Thursday, June 11, 2009

Leaving London


Sunday after arriving back in London on my way from Canary Wharf to JP's place I stopped in at a kebab shop I'd been to a few times to get dinner, and walked into a loud dispute as a young punk kid was arguing with the owner. Neither party was entirely dignified, but the owner was in the right. The affair ended with the kid throwing a chair at the owner which bounced off the counter before nicking off. Sunday evening also involved some contingency planning , as after I had booked my flight for Wednesday around noon, the London underground decided to go on strike for 24 hours starting at 6pm on Tuesday. After looking into various options of public and not so public transport from Canary Wharf on the Wednesday, I decided that a 6 am bus was not worth it and booked a hostel near Paddington Station for Tuesday night.

On Monday I did two things I had kind of done on my first day in London. I started by watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. I found out that they pretty much play different songs every day, and I got to be there the day they played "Living La Vida Loca". I managed to get a reasonably good spot, only one person was between me and the fence, and they were short, so I was able to get my hands through the fence to take better photos. While I was watching, I had a few evil thoughts pass through my mind. The first was "I wonder what would happen if I threw a tennis ball in there?" and "Would I be able to be lost in the crowd?", and these evolved into "I wonder what would happen if I threw a tennis ball in there and yelled out 'Grenade'?" I'm pretty sure the results would not be good for me.

After the guards had been changed I walked through a park to Westminster Abbey. I was about to go in straight away, but noticed the last guided tour of the day was in about 45 minutes, so I decided to have a relaxed lunch and come back for the tour. For lunch I had some subway which I ate sitting up against one of the statues in Trafalgar Square. The tour of Westminster Abbey was led by a prior of the abbey (I think), and while not a priest, he wore a priest like robe. The tour showed off a number of famous dead people buried in the Abbey, including but not limited to, a few kinds and queens, scientists, military leaders, and writers. We also got to sit the choir seats near the Queen's special seat in the church, learnt a bit of the history of the building, and details of the coronation including how packed it was on the day.

On leaving the Abbey I passed the Houses of Parliament, and considered going in to see the house of commons, but after being told the line was about an hour long decided to leave it for tomorrow. I then read a newspaper in a park next door before crossing the Thams to find the Udderbelly to pick up some tickets for the show that night. After picking up the tickets I relaxed sitting on a park bench near the London Eye looking over the river at Big Ben.

This is where JP met me about an hour later. We had dinner at a place I'd noticed earlier that had a special on Mondays of half price meals and cheap cocktails. I had a nice grilled chicken breast and a Tennessee iced tea (like a Long Island iced tea but with Jack Daniel's instead of tequila) for a quite reasonable price for central London. The show we saw that night was Jimeoin, which was very funny, although there were more funny faces that I expected.

Tuesday was a bit of a disaster. I started out by packing my stuff and sorting out the things I'd just ship home. Then I went to buy a box to put that stuff in. The first map of Canary Wharf I passed said the post office was at one place, but after going there I simply found a newer map saying the post office was somewhere else. After finally finding the post office I bought a box, and went back to fill it up. I returned with the box and tried to post it, only to find that they wanted 80 pounds to ship it back to Australia. I felt that was a bit ridiculous, so decided to just carry most of the stuff on my person and hope I didn't hit the baggage limit at the airport. By the time I'd sorted all this out I figured it would be too late to head into Westminster to see the parliament and actually have some time to spend there, rather than in travelling there and back or waiting in line.

So I relaxed at JP's place until around 6ish, when we tried to catch the DLR to Andrea's place, but the line was closed due to a a fire so we caught a crowded bus instead. Not fun when you're wearing a huge coat and carrying a large backpack. We then drove from Andrea's place into town, and met Tyrone and Andrea in Leicester Square behind the national gallery. We had a nice dinner nearby, and then we drove Tyrone back to his place, before I got dropped off at the hostel, which was rather poorly marked from outside. I got checked in and sorted out and got some sleep.

When I woke up in the morning and prepared for a shower I realised I'd left my towel at JP's, but using a trick I'd picked up, used one of my sheets as a towel instead. After breakfast I walked down to Paddington station and caught a train out to Heathrow. I checked in without hassle (my bag was just under the wight limit), got an emergency row seat, and sat down to wait for my flight. I spent my last few pounds on some snacks and painkillers for the flight. No major hassles with customs except for a comment that I didn't really look like my picture, although that never seemed to be an issue entering the country. I sat next to some nice people on the first leg, and spent some time chatting with them further while we were waiting for our connection.

The only hasssle transferring was that I waited until the gate was announced before going to get a hot chocolate from Starbucks before heading for the gate, not realising that there was a security checkpoint between the Satrbucks and the gate. I had to show my receipt fo rthe drink and they insisted on x-raying it, and it spilt a bit inside the box, but I did get my drink through the checkpoint. I didn't get an emergency row seat on the second flight, but I did have an empty seat on one side and the aisle on the other. The flight as a whole was pretty empty. Australian customs was pretty easy, and once through there I met my uncle, with whom I've been staying since.

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