Friday, April 20, 2012

London Day One

We had an incredible day of travel to get here. It was a real treat to be able to fly out of our regional airport instead of driving 2 hours to Kansas City. The flight left on time and arrived early for our layover at O'Hare in Chicago where we had a lovely breakfast at Wolfgang Puck's. The four cheese omelet was divine. Paired with garlic roasted potatoes it was a good start since who knows what they'll be serving on the flight to London. The O'Hare to JFK flight left on time and arrived early too! Unfortunately my seat on the plane allowed me only a glimpse of the King Kong building and none of the Statue of Liberty. Fortunately I was able to add another state to my been-there list.

New York to London flight left on time. Many good movies to watch so I caught one before dinner was served. Tried to watch a second one after dinner, but my eyes kept closing. Since I wanted to sleep on the plane, this was good. I caught sleep off and on for about 3 hours. This is good since we plan to push through the tired and stay up on arrival in order to sleep at night like normal people. The plane, once again, arrived early. So early we had to circle round and round since they have noise rules that won't let us land at Heathrow prior to 6:00 AM. What I noticed in our circling? It's very green here. I wonder why that is?

We'd arranged to have a car pick us up and deliver us to our hotel in a suburb north of the city proper. After our experience dragging luggage on and off of public transportation in Paris, we checked "live like locals" off our list and vowed to never do airport to hotel public transpo again. Customs, in preparation for the upcoming Olympics, was fully staffed and moving the queue faster than I thought possible. The line moved at a steady pace and we were through in no time at all. The driver was waiting for us, very pleasant fellow and he whisked us off to The Hide in Hendon. Arriving too early to check in---which is good, don't want to see that inviting mattress---we were able to leave luggage, freshen in the lobby loo and hit the tube into the city. Not only do we get to freshen, but the desk staff serves us up a couple of Lattes in case we don't have enough caffeine in us yet. Armed with umbrellas and raincoats, our adventure begins.

Our first trip into the city only involves one tube line so it's rather simple to speak with the ticket taker and find out if pay as we go or day pass is today's transpo option. For today it's pay as we go since we only plan the one trip in and one trip back. We exit the Northern Line (Charing Cross via Kennington) at Embankment and there is the Thames spread out before us with the shadow of the London Eye falling across the water. We head towards Big Ben in search of the tourist buses that make the circuit of attractions to plan where we want to spend some in-depth time.

We pass Whitehall Gardens, 10 Downing Street, and several other impressive buildings with the requisite Statues of Old Dead Guys and cross Westminster Bridge to the south bank. On the bridge a lone Bagpiper plays for tips. A quick stop for more caffeine at the McDonald's in the building at the foot of The Eye and we find our tour bus, complete with live (not recorded) tour spiel. Immediately one of the things that wasn't on our must-see list gets added. How can you see the Tower of London and NOT want to go through it is beyond me. Wasn't appealing on paper but now that we see it, we're going. On the bus we're able to scope out near enough where we need to be for our TV show taping on Monday night.

After the bus we take the free river cruise that's included with the bus tour. This gives us a look at many of the same things the bus does, but as viewed from the river. It also tells us that we probably don't need to buy a hop-on-hop-off day pass to the bus when we return Saturday. Everything we want to see is certainly walking distance from the tube state. Probably on a par with our 12 hour walking day in Amsterdam. We can do this. Towards the end of the river cruise the sky darkens considerably and when we disembark, the sky opens and pours. For all of maybe 8 minutes, but we're prepared and keep the soaking to a minimum. Disdaining the river side City Loo, for which you pay 50P, I hope to find a loo at the tube station. There is one; a City Loo. At this point I'm willing to pay 50P to keep from peeing my pants.

Fading fast from the brisk wind that came up at the end of our cruise, we tube back to Hendon and officially check in to our hotel. We are hungry so we really just glance at the room and head back out to find a local meal. We are sooooooo tempted to eat at KFC as we haven't had KFC since the one in MHK closed, but on the walk there we discover Cafe Florence and decide to take a chance. Judi opts for the fish and chips (even though we do plan to hit a fish 'n' chip shop that's on the top ten list) and I have the chicken escalope which is flattened chicken breast coated in bread crumbs and then fried (deep fried I think by the even coloring). Both are very good. Not great but very good and with dinner in our bellies we return to the hotel for the night. Tomorrow we attack some attractions in-depth.

Please note, I have no way to transfer pictures from my camera to the PC to post here. If I snag a cheap card reader tomorrow that will change but if I don't, I'll have to come back to these posts and add pictures when I get back home.

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