It took me 3 planes, one canceled flight, and about 26 hrs from leaving Seattle to reach London, but I made it!
I spent about half of that time in the Chicago airport… unsuccessfully trying to sleep on their benches, reading my kindle as I walked in circles (I read a whole book, of course), walking from one tip of the airport to the other and back, sleeping on the floor (much more comfortable than the chairs)… after 9 hrs we loaded onto our plane, put away our carryons, settled in our seats…I did some polite starting conversation with my neighbor and we were just starting to get to her granddaughter’s names and yes she rather did think she wanted to change her will so I could inherit her fortune, when it was announced we had to move to a new plane because the air conditioning did not work in ours. Although that gave me more time to feel like the Phantom of the Chicago Airport (just not enough to run to the city and back), added on a flight, and snatched away my budding chance to become a millionaire, the plane I then took across the Atlantic from Boston was much nicer. It actually had tv screens for each chair and polite stewardesses with British accents walking through offering silver pots of coffee (popular) and tea (ignored).
I landed in Heathrow Airport 6:30am their time and easily enough figured out how to take the Tube to my hostel. I relaxed in the hostel’s lounge for a short while then joined a free walking tour around the highlights of London (by Sandeman’s tours – highly recommended!)
Our guide grew up in Greenwich and had a dashingly British accent. He carried a pink decorated umbrella with no shame (a common trait among men in London, I have noticed – lavender and pink shirts are not uncommon) and when it was not needed he used its long rolled up form to point and flourish with as he talked, like a sword. He took us to the highlights of the city, the ‘top 10′ a guidebook would list. We were walking to another palace (we saw about 4 on the tour) when our whole group broke into a run. In front of us the street was blocked off, and a band was playing – and we got to the sidelines just as the queen’s golden carriage rolled by! Because the Opening of Parliament happened that day, there had been a high chance she would pass by! Even our local guide had never seen the queen before.
The stories behind names and places were hilarious and interesting, and too many to share here. After the tour I joined a good part of our tour for lunch in an old English pub, then traveled back to the hostel with a girl from Brazil. Except on the way… we stopped at the 1/2 price ticket booth at Leicester Square. We listened to the lady list off the prices for the different shows, looked at Wicked, looked at each other with shining eyes and asked “Should we do it?” And bought two tickets. It was still $70, but hey, it was my first time in London!
I took a shower and changed into some clothes other then what I had been wearing the last 2/3 days, and went to meet up again with my friend, feeling a bit more respectable. At the theater it ended up I stood and waited for her at one entrance, while she was at the other side at the other. It was minutes from the show and we were both getting really anxious. Fortunately we managed to find each other and literally ran and embraced each other before heading in, babbling with giddy relief. The curtains rolled up right as we sat down.
The show was one I have always wanted to see, and I can’t even complain that it wasn’t Menzel and Chenoweth, because the two main actors had stupendous voices. The entire show was really, really well done.
And I’m ashamed to admit there were still two or three moments where, rapt as I was, I realized that – oh hello, I was trying to watch the show with my eyes closed! And I had to pinch myself or bite my tongue, trying to keep them from sinking again.
It all combined to make a perfect first day in London. My camera battery was almost dead so I did not take many pictures, but I’ll be coming back in a few months, so I’m not worried.
The next day I overslept and missed breakfast- so after checking out and leaving my large backpack in a luggage storage, I headed across the street to Borough Market, where I bought some juice and a muffin. The prices in London are a great diet encourager!
Everything in the market was tastefully arranged and looked straight from a farm. I ate in a churchyard nearby, people-watching. One thing I noticed about Londoners- which may be true of all of Europe or England, I don’t know yet – was that everyone was fashionably dressed. Button up coats, vests, suits, cardigans, bow ties, leather shoes, dresses and flowing blouses, most in neutral colors with rare spots of color from a scarf or coat-covered shirt. I could tell at a glance who the tourists were, because they did not look like models! Everyone carried an umbrella and popped them up and down as the weather changed every minute.
Influenced strongly by my love for the BBC Sherlock, I saw Lestrades everywhere, as well as a David Tennant doppelganger (although he’s actually not English…)
Another common factor was that everyone walked fast. I count myself a brisk walker, and everyone was passing me in the streets as though I were a shuffling child! And I learned quickly to never stand on the left on escalators.
After the market I made my way to some of the sights I had missed. My Brazilian friend was also walking around the city, but with no phone I could not meet up with her. I went to St. Paul’s, Westminster again, the Globe, and the London Eye. The latter was not recommended by our guide to ride, because it takes 45 minutes to go around. 45 minutes. To look at the city. Wheeee.
I picked up my pack (which by the way is 25-30 lbs, and that’s with some extra clothes I will not need later: I am proud of my light packing!), bought some bananas and scones for a few pounds (which would be my next 3 meals) and caught a bus for Denmark!
Chow London! Adios! And so the journey continues.