at a fairly reasonable hour and I got myself a kebab (another thing that felt like you had to do) and bus ride back.
Overall it was a whirlwind trip, leaving the next morning for the long journey back home. It was also worth the exhaustion that I am feeling right now. Meeting all of the people that read and listen is amazing. Meeting the people that didn’t but just wanted to talk about Arsenal was fun. I got to be on the other side of that too, meeting people that I enjoy reading or listening to as well.
If I met you, thank you for helping make this an incredibly memorable trip and one that blew away what I thought it was going to be.