Arrive in London, and again, effortlessly got my passport stamped and sent on my way. The land of the free can go to hell. Mike had said he might be waiting for me at arrivals, but wasn't. I didn't have his address either. Gave him a rang and got tube directions, and headed off into the depths with my luggage. Conveyor after Conveyor, and I made it to the tube station, and wrestled my luggage on, and headed off into little old britain. It had been reasonably clear coming in to land, and it was all so very british and movie like. Rolling green fields, castles, and we even got a look at London Bridge. Lots of depressingly ugly strips of duplexes and row houses, all haphazardly painted, and dingy and dirty as hell. Oh well, it's just the old fashioned equivalent of cookie cutter housing.
Managed the transfer, and walked out of the station with a backpack, and a big duffel hanging off my neck, and headed out into Kensington to find Mike's place. He'd actually offered to come down and meet me, but by this stage, I was going all the way, and to hell with helpers! Got a shower at Mikes, and then it was off to the pub for a feed.
Had a great time at one of his locals. It was a fairly uppity place, a bit on the expensive side, but not obnoxious about it. At least, not to us. We were civil and friendly to the staff, and they were friendly back to us. We even got heart's made in our guiness by one of the barmaids! But the rest of the clientele? HAH! Demanding things, complaining about prices, writing checks, and then not having ID to back it up, we helped insult them when they came up, and the barstaff loved it.
Mike actually had to go to work on the wednesday, so I went into town. I was going to have a look at Buckingham Palace, St James Park, Westminster, that sort of thing. Excellent day. Very pretty. I really like seeing all the different architectures in different big old cities. London was great. And you could do anything. There was no security guard running around telling you to get off the statue, or make you show id at checkpoints all over the place. You just walked up to the fence around Buckingham Palace and took your pictures of the Beafeaters, and that was that. They seem to run their security a bit differently. (See the picture of the roving camera car below)
Didn't feel like paying to go inside Westminster Abbey, though it was probably pretty cool. Pretty flash on the outside even. Walked up to Trafalgar Square, passing the Horse Guards, and had a bit of a look around there. More people climbing all over the statue. And you really do have to climb a bit to get on this one, but it doesn't stop anyone. Went and got a pub meal, tasty tasty hot warm food. Lovely. And the british beer in britain is much better than the horrible handpumped stuff they occassionaly had at some of the bars in San Jose. Quite drinkable. Though nearly anything would be better than carlsberg, stella and friends.
Decided to go and see St Pauls Cathedral after this, and decided I'd actually pay for this. You get to go up to the top of the dome! Wow. What a place. This is an absolutely stunning cathedral. Exsquisite detailing, decorations everywhere you look. Really something. Lisa and Shawn bagged on it later, without even having been there, by saying that I'd not been in europe long enough to really comment on whether it was above ordinary or not. Snobs :)
It's quite an adventure getting to the top too. First there's the neverending spiralstaircase of doom, then the twisty narrow passages and steps that take you the base of the dome. From there you climb up the skeleton of tiny spirals of old wrought iron, and more twisty slopey passageways and eventually pop out on in a tiny little balcony that circles the ball and cross on the top of the dome. Room for maybe 20 people, and everyone has to cooperate if you want to get around to the opposite side. Great view though.
And that's really all the pictures. Unfortunately the next two days, which I'll continue talking about in a minute, weren't uploaded to my computer before I dropped my camera while lugging baggage through Northampton where I was visiting Jared. The thieving brits of course wouldn't think of "oi, you dropped something" but more of "sweet, let's filch what the dirty tourist dropped" So I lost a few pictures. I didn't like the camera an awful lot anyway. A point and shoot that can't even take sharp pictures of landscape shots from a lookout is a hard camera to love. It would occasionally take lovely pictures, but too often it would produce crap. That was a pentax s5i. Ultra compact, and I'll buy another one, but I'll probably return to the canon fold. Why did I even consider a different brand in the first place. Silly me.
Yeah, so on with the show
The next day Mike worked from home, so we both went to Greenwich, to the Royal Observatory to stand on the 0 Degrees longitude line. This was fun. Probably should have got going a little earlier so we could have had a look around the Maritime museum as well. Had a look at the Queens house though, which was a lovely building. Though you weren't allowed to take photos here for some reason. I've always been happy with "No flash photography" but the no photography at all is a pain. It would be one thing if they had postcards of every single view, but you know they won't, and don't, so it's just annoying. I still take pictures of my own and buy postcards anyway.
Walking up from the maritime museum to the royal observatory, I commented to Mike on how stereotypically "british" it was. Green fields, mist, an avenue of trees leading up the hill, kids playing organized soccer from the local school. Turned out it was planned. The IOC evaluation committee was at the Observatory when we got there, and the London Bid Committee had made sure everything looked lovely. The observatory was nice, but fairly small. Got to see the Harrison clocks, and a few others. Looked at some old instruments, and had my photo taken over the line. Not that you'll get to see that of course.
You also won't get to see the pictures we took of the laser shining out into the sky from the observatory ove the fields. It looks really really neat. But you don't get to see that.
Had a lovely dinner visiting Joel and Jannelle at their place in Queen's Park. Was really nice to catch up. Heard all sorts of stories about south america, mining, and had a good chat.
Also met up with my cousins Lisa and Shawn for a feed and some beers. Hadn't seen either of them in quite a long time, so that ws fun too. They've been living quite the life, and were competing with each other over who had been to the most countries. Living in europe gave them a definite edge over me :) But I'd seen more states than they'd seen countries, that's got to count for something.
Nicked off and headed up to Northampton.
The tube is actually tuubular
Beafeaters (wrong day for red ones)
Big Queen Victoria statue
Karl at Buckinham Palace
Yet another column. Westminster School