I started my day catching a flight with Air Transat leaving from Vancouver at 230 pm today (saturday). As I got on the plane I noticed how nice the staff was and how roomy the seats were. A good start. A nine hour flight on a Airbus 330 with dinner and breakfast meals served for free which was a nice surprise for me. It never got dark and at 11pm the pilot said "goodmorning" to everyone. I didnt sleep a wink.
After landing in Gatwick at 730 am England time, my heatbeat upped a notch as I had to now navigate my way to take the Gatwick express train and the Underground to get to my hotel. I bought return tickets (can be used anytime within a month) for the Gatwick Express which takes 3o minutes non-stop to the London Victoria stop right in the heart of London. I put my ticket in the machine, it spat out, and I went downstairs where all the trains come in. I saw a train coming in that said London Victoria and hopped on. As the train started, an announcement came on saying the next stop is Red Hill. Oh oh this isn't a non stop train. I promptly had a heart attack realizing I was completely on the wrong company train. There are three different train companies running from Gatwick. Luckily at the airport I grabbed a transit map and realized I was still going to the place I wanted, it was just a milk run that stopped at all the little towns on the way to my stop. I relaxed and enjoyed all the Mary Poppin's houses with their brick facades and chimney tops and saying to myself "well that didn't take me bloody long to screw up" in an english accent.
The London Victoria Underground station made my eyes boggle when I walked into it, this was a way bigger station than the one we saw in New York. I was smart in buying an Oyster card months in advance online with money on it so I could jump on the train I wanted without waiting in line with all the other tourists to buy a ticket. When I got on the Circle line travelling east to go to Temple Station, I started laughing at how scary it was. The windows were open letting in a cool breeze and the car was shaking back and forth as we sped in the darkness. I made my way walking to my hotel uphill which was a few blocks away from the Tube station on Strand Street.
I'm staying at the Strand Continental, a tiny Hostel with a Indian restaurant above it. The staff was amazingly nice to me showing up at 10 am when the check-in time is 2pm. I was able to leave my suitcase in a locked room while I excitedly looked forward to exploring. Check-in time for me was 12pm.
Trafalgar Square is three blocks from the hostel, following Strand Street which is busy full of pubs, coffee shops and red double decker buses zooming by. As I got closer I got all giddy seeing the huge lions at the base of the statue of Nelson who defeated Napoleon, and the huge square with the fountain and the beautiful National Art Museum. As I explored, I followed the crowds and came across a parade of bagpipes playing and marching war veterans with remembrance day wreaths. I then walked towards Big Ben and Westminster Abbey and was amazed how beautiful they were. Ding Dong plus 11 bells, Yes i'm in England! Following the Victoria Embankment I discovered the Thames and saw how fast the current was running in the dark brown water that I could smell. I'm going to need to be careful with the tides with this river. I came across Cleopatra's Needle, an obelisk brought from Egypt with egyptian Sphinxs at its base.
Almost making a square, I ended back at the hostel for my check-in. One thing I have learned, there are no elevators anywhere. Pack lightly. I have a room all to myself on the 4th floor of tiny staircases fit for a castle, which is pretty nice with a sink and windows that open to Strand Street. The girl at the counter said I was lucky to be on the lowest floor. ppppfffttt. I have a pass code to the rooms and a key for the front door of the Hostel. Bathroom and showers are shared at the end of the hall (brought my flip flops). I got rid of more stuff and went back out with my camera to check out the National Art Gallery as it was only 12 in the afternoon.
The gallery is free, and with amazing paintings from Michelangelo, Monet, Van Gogh, and so many others (my brain is dead) it is worth it. I checked out some of the stores that sell sandwiches and drinks for take out and every single sandwich had pickles. Am I weird? Whats with the pickles? I bought a sandwich (with pickles), a desert and a bottle of coke (way smaller size than Canada) to bring back to my room for a nap. The guy at the counter asked me if I had coins, and I had to say "yes but I don't know what they are". I held them in my hand and he picked them out.
A two hour nap and then a trip to the downstairs common room where I have access to free wifi to make a skype call to Ab. I'm going to try and stay awake for a few hours before I go to bed early. Tomorrow morning is my first day of Mudlarking :0
- Day one Big Ben and pickles on every sandwich
- Day 2 When you sing your pray to God twice
- Day three: Human remains, Shakespeare and warm Beer
- Day 4: Tower of London,off to Hogwarts and shopping in China Town
- Day 5: Diana's funeral, Blame it on the Boogie and The Lettuce and Slug
- Day 6 Victorian-Graves Camden Market and an awesome day of mudlarking