Hello, London

EuroTrip 2006

6 August 2006

We’re on our own

Mom is up first, of course, and notices that Kaitlyn, while sleeping, looks just like I did when I was a kid. awwww. As Arleen predicted before we left, it takes longer to get ready in the morning than planned. But the reason isn’t that we’re groggy. We are all well rested and the girls go down to breakfast while mom and I get ready. The reason it takes me a while is that it is difficult to find what I need and to get organized. Tip for next time: take a large organizer or a suitcase with lots of pockets, pack early enough to memorize what goes where, and keep things in the same place.

After a nice breakfast, the day is non-stop until the very end. Since we are slightly behind schedule, we are going to miss the 11:30 changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. Unfortunate, but it frees up some time and allows us to go at a more reasonable pace.

The tube map is very clear and easy to understand. Each line is named, and at every turn in the station all the stops are noted on the signs, no need to guess which direction you need to go. The lines are scheduled such that you never have to wait more than a few minutes for a train. The first train arrives just 10 seconds after we arrive at the platform. Way cool. And the trains are clean and kept up very well; most of them look new.

We arrive at Westminster and come out of the station at an ideal place for a picture of Big Ben. Many pictures were taken. “Hello, London!”

Our next stop is Buckingham Palace, but I don’t lead us quite in that direction. Misreading the landmarks, I lead us up close to Westmister Abbey instead. Not a bad choice, I guess, since that’s where all the hoards of orange or yellow clad tourist groups are headed. For some reason I think they must be going where I want to go. heh. Well, at least we get some good pictures of the Abbey. We also get a great picture of Abe Lincoln. Who? Yeah, international hero, I guess. I finally decide to get out the map. When I can make out some street signs we set off toward Buckingham, and it’s about a half mile walk. My detour adds about 1/10 of a mile to the original plan.

We arrive at Buckingham, but are too pooped to cross the huge street to see the guards in their poofy hats. We go on our hike 1/3 a mile through Green Park up to Piccadilly and rest a bit at a drink & snack cart, then stop at the loo. :-) We then take the double decker bus up to Piccadilly Circus.. only 1/3 a mile up the road. heh. But hey, we ride the red bus!

We find the Prince of Wales theatre where Mamma Mia! is playing thanks to two lovely ladies with a Lonely Planet travel guide. But the ticket office turns out to be closed on Sunday. This whole trip we have bad luck seeing this show, so I won’t mention it again. It’s sad.

Time for lunch. Rick Steves recommends a small street south of the Circus and we find the traditional English restaurant, Stockpot, on Panton Street. The food is pretty good.

Next is my favorite attraction of the day: the British Library. We hop the tube to King’s Cross station, get some necessities (water) at a magazine stand on the street and head to the library. Inside we get some more necessities (coffee) and chill a bit. We finally enter the Treasures room, home to some original works of Shakespeare, the Magna Carta, original scores by Mozart and other composers, ancient asian manuscripts, Da Vinci’s notebook pages, and countless copies of the Bible, including the Gutenberg and older versions handcopied by monks in the middle ages and earlier. The only disappointment is that the displays are very dimly lit. It’s understandable for preservation purposes, but it doesn’t make for good viewing. Christina sure enjoys it. Of course the Japanese stuff catches her eye, but she is glued to the Shakespeare play, The Comedy of Errors I think, for about 15 minutes. We leave just before closing—ladies to the gift shop, Gary outside for a cigarette.

Back on the tube. On the train we decide to nix the Tower of London and go instead toward the Globe theatre replica and toward hopes for an Indian dinner. We find the Globe but can’t go inside because there’s a performance. We have a heck of a time finding the Indian restaurant mentioned in the Rick Steve’s guide (probably because I don’t have the Guide to guide me, heh). We give up and go to an Indian restaurant recommended by a lady at the desk of the Premier Travel Inn near the Globe. The service at the restaurant is great. Mom and Christina love the food. I’ve had better. And nearly all of it is too spicy for Kaitlyn, even the chutney. We have about a mile to walk back to the hotel.

Christina will return to the US tomorrow morning, so we prepare our transportation for the next day, and go to bed.

Gary Faircloth

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