23 June 2010
So while it seems like forever ago it is only a week and a half since I was in London. The thing about budget flights in Ireland is that they never seem to leave from Galway, despite Galway being a fairly large city. So in order to fly to London at 7am I had to take a bus to Shannon airport, about a 2 hour drive. Unlike the busses to Dublin that leave every half hour or so, there are only about 3 busses back and forth between Galway and Shannon each day. So I had to take the 3.30am bus. It was a struggle, but it could be worse. At least I only had a short flight. But before getting on the flight I had to go through customs, and what would you know but I had forgotton all about the not taking liquids on a plane rule. Because of course normally things like shampoo would go in my suitcase but for just a short trip I only had my backpack. So I had my things taken off me. And it was an honest mistake but you know that they don't believe you and think you are trying to sneak past security.
All that aside, I arrived in London on time. And the airline, Ryan Air, a local budget airline, apparently has the best record in the world for flights arriving on time, and when you land they play a little fanfare and inform you of that fact and that you are on another on-time flight. But that was where being on time stopped for me. The train into the city took longer than I had been told and the hostel I was booked into was on the other side of the city so I had to work out the underground system. And then I couldn't find the hostel. But I did eventually and it was this nice old mansion and they were really helpful. Only my feet were all ready sore and my travelling weekend had just started.
But with the travelling over it was time to see London, and in such a huge city I still managed to find Linda and Paul very quickly despite being late. Apparently I do not put enough names in this thing, so now I will begin despite my qualms about publishing information about other people on a completely public website. So - I found Linda and Paul and joined them to go to Portobello market, just like in the movie. It is much better in the movie though, what with being made so long ago and things being so quaint and old-fashioned, with cobblestones and a nice movie set. It was a market like any other, but really really long. There were some interesting things, and then the same interesting things over and over. I managed to refrain from shopping for the most part but already I was saying that I really want to go back to London with a lot of money and time for shopping. But eventually we tired of the market and went off to find the Tower of London.
It turns out that the Tower of London is not actually a tower, but a large castle composed of many towers. Which flushed my mental image of it from all those historical novels completely down the drain. Still, it was good. Very castle-like - not like the pile-of-rubble castles that I have seen so far in Ireland or the just-another-large-fancy-building palaces that I saw in Vienna. So you can go right through the "Tower" and some of it is reconstructed, some is like a museum, and some is even interactive, to get people interested in history and all that. Personally I just like to wander around and read all the information and see the buildings and the grounds, and of course to take a lot of photos. Before we were through the entire castle I was tired though - it seems like if you lived in London it would be worth buying the year pass so that you can just come and go, see small parts of things at a time.
After the Tower it was back to the hostel for me, to recuperate a little and figure out what I wanted to see during the weekend - I had been so busy with work I had arrived completely unprepared. So eventually I went out and managed to get on a bus to Buckingham Palace. Which is large and white and not really so distinctive. These palaces really do just sort of blend into the background. I much prefer castles. Westminster Abbey was nice enough. What I really liked though was the Big Ben and the houses of parliament. I arrive there just as it was beginning to get a bit dark and everything was lit up. People try to tell you that the Big Ben is not so impressive, but perhaps these people expect too much from a clock. So you can see in my photos above that I took a lot of pictures of the clock and the parliament buildings and the Thames, with everything all bright and reflecting. It was very pretty. And then there is the London Eye which is just a ferris wheel, and a rather ugly one too. But it was also all lit up and does make for a nice photo. So you see I think I was there on the Thames at the perfect time, I got my nice pictures which is really the whole point of travelling these days, and then it started to get later still and my feet were absolutely killing me so I had to figure out how to get home.
The next day, Sunday, I was to meet Linda and Paul and Kensington Palace. Which sounds like a really easy sort of landmark for a meeting point but I managed to walk right past it. It is a large brick building, not so much palace-like, with a big mess of long grass outside of it, which was really not palace-like, and they seem to be doing reconstructions because there were fences and shipping containers everywhere. Still, if I had of been paying more attention perhaps I would have thought that the statue of Queen Victoria must mean that I was close to the Palace. But really, I expected it to be much larger. So I walked through the garden which was very nice and tidy, unlike all the messy long grass, and there were some very bold squirrels that will eat out of your hand and jump up on you. I found the front gate and the others were later than I so once again we managed to find each other.
So just like in Queens Park back home, and many other city-parks in NZ, there is a Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens. And it is the first one in fact, seeing as Kensington Gardens is where Peter Pan was lost before going to Neverland. And after much searching on a previous day Linda and Paul had all but given up on finding the bloody statue. But then we saw a signpost pointing to Peter Pan so we decided to try one last time to find it. And after asking directions from a couple of people there it was right beside the path, so easy to find. We took photos, as you do, and then that was about it. Time to get on a bus and find the coventry garden market. Which was a nice little market, very artzy, with many gorgeous things that I would have liked to buy. And good food too. Not to mention entertainment - a couple of clowns with a giant unicycle and a smart-ass magician who kept picking on people.
To finish the day we went to the British museum. It was very large and impressive. But we were very tired and seeing as it was free to enter it did not seem a waste to just go in, have a quick look at one of the exhibitions, and then leave again. It was time to have a rest and something to eat and then say goodbye already. A weekend is not much. I sadly had to get back to work instead of gallivanting across Europe.