A little while ago, I suddenly found myself at a loss. My dream holiday to Norway had been cancelled as my friends could no longer go, and it felt like the bottom had fallen out of my world. Norway has, for some time now, been the object of my affections – my unrequited love. To think that I was so close to getting out there, only to have the plans crumble away at the last moment almost sent me into a downward spiral, but I decided not to let this set back stop me from chasing my dream.
I had no idea how I would go about finding someone new to accompany me to Norway, but then I stumbled upon the Thorn Tree forum, which has a section for people seeking travel companions. At first I was dubious. I can barely muster up the courage to communicate with people in real life, let alone on the internet, so putting my plans on there was a terrifying thought. However, I managed to push through my anxieties and wrote up a quick post, detailing my situation and what sort of travel buddy I was looking for. I wasn’t expecting this to get me anywhere – I mean, who willingly goes on holiday with complete strangers?
Well, I did, to my surprise, strike it lucky! My post had been online for only two days, and I already had a couple of people expressing an interest. One of those people was Katie, a fellow photography enthusiast from across the country. We got chatting and it soon became clear that we were two peas in a pod. We had similar music taste, we both loved comedy, and we seemed to have a lot of similar quirks. I knew, pretty much from the get go that Katie was the right person, but I still wanted to make sure, so we chatted for several weeks before booking anything.
Once we were both sure what we wanted, Katie and I booked our trip. We’ll be going to Tromsø in February, and will hopefully get to enjoy a proper Norwegian winter, with snow and Northern Lights. In many ways, this trip sounds even more exciting than the original!
Anyway, that’s enough back story! On to Hyde Park!
Katie and I really wanted to meet before we set off on holiday, but with living so far apart, this could be tricky. We decided to meet up in London in October. Katie suggested taking our cameras to Hyde Park to capture the pretty Autumn leaves. I had never been to Hyde Park before, so I was up for the adventure.
I arrived at Paddington a little while before Katie, so took some time to wander around the area. Whenever I go to London, I’m always struck by how built up it is – it’s nothing like the sleepy town I live in. The towering, modern buildings have a charm all of their own, and I enjoy them just as much as I enjoy a more natural landscape view.
Not wanting to wander off too far, I grabbed a coffee and went for a walk to Little Venice, a place I’ve walked through before, but never really had the time to enjoy.
Finally it was time to meet Katie. I headed into Paddington station, which really is a daunting place for someone used to a tiny, two platform station with two trains per hour. I found a spot to stand and waited to be found.
As I stood there, feeling ever so slightly nervous about the throngs of people bustling around me, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see Katie with a huge grin. We hugged each other excitedly – I think this moment was when we realised just how real it all was! She was a real person! I was a real person! Norway was really going to happen!
Our first stop was to Hyde Park. We grabbed a cab from outside (my first time in a London cab!) and were driven right into the heart of Hyde Park, in front of Serpentine Lake. The first thing that struck me about Hyde Park was just how many birds there were: seagulls, geese, swans and some birds we didn’t even recognise. They were all flocking around a group of tourists who were attempting to feed them. It looked like utter carnage!
We sat by the lake for a while, chatting. I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable I felt around Katie. I’m not the most confident person around new people, but Katie didn’t feel new to me. It didn’t even matter that I mixed up my words a few times – we just made a joke about it.
Next, we had a wander into the trees, to get some photographs of the gorgeous orange leaves. The colours really were beautiful, but the sun was shining so brightly, it was hard to get a good shot without it being over-exposed. I did manage to get a few decent shots in the end, though.
While we were in amongst the leaves, we spotted a big round stone under a tree. At closer inspection, we couldn’t believe what is was!
This stone, originally from Norway, was gifted to Britain by the Royal Norwegian Navy and The Norwegian Merchant Fleet in 1978 to thank us for “friendship and hospitality during the second world war”. Norwegian?! If there ever was a sign that our trip was fate, this was it!
After getting some snaps, we walked along to check out the pedalos we had seen going up and down the Serpentine. We were a bit unsure whether we wanted to give it a try, but curiosity got the better of us in the end, and we rented one for half an hour.
Working the pedalo was a little challenging – you have to steer left to go right, and vice versa – but it was a lot of fun. Katie and I had a whale of a time as we made our way along the lake. We even brought a friend along for the ride. Meet Duck!
In between pedalling and taking photographs, Katie and I squeezed in a lot of bonding time. It became apparent that we were very similar in a lot of ways, and we were both sure that we were going to have the best time in Norway.
Once our half hour was up, we were back on dry land and found ourselves inside The Serpentine Bar & Kitchen, where we each enjoyed a delicious hot chocolate and more conversation.
Suddenly, we realised that the day was running away from us. Due to relying on public transport to get home, I would have to leave fairly early in the evening. So, we left the cafe and took another quick trip over to The Hard Rock Cafe for a drink. I must admit, this was the least impressive part of our day. How would I describe The Hard Rock Cafe? All show and no substance. It was impossible to get a seat at the bar, and we could only sit at a table if we planned to eat. The drinks and food were ridiculously expensive too, meaning bar snacks were out of the question. The thing that annoyed me the most was our barman. When we were standing at the bar, he stood there, performing cocktail tricks, completely ignoring us. When he finally spoke to us, he didn’t know the prices of the food, and seemed more interested in making weird noises at his colleague than serving us. We bought one drink and sat outside, the only place we could find a seat!
Afterwards, we headed back to Paddington station, where Katie planned to meet another friend, and I planned to depart to go home.
I truly enjoyed my day in London with my new friend. She really is the exact type of travel buddy I was looking for, and I feel like our friendship will continue beyond our adventures in February. To anyone who struggles to find someone to travel with within their own circle of friends, I would urge you to give Thorn Tree a try. There are so many like-minded people on there, who are willing to travel the world with you! Be brave! Make a new friend. It’s totally worth it!