Chapter 1: Notes from a Small Island
Trip Start May 10, 2006
21Trip End Dec 17, 2006
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Arrived into London about noon and proceeded to immigration. As usual in Britain, they want to know all the details (how long, where you stay, where to next, show onward ticket, what do you do for work, how long you work there, blah blah). A few days prior I had taken the unused China visa (I got two. One expired before I could use it.) out of my passport to have more room for stamps. Not a smart decision as it left some remnants. The immigration guy noticed it and was asking what had been there. I told him and he left the desk to go check on it. He came back and said they'd let me in but they could have denied me entry because of it. (I have since removed the remnants so it looks ok.) Got my bags and checked with airport info on going to Southampton. They informed me I could catch the bus from the Central Bus Station at Terminals 2/3. I was carrying the extra Nike bag full of stuff for the orphanage and it proved to be a pain to haul around (Side story - I collected a bunch of donations from people at Nike for Euna to take to the orphanage in Tanzania when she goes in the Fall. Thank you Peter, Ira and Wendy for the donations.). Lugged my stuff to the train to get to the other terminal then lugged it to the bus station. By this time it was about 1:30pm. Got my ticket and on the bus and napped a bit for the 1.5 hour ride. Jon and Becky weren't out of school yet so I wandered up into town (carrying the heavy bags) and got a SIM chip for me mobile so I could txt them. I sat around the pedestrian mall admiring the girls in their summer clothes and reading a book. While sitting there, it struck me that it seemed perfectly normal for me to be there in Southampton. Just an ordinary day in my life. (hmmm, maybe I'm getting too used to this travel thing.) Met up with Jon and he helped me get the bags back to his place. Hung around there a bit then got some Indian takeaway for dinner. The lack of sleep was getting to me and exhaustion was kicking in a bit. Becky and Laura went off to see a show and Jon and I played some X-Box. That helped keep me awake 'til a decent hour for going to bed. Jon, Becky and Laura all pronounce yoghurt "yawgurt". They say it's 'cuz dog is pronounced "dawg" and jog is pronounced "jawg" so yog should be pronounced "yawg". Since when does anything in the English language make sense? Silly British.
I woke up Friday morning at 5am and couldn't get back to sleep. At 6am I went and played some X-Box. A little after 8am I went back to bed. Woke up after 1pm. Guess that gets me caught up on some sleep. Had some leftover Indian food and stopped in at the uni for e-mail. Went by the train station to check schedules and took a brief wander around town before heading back to Jon's. We went over to Laura's and had pizza for dinner before going out to the pub to meet up with people. First had a game of table football (foosball) then sat outside and chatted. Some of the group remembered me from my previous visit in late November.
I forgot about pubs closing early in England and we were kicked out at 11pm. Most the group went on to a late night pub, but Becky, Jane and I went to a dance club where they play "indie" music (Brit pop/rock). I liked the music but there were just too many guys there (literally about 7 guys to every girl). I was trying to be good and drink water but both Becky and Jane were being generous and would bring me back a beer when they got one. We danced and made song requests that weren't played 'til about 2:30am before leaving. Stopped at the takeaway shop for some chips (french fries) on the way back, of course.
I wasn't feeling so great the next morning...really should have had water instead of beer...and laid in bed 'til around noon. Played more X-box then watched the FA Cup. All the guys were over for that. Liverpool beat West Ham United in penalty kicks (after double overtime). It was a good game. Becky drove Laura and I out to Westminster where her friend, Ali, was having a bbq. I was dang hungry so ate lots of food. Enjoyed some Leffe Blonde Belgium beer as well. We sat outside and chatted with the group. About 10pm we went to a pub in town. The bar line was crazy so I passed on getting anything but was glad when Ali brought me a water. Stayed there a while before Kathryn wanted to get her groove on so we went to check on bars with music. All had long lines so we took quite a walk across town to another place that had dance music but no dancing. After a while, people were showing signs of tiring so we caught a taxi back to Ali's place and crashed there.
Got up somewhat early and Becky took me to the train station. Caught a bus to Guildford from there then the train to London. Euna's friend, Oliver, met me at Waterloo station and took the bag of donations off my hands. I was glad not to have to carry that around anymore. Took the Underground out to Bayswater and got checked in to my hostel. Had some lunch then took a walk through Hyde Park to Speaker's Corner and Marble Arch. I was expecting some political debates to be going on but everyone was yelling stuff about religion (several different religions were represented). Nothing like God, Allah and loving thy neighbor to get people pissed off and yelling at each other. There were some pretty flowers in bloom in the park. Those were nice. Got a txt from Helen so took the tube southside and met up with her. We went back into the city and got a drink at a coffeeshop by Chinatown. Walked to Leicester Square and met up with Jodie and her housemate. (Helen and Jodie were my best buds on the Egypt tour in Nov 2004.) We went to a nearby bar for dinner and drinks. Talked about traveling, got to reminisce about Egypt and just chatted. They all had to work the next day so we couldn't be out too late. I took a walk along the Thames and to Big Ben for a couple pics then rode the tube back to Bayswater. Had an Aussie guy for a roommate at the hostel. He was alright. There were Spanish kids in the room next door partying most the night so it was hard to get any sleep.
It's a good thing I already have my ticket out of London as I'd be spending all my money on concerts. I could go like a week straight seeing shows I'd like every night! This week: Mon = Hard-Fi, Tues = Texas, Wed = Bic Runga, Thurs = Radiohead, Fri = Richard Ashcroft, Sat = Embrace...
At 8am a jackhammer started going outside the window to cap off a bad night of sleep. Needless to say, I didn't sleep much after that. Eventually got myself out of bed very tired after a poor night of sleep. Went to use the shower and discovered there was no changing area...so changing was done kind of in the open. Luckily, no one else was using the showers at the time. My introduction back into the hostel world has sucked so far. Went to the science museum down by South Kensington to check out a Pixar Animation drawing exhibition but it was L9 (about $17) so I skipped on that. Wandered by Royal Albert Hall quick then back by Marble Arch to meet up with Tony at his hotel. His bus from the airport arrived just after noon and his whole group got off. After a bit of check-in and putting his bag in storage, he was free to go. A classmate of his, Lar, came with us. Our first stop was a traditional English pub for lunch. When we finished, I played tour guide and took them to St Paul's, Tower of London, Tower Bridge and along the Thames to Big Ben and Parliament.
By that time they were a bit tired so we went back to their hotel so they could rest. Tony and I went back out to Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Sq, Piccadilly Circus and Soho. We had to take advantage of there being no laws against drinking on the street. ;) Met up with Jodie again after she got off work and had a couple drinks at a pub. Always good to spend time with friends. Went back to the Marble Arch area to join Tony's tour group but the restaurant they were at was very pricey. We opted to find somewhere less expensive - ended up at Subway ($4 for dinner instead of $35). Went back to the pub we had lunch at and had a pint there until it came close to closing time. Said goodbye to Tony and rode the subway back to my hostel in Bayswater.
I got to be up really early at 5am, which hurt extra 'cuz of the Spanish being up late again, to catch the tube to Victoria and the Gatwick Express from there to the airport. I got to wait around a while until they decided what gate the plane would take off from. I fly to Germany and from there down to Corfu, Greece.
I seem to return to London often. Guess it's because it's like a transportation hub for me. It's also familiar and feels a bit like home (since I lived there for a wee bit). Getting to see friends at the start of the new trip was nice. I missed getting to see a few people, but hopefully I'll get to see them again when I pass back through UK.
Run with me baby, let your hair down
through every station, through every town
run with me baby, let's take a chance
from Heathrow to Hounslow, from the Eastern Block to France
Europe is our playground, London is our town
so run with me baby now
- "europe is our playground", Suede