[5.19.09] [as usual – from the journal]
Got up really early and headed to the airport, returned the car – and Maggie =) Found coffee =) and turned in our VAT forms – hope to get a few (euros) back at least (and now that I think about it we still haven’t gotten anything yet…hhmmmmm). We were a bit early for our flight, but that’s always better than late. Aer Lingus again – but this time we knew we were checking a bag re:purchase of large throw blanket. Easy and quick flight over, apparently someone on the plane needed a doc – hope everything ended up okay w/her. We got into the airport in London and zoomed through customs and didn’t even go through passport control. So no stamp yet. I think it has something to do with the whole British Isles thing. I hope we get a stamp on the way out, [we didn’t] or that will just be weird. Like a giant disappointing passport loophole. It seems like – flying to/from all these other countries – that their customs agents have lots of discretion. But in the US, it’s like every body gets checked. Pros and cons I guess. Anyway, we made it through, got our luggage and made it down to the Underground Station.
Bought our 7-day Oyster Travel cards – so glad I researched this. 7 days, 2 zones, unlimited travel on the tube, rail and bus. =) By this time it was about 10:15am, late morning and we knew we were early for our apartment check-in. So we decided to call the place and ask about early check-in. First of all, the pay phones are coin eating machines. Who can have a real conversation in 20 seconds! Seriously! So John is standing there having snippets of conversation w/the guy on the phone. We called first, “hello, my name is ___ we have a reservation…Kel…” ran out of time. The guy called us back “yes, with you at this address…confirmation number, yes but”..found out we have to keep paying even though he called us, end call. This happened at least one more time as I tried to frantically find change in Pounds (I had paper but no coins). We finally decided just to pay with credit card – I can’t wait to see what that cost me: Pound + conversion + foreign transaction fee = ugh [about $18 – no joke]. Anyway this whole time John is on the phone and the guy can’t find our reservation. We have all the confirmation info from the service we booked through, so we asked the guy if we could just show up and try to figure it out. So maybe we don’t have a place to stay yet. Yikes.
Hopped on the tube – the first trip from the airport is about 45-50 minutes (Picadilly Line) and then transferred closer to the apt. and rode for a bit more. On the tube we sat across from a guy from New York name Chris. Very friendly and chatty and told us all kinds of useful London info. He was apparently hopping around Belgium, London, and France for a week visiting friends. We exchanged info cause he was back in London @ the end of the week. So we might join up with him and his friends later this week. We got off the tube and walked to our apt. It’s about a 15 min walk – not bad. Went in and the guy at the desk found our reservation right away! They were a little surprised by how much (little) the rooms had cost us. We paid $2.63 to use John’s credit card points – the company paid about (lbs) 383 total – which is WAY low for 5 days in an apt. But we were here and we had a place to stay! The apt. is great! I love it. It’s on the 5th floor and the building is super newly renovated/built. Very modern style – see pics. Cool storage too and the bathroom is gorgeous.
more like storer of the appliances!
By the time we were here and sitting in our apt it was after 12. So we made ourselves get back up and go out to find some food. We headed back in the direction of the station and found a nice place right there called Spazzio – good food and coffee. Then back on the tube to Piccadilly Circus to find the TI (Tourist Info Center) and pick up our London Passes. Very neat to just walk around, stopped by the TI, got a million booklets of info too, browsed the antique market – very cool stuff. Then we headed back to find a grocery. Eventually, with some help from the Bobbies we found a Sainsbury’s and stocked up on breakfast and more coffee and one night’s dinner in. Made it out for only 18 (lbs), so not bad. Got to use my little shopping bag, so that was fun. =)
Back to the apartment and crashed for awhile. We made dinner later and around 8pm we headed out to walk along the River Thames. Did I mention that it didn’t rain the whole time after we’d landed!?! So the skies had cleared a lot and we went for a lovely walk and lots of picture taking by the river. It was beautiful. We walked all the way from the Tower Bridge down to Big Ben, which takes longer than you’d think. [see pics] Lots of great places to eat along the River Thames, and it’s just a great atmosphere. [style notes: tights under skirts are hugely popular – seriously] – of course they are here too now – duh. The walk on the way back from the tube stop (we walked to Big Ben and then hopped on the tube back) felt safe, but also a bit creepy – read later that our part of town – Southwark-ish area is one of the last remaining examples of Dickensian London – well no wonder! =)
The boardwalk along the river – it was the neatest material.
The Tower of London
“The Gherkin” 😉
The Globe Theater!!
This scaffolding sign just made me laugh. It’s like it’s advertising two different things. hehe.
The London Eye
This one took some timing and help from my husband, but I got it. =)
kinda spoooooky… =)
Up next, our first full day in London! Woohoo!