It has taken me two entire days to find the time–and the space–to write anything about this trip. I have very good reasons for both issues.
First, the time thing is due to the fact that the earth is round and spins on an axis. You see, we left New York at 6pm and arrived in London at 7am (which included two and a half hours sitting on the runway before we ever took off and a very brief stopover in Dublin.) When we arrived in London it was 2am in my world, but in everyone else’s it was time to have breakfast.
So, as advised by everyone who has ever had severe jet lag, we did as we were told and continued on with our day as though we’d not been up all night. By the time I went to bed last night I had been up for 31 hours and was starting to feel, well, insane. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We took the Gatwick Express Train from the airport to Victoria station–which was exceptionally easy to do–and we located our hotel which was NOT exceptionally easy to do. You see, there are many exits to Victoria station and no street signs ANYWHERE in London (more on that later–there are also zero garbage cans which is equally odd but less annoying.) Plus we have very limited data available on our iPhones and were trying not to use the GPS during the very first hour of our trip. So we circled Victoria station with our backpacks on several times until we thought we might be going in the right direction. Thank god I did that google maps street view thing because eventually we found a road that looked like the one I’d seen online before booking the place, and there it was.
After checking in to our ‘hotel’–which was not really a hotel, but a pod-room at the chain EasyHotel (more on that in a later post)–we hit the road and walked in the direction of the nearest landmark which happened to be on the top of my list–Westminster Abbey. After hitting a rather crowded but mediocre pub down the street for a meal of lamb stew for a combination dinner/breakfast/lunch (in that order, as we’d not had food since lunch the previous day) we entered the abbey to find a guided tour just starting.
The abbey and the tour were amazing and we were both so very glad we took the tour as we got to go places others could not go and see details we otherwise would have missed. I had no idea there were so many people buried there nor did I know that many are ‘buried’ mummy style in crypts with images of themselves on the top. My husband was enthralled by Henry the Fifth–he kept saying HENRY the FIFTH! with the awe that only a true nerd can possess in the presence of something so historically significant.
The only problem with the tour was that at certain points the docent told us to ‘have a seat’ as he talked about one thing or another, at which point I actually started blinking for minutes at a time. I contemplated the park I’d seen outside and the scarf I was wearing and really and truly considered going outside, lying down, covering myself with said scarf, and going to sleep. Surely there was no way I’d make it back to the hotel without at least a little nap. But make it back I did–after a very long visit to the cloisters where you are actually allowed to take pictures–and after a very long, lost ramble back to the hotel.
One of the first things I learned about London–don’t try to take a shortcut because the street seems to go in the direction you are headed. Before you realize it, the street will make a sharp turn, turn into another street, and get you hopelessly, frustratingly lost. Especially if you’d not slept in over 28 hours.
We found a pub two blocks down from our hotel and had a very long dinner with lots of wine, after which my husband wanted to do more sightseeing. I could barely hold my glass up at this point I was so exhausted, so he went out on his own to ramble drunkenly around London, drinking cider at random pubs. He eventually needed to get a cab home, not because he was so far away but because he had no idea where the hotel was (he was, it seems, a few hundred yards away at this point. It is REALLY easy to get lost in London!)
Upon waking TWELVE hours later we immediately checked out of temporary hotel number one and moved to actual hotel number two–The Hoxton. The Hoxton was about as far from easyHotel Victoria as one can get, both literally and figuratively. But, again, more on that to come from a post about lodging written at some point in the future, likely from a train or airplane when I have time to ramble on about such things. We then realized that given the vastness of the city and the distance between tube stops my plan for the day–The Tower of London followed by Kensington Gardens followed by the British Museum–was insane. So we changed it (yes, I like to plan, but my plans are never unchangable). We spent the late morning and all of the afternoon at the British Museum, which was my husband’s number one sight to see during our stay here; this was only fair, as my number one was our number one, Westminster. We then found a Greek restaurant for a very late lunch–it was around 4:30 by this time–came back to the hotel to rest for exactly thirty minutes, and then walked to a different tube station to travel to the Embankment Station for to meet up with a London tour.
It is important to note that I checked the London Walks website during that thirty minute rest period. It very clearly stated that the tour left from the Embankment Tube Station at 7:30 every Thursday. Every Thursday, it seemed, except for this one. No one showed up, and we waited until almost 7:45. So we left–but fortunately, the Embankment Station is very near lots of cool things. Instead of the tour, we walked across the Thames on a pedestrian bridge (I belive it was the Embankment Bridge, but I’m not positive) stopping to take pictures and marvel at the picture-postcard views. Then, because we were so enthralled with said views, we purchased a ticket to the cheesy ‘viewing wheel’ called the London Eye, which actually was very awesome. I took many, many pictures, none of which are posted here as of yet*.
All in all, I’m having a good time (for the most part–I will post rant-ish posts later, as I do have some things to rant about, as I always do), but I feel like I’m not ‘getting enough done’. My husband pointed out to me that we are on vacation, and vacation should not be like work. He also pointed out to me that in our insanely tight London schedule, I did not make room for things like eating or travel time. Which clearly is a problem. Fortunately, I did not plan Paris in any similar way, so I’ll have less to feel guilty about when I’m there. And as for Amsterdam and Barcelona? I know what time I arrive, and what time I leave, and that’s about it. So for now, I’m content to let a little of my London plan go. As long as we make the train for Bath tomorrow morning. Which means I must sleep right….now…
*Please note: there are no pictures on this post (aside from the one above, which was taken on my phone and emailed to my netbook) because they are on my camera and it is midnight. We have an 8:00 train to catch tomorrow, which means we’re getting up at 5:30. I must sleep, so the pictures remain on my camera. Should I have time to add them in the future, or time to add them to any future posts, I certainly will. For now, you’ll have to make due wiht my picture-less thousand words.