Part 5:  London Baby

It was a … god knows what kind of day it was when we arrived in London.  It was around 4pm in the afternoon. Our plane landed a bit early, but we hung about onboard for an extra 20 or so minutes… something to do with british airways getting in before us, some possible confusion over airbridge operators or steps for planes?  So the muffled PA from the Captain infromed us – and all the people who had stood up in a mad rush as soon as the seat belt sign was switched off and began queuing in the isles.  Why do people do that? I mean everyone’s going to get off in the end.  And you know they let the first class and business class passengers get off first.  So whats the rush people?

You can tell what kind of drivers people are by how they act while disembarking an aircraft.  Do they allow other passengers to merge into the aisle, smiling nicely and saying after you? Or do they undo the over head lockers before the plane has stopped, pushing down the aisle regardless of their backpack clocking every second passenger he passes. Or do they accept the kindly offer of a passenger making space for them to merge into the aisle, and then ignore all the other people behind them piling up in a big heap while they rearrange their hand luggage, zipping and unzipping pockets and making sure their cardigan and scarf and on just right then say “whoopsy… soooorrrryyy” to the exasperated people sighing loudly behind them?
Oh it amuses me!!
So we waited for them to find us some stairs, and a few buses, which took us back to the terminal. Where once again we lined up and zig zagged our way closer to freedom.  Once they’d agreed to let us in we then lined up again, this time with a trolly and waited for our bags to appear.  Which they eventually did.

Research paid off, and we found the London Transport office in a lickity split and 2 minutes later had our Oyster Cards all loaded up.  We were ready to ride.
Ah yes – the London tube.  What a joy to behold.  We settled in and I wearily pointed out our first glimpse of London.  I’m not sure Jac heard me – what with the sedatives from the flights and the fact we’d been up for about 2 and a half days, she was half asleep on her bag.  Of course it was peak time when our tube stopped in a Piccadilly so when our Russell Square stop arrived we had to push and shove our way out and seeing the queues for the lifts we made a quick decision to take the stairs.

Bad. Choice.

Turns out there are about 175 thousand steps at Russell Square station.  Try that with a pack on your back aye.  Fire fighters we will never be.  By the time we got about half way and realised the error of our ways, it was too late to turn around.  If we’d attempted turning around I’m assuming my legs would have given way and I probably would have rolled to the bottom.  So upward we climbed.

At the top we collapsed on our packs in exhaustion, fighting to get air into our lungs and praying we didn’t vomit on the shoes of the weary workers heading home from their day in the office.

When our legs had stopped shaking and the blurry spots had cleared from our eyes, we loaded up again and thanks to Aidan’s excellent idea of showing me the google map and street view of where our hostel was, we found it nice and easy.  We joined the queue to check in, got our room card and staggered into the lift.  It was at this point one of us said something about a shower, and a conversation filtered into my fuzzy memory – there was a conversation floating about there somewhere, where we had agreed we didn’t need a bathroom of our own, it was only a couple of nights.  We’d be fine with a shared on.

On opening the door to our room, this memory was clearly not something I had dreamed up, but something that had actually happened.  We gazed somewhat pensively at our red and blue walls, our bunkbed, our chair (singular) and our metal sink.  We went in search of the loo, found a very dodgey one, and I will admit that at this point exhaustion and tiredness took over, and we returned to our little square room, sat on our packs (because you couldn’t sit on the bottom bunk without whacking yourhead) and we laughed.  then we cried a bit, and then we laughed a bit more, and cried some more, then we sort of laughed and cried and snorted and hiccuped all the same time.  It’s amazing what lack of sleep and sedatives do to people.

We pulled ourselves together and made a quick trip to the corner shop where we got bananas and digestives and water bottles.  We returned to our little room and both clambered up to the top bunk where we picniced on banana’s and digestives. Not even chocolate ones.  It was only a couple of minutes later as I was trying to work out how to work the internet connection when I looked up to see Jac fast asleep – a digestive biscuit may have been sort of hanging out of her mouth and crumbs all over her tshirt.  Oh how I wish I’d got a photo alas the camera was somewhere down there and I wasn’t moving off my top bunk for anything.

So I kicked and shock Jac till she woke enough to clamber down – remarkabley without falling, and at 6.30pm London time we closed the curtains tucked ourselves into bed… and went to sleep!  Thank god.

We woke early the next day sometime just before 5am, which meant we were first in line for hot showers – oh the joy of it! and set about working out where we could use the internet.  We talked on skype to our respective husbands and kiddies.  Funnily enough the kids were a bit confused by Skype the first day and they all ran away and hid when we tried to talk to them!  But once they got the hang of seeing us (and themselves) on the computer it was fantastic – it was so nice to be able to see them and chat and tell them about our adventures – and more importantly keep them updated on the presents we had bought them and which football club jersey they wanted us to bring home for them.

our 3 days in London sped by in a blur of sight seeing, shopping and jetlag.  Buckingham Palace, The London Eye, Covent Garden, Westminster Abby, Big Ben, Oxford Street shopping, Harrods, Piccadilly Circus.  We would leave the hostel in the early morning and literally crawl back in the evening – toothpicks in eyes – our feet aching.  Then we’d get up again the next morning, squeeze in an hour on the laptop to send off Jac’s assignments or do some online module for her course.  We’d have our free hostel breakfast – ceral, toast and tea and coffee, before we headed out for another day in the City.

I’ll keep the highlights short!

  • Westminster Abbey is worth every bit of the 15 pound entry fee.  What anamazing couple of hours we spent being guided around by the audio guide … I truly had no idea of the history and the people who are laid to rest in Westminster Abbey.  All the kings and queens and then Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton.  The audio guide is fantastic.  I don’t have a very good grasp of British history – I tend to forget which Queen married which King and why that person was mad at the other one.  But the guide gave just enough information to keep me interested and keep me moving.  and oh I could go on and on but really it’s enough to say if you are in or around London with a few hours spare – go to Westminster Abbey.  You’d be hard pushed to come out disappointed.
  • The london eye was – well, it’s what it is really.  A big wheel that gives you a great view out over the city.  It’s great for the view but I can’t say for what it costs that it was a magical experience.  But good for a different perspective on the city.

  • Harrods was as fabulous as ever… oh their food hall is just fascinating.  All thepastries and chocolates and cakes.  The kids floor was vast and the toy shop incredible.  One day I will take the kids there and I guarantee it’ll take us a whole day and bribes of chocolate and lollies to get them to leave!  Postman Pat, Thomas the tank engine, Little Einsteins, Disney Fairys, Charlie and Lola, Fireman Sam… they were all there.  As well as giant stuffed Harrods bears, a huge area full of jungle themed toys – crocodiles, snakes, lions and tigers.  Very cool.  We wondered through the fancy ball gown sections and oogled at the label clothes and their fantastic price tags. Even the lifts were fancy!!

We had a ride on a big red bus, and I was impressed that my London Tube skills were pretty good still… perhaps it’s one of those things you learn once and it’s with you for life.