Parliament and the London Eye

When I got back to the room, Deb still had company…who was sleeping in my bed. Apparently twin beds aren’t conducive to sleeping two, go figure. Without much ado, she chased him out the door. I did ask how it went, but since that’s not my story to tell, I’ll just mention that it didn’t go as well as hoped. Too bad. But I was exhausted and wanted to crash for a few hours, so that’s what we did.

Anyone who knows me knows that I can go without a lot of sleep, especially when I’m on vacation. I really only need a few hours to get recharged. Every once in a while I’ll crash for a good amount of time, but it doesn’t happen often. So, I was up again around 9am, ready to go. I let Deb sleep while I showered, then annoyed her out of bed. She was a bit under the weather again, but not as bad.

Our destination for the day was Parliament and anything within the area of it: Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace. We take the Tube and head off, old pros by now. By the time we get there, we need food. I’m starving. But the only place we can find to eat is a noodle house. Not very authentic London food (it was probably better, mushy peas and all that).

Then we walk to get tickets for the London Eye. It’s essentially a huge, slow-moving ferris wheel with a fabulous panoramic view of London.

The London Eye

The line for this is huge, but moving. After a wait, we enter a car and start our gradual ascent. I am not fond of heights. Not afraid, just have great respect for the distance between me and the ground. So this is a bit of a challenge. I’m surrounded by glass on all sides with some great views of the city and nothing but metal and air beneath me. yeah…I tried not to think too much about it.

Still, we got some great pictures.

Me in the Eye

Deb and Me in the Eye

Panoramic View from the Eye

I think the funniest thing was we posed for the tourist picture they take of people riding the Eye. Most people didn’t pay attention, but we saw the camera and actually posed, then we didn’t bother looking at the print. We were such rude Americans.

After our ride, we walked by Parliament and Big Ben.

Then we head over to Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately, it’s Sunday and there are no tours since people apparently want to go to church or some godforsaken such thing. Feh. But the outside is beautiful.

And very tall.

We walk on to see Buckingham Palace. On the way, I get a picture of my next car.

I really think I need this for Bay Area traffic. Honest.

According to legend (ok the guide book, but it has a legend), the Queen parades through the park the first weekend in June. Strangely, she decided to do it the day before, which was still May. The moral of the story is, we missed it. Still, we saw the palace and the gates and fountain.

And somehow manage to not get any good shots of the palace itself. Bummer.

Then we walk some more, go find food and play in call boxes. The Brits don’t understand why we find these fascinating, but we do.

I got a few strange looks when banging on the door like I was trapped.

Then we went back to our room, slept for an hour and went pubbing. (Yes, it’s a word.) We found the Southwark Tavern, which turned out to be a favorite.

This is where I got my second marriage proposal. I was telling the story to the guys who decided to buy us drinks (that happened a lot, yay!), and Nelson (I could’ve had a Portugal stamp), told me that I should forget the Irish guy because he (Nelson) would make me happy. I have to say, I did consider taking him home, but German dude was still on my mind, though he wouldn’t come out on a school night (nor be tempted, damn it!). So both Deb and I went home empty handed.

London 1st Day

Having stayed out until the early morning hours, getting up the next day was difficult to say the least. Not only is jet lag involved, but a slight hang over and lack of sleep to boot. But we were in a new country with things to see and people to do, uh, I mean meet. Honest.

Deb was actually worse for wear than I was. She hadn’t been drinking for a few months (due to a new diet) and had kept pace with me (and the Brits) drink for drink. Let’s just say the porcelain god got more than a few offerings that morning.

After a quick nap on my part and some restorative sleep on Deb’s part, we get dressed, find some food and coffee (coffee!!!!) and decide to do some light sight seeing of the nearby places. We walk to the London Bridge to get some air. The London Bridge is not what you think. It’s just a plain, flat bridge. From it, you can see the Tower Bridge, which is the famous one everyone thinks of when you say London Bridge. We look over the water and take pictures.

The Tower Bridge

We walk along the river’s edge and head toward London Tower. The lines are short, so we get tickets and head in to see the crown jewels (which they won’t let you take pictures of, go figure), the Bloody Tower and other fun historical sites. They even had cos-players acting out scenes from something on the lawn. It was hard to tell what since the sound didn’t carry that well to where we were perched on the wall walk.

The Tower of London

And men at that time thought well of themselves…
Armor with Big Codpiece

We then went to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral where both Deb and I lit candles for my Mom.
St. Paul\'s Cathedral

Then we went back to the room for a nap. Yes, we were tired, though not hung-over anymore.

We got up around 8pm and went to the pub downstairs for dinner. It wasn’t bad, though not rave worthy. We had our first pints, then moved on to the Glad, where we’d had luck before.

The Gladstone Pub

Tonight, though, they have a local band with interesting folksy music and a completely different crowd. I call the English German and ask him to come out. He comes, a bit reluctantly (he wanted me to just come over, but like I said, it’s more fun when they work for it) and we crawl the pubs again, hitting a few new ones.

Here, Deb meets an interesting guy. And now the dilemma. We have two destinations. We have one key for the room. So, we walk Deb and her dude (I can’t remember his name, but I didn’t take him home, so it’s ok) back to the hotel, open the door, then head to German’s place. Since I’m not completely schnockered this time, I look around a little. His roommate is either an artiste or a serious hobbyist. I ask, but he’s not sure about what she does. (Apparently, it’s typical to not know your roommates, the way we don’t know our neighbors.)

Another night of fun. I wake up early again (very early) and worry about Deb. I rarely worry about my own safety (I can kick and run with the best of them) but I constantly worry about others. Call it a flaw. So I roll out of bed, get clean up a bit, say goodbye (which was difficult with him looking so cute), head to the Underground and walk into the Twilight Zone.

The gate is closed for the Underground station. I notice this young, sort-of cute guy sitting by a pillar, obviously waiting. So I ask when it opens. He replies, “I think at the half.” That’s only about ten minutes away, so I decide to wait. The young guy offers me a seat next to him by the pillar. I walk over and stand, but he insists, “Come on, have a sit.” So, I sit next to him and start chatting. I learn he’s from Ireland and he tells me his name, but we must all remember my skill with names of random men.

He offers me a drink of whatever he’s got in a bottle, but I decline. It’s 6 o’nothing in the morning! But he’s been awake all night, riding the Circle Line in protest. (The London Mayor outlawed open containers on the Tube, so the locals were up in arms.) Then the conversation goes like this:

Dude: “Are you married?”

Me: “No.”

Dude” “Would you like to be? We could be done in about 15 minutes…”

Me: *laugh* “Um, no, but thank you for asking.”

Then there were a few compliments and he actually leans over for a kiss. I lean away. He tells me his ego has been crushed (somehow I doubt it) and I think, yeah, done here, and go find alternate transportation (a bus, yes, I can actually figure out a bus schedule hung over and sleep deprived. I rock!)

I still wonder what he would’ve done if I’d said yes.

Getting to London

The flight to London was long. Air Canada is a pretty decent airline with personal entertainment centers and fairly good food. I met Deb in Toronto and we flew into Heathrow together. We dozed a good portion of the way.

Landing in Heathrow was uneventful. We gathered our luggage. Deb brought two big suitcases, a carry-on and a large purse. I had one big suitcase. We stood in the immigration line for a while to be processed. Boring. But we were in London, so we were happy. At the desk…”Yes, ma’am. Two weeks. Totally recreational. No, we swear we won’t become illegals (we lied).”

We got through, then got to learn about the Tube. While traveling, we’d decided to use all public transport. Renting a car in a foreign country seems like asking a bit much for our first trip and the UK is supposed to have a good transport system. So, we head where the signs tell us to go.

We get what’s called an Oyster Card and fill it with an unlimited week’s travel, which the agent recommended for us newbies. That was the best purchase ever. Well, maybe not, but it was a good one. We look at the Tube map and try to find our station. The nice agent shows us the best route. We thank him and wander off to find our first train.

The Tube really is the easiest form of transport. Trains run every five minutes to most places. The only downfall is that not every station has an elevator or escalator. Most do. All the ones from the first day did, so our trip was fairly easy, while not completely simple.

We got off one station too early. It wasn’t that far to our hotel from the early station, it was just that we had luggage. Rolling luggage over cobbles is not recommended. It turns out that our hotel really was right next to the station after the one we got off.

We drag our suitcases up two flights of stairs. The room is a decent size with three twin beds. One gets our suitcases. We go out to find food. We head off to the left and wander down a few streets. The first pub we find doesn’t serve food, but we have a drink anyway. The second one serves Thai food and we both enjoy some, along with another drink. We get our first picture taken.

Our First Pub Dinner

We head back to the hotel and crash for a couple hours. We wake up at about 8 p.m., clean up and head out for our first night. Once downstairs, we turn the other way and realize that we have a Pub next door. We both feel a little sheepish, but we go in to explore. We met our first set of random London boys. They’re a bit odd and keep inviting us to their apartment, which we decline. We move on.

Random Pub Boys

The next Pub we hit was more interesting. Deb decides she needs to smoke, but the rule is that she’s only allowed to bum them from other people. We meet some much more interesting people and decide to Pub hop with them. We hit six Pubs in all.

Drinking at the Pub

Pubs in London are interestingly set up. They buy liquor licenses according to how late they want to stay open. The later they stay open, the more the license costs. It keeps the locals moving around.

One of the people we met is a German immigrant who has a lovely English accent when he speaks, and I think is yummy to boot. Apparently he thinks I am as well, because after a bit of convincing on his part (I made him work for it, it was more fun that way), I make sure Deb gets back to the room and then go home with him. (Hey, he was cute and I was drunk. And Germany was still on my list.)

Adrian, the German

He lives in a gorgeous building not too far from our hotel ( a few stops on the Tube). And fun was had. What a way to start my UK adventure!