London - In The Mother Country
Trip Start Mar 03, 2005
235Trip End Mar 04, 2006
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Successfully changed US schedule, successfully made flight from Amsterdam, I arrive at Heathrow. Customs is relatively quiet, which is surprising. No one checks the bags from Amsterdam. I am allowed in the Mother Country with no hassles, which is rather nice of them.
Will my cash last a full week here? Given the option of a $40 express train into the city, or a $15 slower Tube ride, I take the London Underground option.
"This Train Is For Cockfosters" says the sign. I am not sure what that means.
Arriving in Paddington after another hour, I am back in hostel world in London, as the accommodation situation is pricey to say the least. I have at least foregone a dorm - the smells of others linger in your mind beyond your departure. Luckily they have overbooked me anyway, and I am in a more deluxe solo anyway.
I immediately hit the streets, as I hadn't really done much walking today. Scooting up from the Tube at Westminster, you are smack bang under next to the Thames, with Big Ben, Parliament and just around the corner is Westminster Abbey. I might be a traveller, but I am also a tourist. So tourist photos beckon. It was perfect timing too, given it is dusk here, at 4.45pm. Trafalgar Square is just round the corner. I skedaddled around there, trying to hide from the biting wind which is coming in straight off the North Sea it seems. After the sun sets, the temperature is dropping below zero here at the moment, although skies are clear.
Westminster Abbey is a ridiculous ten quid to get into - $25 for a bloody church. Outraegeous. So I didn't go in. The royals can have it to themselves......
I have only a week in London. But I have many people to catch up with. Old friends, newer friends.... First cab off the rank is Jo, from downtown Warrandyte in Melbourne, who I met in Istanbul. Jo was travelling with Canadian Kelly in Turkey
Over a few beers, Jo says it is nice to talk to another Aussie. She doesn't get the English sense of humour. Poor girl - imagine having to settle for my warped sense of humour as a better option.
Back on the streets in the morning, I headed to the Tower of London. I am attempting to get as much of the straight tourist activities out of the way as quickly as possible. So in I go with the Beefeaters to inspect the goods. It is interesting enough I guess, which is my way of saying that it wasn't that interesting. The prime reason for visiting is of course the Crown Jewels. Hidden in a large vault, funnily enough in the Jewel House, they are indeed bedazzling. But then again, they probably should be, based on the sqwillions they are allegedly worth. It is actually impossible to know whether or not they are the genuine article anyway, as a two inch diameter emerald looks like a green cubic zarconia from any angle.
After a quick view of the nearby London classic, the Tower Bridge, I trotted back into the Tube to arrive at Buckingham Palace. Compulsory on anyone's list of activities, I did the standard look from the outside. The second time around (I visited 4 years ago), it too lacks something. The surrounds and statues are quite impressive however, including two large Royal Lion statues, facing the Palace, which were apparently presented by New Zealand for the Queen's Coronation. We, as in the Australian we, presented her with a set of Stainless Steel Barbecue Utensils, and an endless supply of Foster's
The nearby Queen's Galery features the official Royal Souvenir shop. It contains some of the worst trinkets and China plates I have ever set my eyes on. The clincher for me were the souvenirs for the wedding of Camilla and Charles. For some reason, you could purchase a Camilla and Charles porcelain Pill Box for the bedside table, engraved with the details of the wedding. I would suggest that one would need to take some Pills from the Camilla and Charles Pill Box, prior to entering the Royal Four Poster number with either of those two.
In the evening I caught up with another Aussie who I met earlier in the trip in Prague. Soph is from Melbourne, but like Jo, is living and working in the UK for a fair while. It is Australia Day, and she suggested I head out to one of her local brew establishments out at Stockwell for their big Australia Day Party.
I arrived at the Swan in Stockwell to find it rollicking along to The Choirboys 'Run To Paradise'. It was Australia Day alright - Australia Day 1986. Australians can be a right bunch of bogans when they are overseas. I was not the only one to acknowledge this, as Soph and her friends were also encapulated in that feeling of Australiana from decades gone by
Soph's friends have been in London a long while, and admitted that Australian's in London (an alleged 100,000 at any one time) can be truly embarrassing once they get on a roll. Being our national Day, they were certainly on that roll today. Still it was good to see. I felt quite homesick. I missed all things Australian - from the past.
You have not lived, until you have sung that EXTRA line from The Angels "Am I Ever Gonna See YOur Face Again", in a foreign land. Seriously.
But the worst part was that the bar made us drink Foster's.
Dear God, why....