A foggy day in London town

Trip Start Sep 01, 2005
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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Thursday, March 23, 2006

I pulled into London sometime around 2ish. My first priority was to get a room. I didn't however, have a guidebook to reference so I was a little tired of dealing with searching. As beautiful luck would have it there was a tourist booth smack dab in the middle of the station. When I got up to the attendants they were most helpful. they were even able to book the room for me and they had excellent maps to give as well. Perhaps it was because they were speaking my language, in either case I thought the whole process was smooth and stress free. the only snafu was that I needed to get cash which only took me a minute. So I get the underground over to the hotel. It is situated on a street that has all these ritzy stores on it. Givenchy, Dolce, Blahnik, Winston, you get the idea. An interesting feature about my hotel is that the office was on the second floor in one building and my room was across the street in another building. The room was great. They had the heat on so when I walked in it was like a sauna so I opened the windows to get some of that soggy London weather! The view from my room was of roof tops and chimneys, I felt like I was in a scene from Mary Poppins.

Now I only got 200 pounds out cause I wasn't sure what the conversion was, so I paid for the room and that gave me about 50 pounds so I needed to get more money. I go to the ATM and try to get more money out. My first attempt was for 400 I think. The important thing is that it didn't work. I figured it converted into more than my daily limit so I tried again for about 200, yet no luck. I figured perhaps it wasn't working in this specific ATM so I go and walk around a bit. I strolled over to Trafalgar Square and around a bit. I was tired and so I went into a pub and got a traditional meat pie and a pint. YUM!! I walked around and saw Big Ben and Windsor Castle, although at that time of day and with the cold I didn't stay for long and it didn't look that impressive. I slogged through a park not entirely sure of where I was and I found myself in an area that is known for it's porn and sex shops apparently cause there were lots. I eventually got my bearings and got back to the hotel for a nap.
After my 'disco nap', and not knowing how long it would be before I could have access to my money I walked down to a 'bar' area to get a drink, which totally sucked cause it was Saturday night and I had about 45 bucks to my name. These guys on a corner asked for something, but I didn't hear them and in my perpetual innocence (and blondeness), I stopped to get clarity. They asked if I wanted weed or coke. Now seeing as how I had about 20 USD on me it was not possible, but I picked up a conversation with them anyway. I was honest and said I didn't have access to money. They picked up that I was American and that I had cigarettes so they got a few off of me. It was only a ten pack. The less the merrier I say when it comes to cigarettes. Well we chatted about our individual circumstances for a while, the merits of the UK and America and wherever they were from (Africa I think) and love, peace, and harmony. Well we continued until some other guy came up and asked for a smoke, but I didn't like him and he only wanted to use the paper to roll a joint so I said no. He started to make a hissy fit, but the dealers backed me up. Way cool. I don't think you've lived until you've had drug dealers stick up for you! (just kidding Mom)(kind of) Concluding my interaction with them quickly after that, I found a bar with 2-4-1 drinks so I got two long island iced teas and that pretty much wrapped up my head. I was upstairs in the loo and when I came out all the lights were on! I asked if they were closing and they said yeah, but it was only 12 midnite. They said lots of bars either open early or stay open late. I took it as a sign and went home.
On the way home I think I saw the limosine(did I spell that right?) of Robbie Williams. He is probably unknown to most of you, but a pristinely clean immaculate stretch limo of the excessively expensive Bentley type of limo cruised past me on the walk back to my hotel with the license plate "Robbie" on it. You decide. P.S. He's a famous English rock star who lives in England.
The bed was delicious and sooo comfy. Alot of people hate sleeping in hotel beds, but I think they are great! I always get the best sleep when I stay in hotels. That night was no exception!

I got free breakfast in the AM in the hotel's restaurant. Your basic continental, but I figured that I wouldn't have access to money till at least 4 or 5 pm so it was a good thing! The morning was spent online a bit checking things and sending a few e-mails. I walked around the area a bit, but didn't get to do that much. It was raining so not much to do. I had to use a pay phone and my card which I didn't understand, because it wouldn't work in the ATM, but it worked here. At any rate I got through to a California bank person and tried to explain to her what happened. She politely told me multiple attempts were made yesterday to get money and that was why the account was frozen. I told her it was me and then she wanted me to confirm how much the attempts were for...in US currency. I told her I couldn't convert it for her. Well we went around and around like this for I kid you not like 5 minutes. It was getting comical. Finally I said "Look, I am in the most expensive foreign country in the world with about 20 bucks to my name and no access to money which I KNOW I have so unblock me!!" She finally got it and said it was done. Just like that I had money again! Sure enough I went to the ATM (careful not too request TOO much)and could withdraw. Yeah. I decided to celebrate by drinking. I went back to the bar with 2-4-1s hoping that their generosity would roll over into Mondays. As luck would have it it was almost as good. I got there during happy hour and the drinks were cheap. I had a vodka/tonic, but as usual they were weak. I have since concluded that only Americans are hard core alcoholics! Well I had two vodka/tonics and wasn't feeling a thing so I decided to switch to beer because I saw people walking around with these huge beer glasses. I asked for one and the girl said I had to go around to the other bar for those. Ok, so I did the saying in my head, you know the one 'Liquor before beer, never fear. Beer before liquor, never been sicker!' so I figured I was safe. I go around the corner and enter a very blue bar. Perhaps it was due to the blue light, but whatever. I order a tall beer and settle in as much as anyone can settle into a bar with no available seating, meaning, I stood at the bar. I pick up a conversation with the guy standing next to me. We talk a long time, I am not sure how long, it was either two or three beers. He was a plain joe type of guy. After a while he comes across as a school marm. You know, 'Oh, the world is an exciting place...and that's what scares me' type of guy. But he was nice. (insert yawn here) I was getting to the end of my patience with him. We were discussing what the evening had for each of us. It seems that he actually was a teacher and there was some holiday or something which gave him a couple days off. Anyway, I was planning on going to a London club to boogie down cause I heard from my friend Eric that they are legendary. I had also gotten some advice from club kid looking types that I should go to a certain club that is totally hopping on Sunday nights. BUT!!! Since I had next to nothing in my pockets I thought it better to go with food instead. the boring guy suggested going to a certain bar he said was cool. I said I'd get a bite and meet him later. I got my food from some totally over it rude guys and made my way over to the bar he was talking about. I stood there for a while until I realised there was an upstairs the guy was porobably at. I walked up into the red environment(apparently British clubbers are into colored lights) and found him solemnly at the bar. We chatted for a few minutes which entailed him apologising profusely about the lack of people. Apparently it is usually much more crowded. He came up with some reasoon for it anyway. It was about 10 and I had been drinking since 5 so I made my excuses and left.
Monday came and I once again enjoyed the continental breakfast and told the desk ladies that I'd need the room one more night. Today I needed to go to the Australian Embassy. I took the train during rush hour to downtown and since the place wasn't open for another forty minutes I went and got a coffee. Not a Starbucks! I learned from my experience in Sydney to get to the embassy early cause the line usually forms at least a half hour before the embassies open. I had a view of the door, but to my pleasant surprise only one other person had shown up. In the last five minutes only three others showed up. Now for a little history; as I am sure those of you who don't know will by now realize that I am trying to get back to Syndey. I had applied for a tourist visa online cause I thought my old one had expired. But by the time I applied online I didn't think it would be approved by the time my flight left tomorrow morning! I was at the embassy to beg and plead.
I stepped up to the window and explained my situation. The guy did some research and tells me he doesn't have any info on the visa I applied for, but that the first one is still valid until August! Yeah! I was totally freaking out that I would land and be stuck inside the airport! So taking a deep breath of relief, I headed over to London bridge.
It was of course raining, but fun nonetheless. Lots of tourists taking pictures which I gladly participated in. The water in the river(can you believe I forget the name of that famous river?) was murky brown and very choppy which added to the English environment over all. I walked back along some streets and passed a building called the gherkin cause it is shaped like the pickle. I'll include a picture. I found myself in the West End which is the subject of the Pet Shop Boys hit song West End Girls and also the theatre district. My friend Jane and I had made plans to get together later in the day and I had come across the London 1/2 price tickets booth and there were tickets available for The Producers, which is a huge Broadway hit so I called her and asked if she wanted to go to a show. She loved the idea so I got in line and after having a wonderful conversation with an elderly couple about NYC and theatre I got the tix! Cool. I met Jane about two hours later and we walked around a bit. We got coffee and lunch and she had just gotten into town a month or two before from the USA, so she needed to go to some temp agencies to get a job so I went around with her as she went into agencies I palled around the stores. We headed off back to the West End and got a couple drinks before the show. With both Jane and I being procrastinators, we were almost late for the show. Actually our appetizer got to us late so it wasn't totally our fault, but luckily I had my internal GPS tracking system running and knew the way miraculously to the theatre; Jane was most impressed seeing as how I had only been in town for two days. We got to the show just in time with only about 3 minutes to spare.
The Producers is not a new show. It was a movie years ago. It took me a little while to get into it cause it seemed too far fetched. That was when it got too far fetched and I 'got' it and laughed my a** off for the next hour and a half. I highly recommend it, as long as you go for the entertainment and suspend your morals and ideals for a night. It is sooooo wrong, it's right. After the show we headed off for a nightcap. Jane had to get home cause she was staying with her sister and didn't want to wake the kids and I still had to pack. We said our goodbyes and went our ways. What a great day I had! Nothing but good news and ideas and fun! Thanks Jane! Of course since we hadn't eaten except for lunch I was really hungry so I had to stop into a Burger King and get some food. Yeah I know, but it was almost midnite!! I got back and packed and finally got to bed by 1ish.

My flight was leaving around 1 so I got up early and got some snacks for the flights. It was Valentine's day and I would be in flight for 21 hours total and land on the evening of the 15th. I took the train right to the airport and checked in. Heathrow airport is weird in that they check you in on one floor and then you have to go upstairs for customs and gates. I was still cutting it close to my flight time. Well not that bad. I had like 20 minutes, but when I got there they didn't even have my flight listed. So I got a beer and fries. When I finally boarded and found my seat a guy comes up and tells this lady sitting next to me that noone would do it. I looked at him and said "Are you two married?" "Yeah" " Oh, alright I'll switch." (I was playing delicate) He asked if I minded and I told him to ask the guy next to me cause he might, but I didn't. Settling into my new seat behind the wing where I don't very much like being I spent all day with music, movies, and books. At one point I got up and went back to my old seat to share my Valentine's Day chocolates with the married couple. They returned the favor a while later which I thought was really nice.
The idiots in Hong Kong had three flights landing all at once, all of them connecting flights and about 500 people all rushing to catch them customs. Sometimes humans can be very obliviously stupid to processes. It's not like the airlines haven't done this before. They weren't going to leave until everyone is through, they know this. And yet many people started to push and act all crazy. I tell ya.
The second flight was (surprise, surprise!) much like the first. There was a chatty lady in front of me, this being her first time to Australia to see her daughter there, she was nervous and excited so I shared some chocolates with her and the other ladies around me. Do I know how to score brownie points or what? Not that I needed to, it's just nice to do things for other people with nothing to expect in return. We landed around 9pm at night. It was weird to go through two flights and see the Sun rise and set twice. To be honest I was rather time lost. I think I may have slept for about 4 hours total since Tuesday morning and it was Wednesday night. I thought I would be able to make a phone call, but there were none before customs so by the time I got through and my bag it was close to 10:30. I chose to just get a cab instead of calling and waiting for Werner to pick me up. Besides as my Mother can attest, I like surprise visits! So I cabbed it over to Werner's place. I was trying to get out of the cab incognito, but he pulled right in front of Werner's balcony and he had been expecting me to call so he was on the look out. He came down to meet me and I fell into the arms of the man I hope to spend the rest of my life with. (insert 'awwwwww!" here)
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