eating my way around the world

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” --St. Augustine

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Location: Chicago, IL, United States

Twitter @nikonjunkie

19 June 2005

28 May 2005 :: London

The flight over was alright, although I vow never again to request a window seat on a flight over two hours. A rather large Indian man in the aisle seat kept nodding off (what the hell, dude, it's 4pm!!) and with his elbow, changing my channel on my in-seat TV. When the 777 landed at Gatwick, I was thrilled. I was going to run and catch my shuttle then spend the morning soaking in London. Ha. Once we deplaned, I saw the immigration line to end all immigration lines. I'm not kidding - this thing was longer than any line I've ever seen at Disney World. Times two. Two thousand people, easy.

Two hours of cursing the English for not fully embracing air conditioning later, I managed to catch the Hotelink shuttle (a story in and of itself) and off we were on the Gatwick Express train to central London and Victoria Station. Caught an early glimpse of Battersea Park - the abandoned power station - and saw many a proper English backyard (wow, people really do hang clothes outside to dry!). Once I transferred to the shuttle bus, I got to really see central London, and WOW, it's amazing. Even normal streets are endlessly fascinating and different. I was seriously wishing I had a camcorder on me. By the time I got to the Imperial Hotel, it was nearly noon, and YIKES, I had reservations on the London Eye at 1pm.

Never having ridden the London Underground, I raced out the door with my trusty map and decided to brave it. I'm sure the man at the ticket counter is still annoyed with me. Between me not having slept for 36 hours, there being a rather thick pane of glass between us, and our clashing accents, I was only mildly satisfied that I was headed in the right direction. When I got off the tube at Waterloo Station, I knew I'd found it - just awesome. It was extremely windy, and the brisk wind gave me a bitter taste of what London weather can be, but the sky was incredible. Surreal blue with fluffy white clouds that were to serve as an excellent backdrop for the obscene amount of photos to come.

After the London Eye, I rode the River Cruise down the Thames - quite worth it, since I now had a great background on many of the buildings I'd see later on in my trip. Saw Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the Oxo Tower, the Tate Museum, London Bridge, the HMS Belfast, Tower Bridge, Charing Cross Station and the Tower of London.

"London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down . . . " Well, not today.

The HMS Belfast - allegedly the only Royal Navy ship to survive WWII.

The iconic Tower Bridge

The Tower of London, supposedly where the Crown Jewels are kept (and where the Brits used to torture/execute prisoners)

More sights

Still a bit chilled from riding above deck (hey, a girl has to suffer for photography!), I hopped over to Nick's Noodle Shop and warmed up a bowl of Malaysian Spicy Pork noodles and a cup of steaming hot green tea - my first London meal, and it's nowhere near English (this may not be a bad thing). For future reference, do not try to eat udon noodles with chopsticks at a time when manual dexterity it at its lowest (say, after a day and a half with no sleep). London is perhaps one of the best cities on earth to people-watch, and that's just what I did for about an hour while I warmed up. A "bobby" stopped me on my way to the tube and said, "Did you bring me any coffee, love?" Haha, I love it.

Hey, it's my car! With a European license plate. (Why's the steering wheel on the wrong side??)

After successfully making my way back to the hotel using the Underground, I was feeling victorious and ready to meet my roommate.

I found Nena from Sacramento dead asleep in the room. She had to have the concierge let her in, as apparently you aren't supposed to take your room key with you when you leave. Oops.

A room with a view - of Russell Square, that is.

After a blissful shower in a strange, elevated tub the approximate width of a Corgi, I was somewhat refreshed and ready for dinner. Ahh, my first experience with the London hotel's food. Some minestrone (Italian?), something vaguely resembling chicken cordon bleu (French?), and some tiramisu (say what?). At this point, I would've eaten a shoe dipped in butter, so I didn't complain.

Newly refreshed by . . . er, food, it was time to take (as out Aussie tour manager Joey called it) "a short walking tour" to "nearby" Covent Garden. Unbeknownst to us, Joey must be used to months-long walkabouts, because it was nowhere near short, and Covent Garden was nowhere "nearby." The equivalent of four metro stops later, the group trudged into Piccadilly Circus, and Joey, with a spring in his step, announced that anyone wanting to go party could stay out with them.

A store front. That's all I have to say (you'll have to look at it yourself).

OK, I'd said I'd sell my firstborn and/or pay £20 ($40 USD) or whatever it took to go out in London, but after being awake for nearly 48 hours and feeling the very bones of my feet emerging through the bottoms of my shoes, this was enough to convince me that I needed to save the partying for another day. So this evening ended with most of us dragging our tired bones back to the Leicester Square tube station to catch a ride home.

Nena says my breathing changed and I feel asleep about 30 seconds after my head hit the pillow.

Things I Learned Today:
1. The Contiki Motto: "It's not weird, it's just different."
2. You need exact change to use the loo.
3. British toilets are not compatible with the disposal of teabags. Or toilet paper for that matter.
4. Bidets don't always point up. "It's not an ass shower, it's an ass bath!"
5. You have to "queue" for everything in London. Get used to it.
6. "Leicester Square" is pronounced "Lester Square." No, I don't know why.

Next day >>>


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your blog, Maria. You mentioned you took a river cruise. Do you remember the name of the boat company? Thank you.

12/12/2010 11:29 PM  

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