No further explanation should be necessary.
At Heathrow, I coasted through customs after a nice chat with a border agent who advised me to take National Express coaches to Edinburgh instead of the train (apparently it's cheaper) and picked up my three bags from the baggage claim: a 25 lb backpack, a 50 lb wheelie-bag, and a 70-lb monster wheelie-bag. I mention this because it suddenly gets important in the next half of this sentence: halfway through the endless tunnels connecting the arrivals hall to the Tube station, one of the wheels on the 50-lb back just broke right off. The metal pin that should have been holding it in place was so hot from the friction that it burned my fingers when I tried to mess with it. Instead, I ended up carrying the broken bag and wheeling the other, so by the time I made it on the Tube, I was pretty exhausted already.
I made it off the train at King's Cross and up the first escalator okay, but by the time I'd staggered to the second, I was running out of strength and starting to seriously wonder how I was going to make it out of the station and several blocks away to my hostel. As I stood there regarding the escalator like an invader trying to scale the Great Wall of China, a man and a woman on their way down to the train stopped to ask me if I needed help. They each took a bag and took everything up the escalator to find me some assistance. Upon asking a station employee, though, we were told that the station staff couldn't help me with my bags, at which point both of them decided to help me take everything to my hostel several blocks away, despite my protests. This wonderful pair walked with me all the way there--the man even carried my 50-lb bag in his arms all the way--and then, with a handshake and a hug, disappeared back to the Tube. The random kindness of strangers simply bowled me over; they really saved me and I wish I could've given them more than effusive thanks.
I got settled into my room and wandered to the Tesco's across the street for a lunch/dinner to placate my seriously confused stomach, as it was then about 4:30 pm local time and about 8:30 am PST. I headed down to the very nearby British Library and looked at the books a bit, munched on my sandwich, and made some semblance of a plan for the following day. The jet lag was getting to me, though, so I made my slow way back to the hostel and went to bed.
I started out at the Globe in the hopes of getting a ticket for "The Taming of the Shrew," but those hopes were dashed by the information that all tickets are sold out until Tuesday. Now aimless, I meandered down the South Bank toward Westminster, and at an Olympics info booth, was advised to visit the Royal Festival Hall. I didn't find much inside, but around back the open square was filled with tents from which wafted the most delicious smells: a Real Food market, full of delightful delicacies and just in time for lunch. I walked around a couple times, trying to decide what I wanted, but I got completely sidetracked talking to a young bloke manning a booth full of preserves and cheeses. It started out by me asking what, exactly, a chutney is, than cajoling him into telling me about the different cheeses, and then him convincing me to try their cider (which was lovely when cut with a generous splash of apple juice), then somehow discussing world overpopulation and the nature of humanity and whether ice cream has salt in. I must've stood there for an hour, just laughing and chatting away, until finally hunger compelled me to go buy a sandwich, which turned out to be one of the best food-related life choices I've ever made (slow-roasted herbed pork, applesauce, and just a bit of lettuce...absolutely heavenly). I dropped by the preserves booth to say goodbye to my new friend and his aunt and strolled off across the Golden Jubilee bridge toward Covent Garden. On the way I stopped by Somerset House, which was hosting an exhibition about Brazil to promote the 2016 Games in Rio. I think I need to start working on my Portuguese asap...
|The only proper way to watch the Olympics|
|Big Ben watches the sunset|
|An eye and the Eye--get it?|
|Westminster Bridge from the Eye|
I tried to pay for it myself, but I didn't really have much choice in the matter. We got through the line quickly and rejoined Rodrigo where he was waiting for us near the Eye, grinning good-naturedly. Almost right away, we were stepping into one of the Eye's glass pods and rising ponderously above the city as the evening lights came on. I'd never been on the Eye before--it's one of the few major London attractions I haven't experienced, as it has been on my list of Tourist Boondoggles that also includes Madame Tussaud's and the London Dungeon--but it was genuinely a treat. The sky was still light in the west, and the whole city was spread out at our feet, cut in half by a river rendered glitteringly beautiful by the night lights. Rodrigo felt a little dizzy and sat on the bench while Ale and I took pictures like mad.
Back on solid ground, we decided on pizza for dinner and strolled back to Piccadilly Circus via Trafalgar Square. We opted for Pizza Hut and chatted about traveling and makeup (Ale does, like, everything, from drawing and photography to hair and makeup), then at Piccadilly Circus we split up to go home. These two were absolutely delightful and utterly hilarious.
|"Why are they wearing hairy hats, mummy?" |
--an adorable child in the crowd
I began a little late, so I decided mostly at random to pop by Buckingham Palace to see if the Changing of the Guard was on, and what do you know, it was. I was there for a long time, holding my spot on the side of the fence, but had a great view of the red-coated men in furry hats marching about in the hot sun. They played for us a wonderful piece of classical music and then I wandered off towards Trafalgar Square--although I got redirected by a confused sign and ended up at Piccadilly Circus instead. What the heck, I thought, and started toward the British Library via Shaftesbury Avenue. Halfway there, I came across what can only be described as nerd utopia: a giant two-storey store packed to the gills with everything that makes a nerd's heart skip a beat, with a preoccupation with Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, and superheroes. The entire ground floor was merch of various sorts--mugs, clothing, posters, games, and mountains of statuettes and action figures--and the basement was a nerd-only bookstore. I was in heaven.
Anyway, I meandered around the Elgin marbles and then headed home because it was cloudy and grey and I was tired. I took a nap and then stayed up too late and it was boring. Let's move on.
Remarkably, the day began with a genuine plan: I was going to the street market on Portobello Road. Unlike last time, when I got ridiculously lost, I had no trouble finding it (maybe the intervening years have made me smarter...I can only hope) and strolled up the streets admiring watching, clothing, and antiques of every type and description. There were only two things I wanted: a new watch pendant and some food. I walked the entire length of the market, bought my watch, and had some delicious paella for lunch. I also found an Oxfam Books, which is like my favorite store ever, and got Tom Reynolds' first book. Altogether a very successful outing.
That brings us to today, but this post is long enough and the next one's looking to be philosophical (brace yourselves), so...stay tuned!