Home again

So I’m back home, to the snow and cold of Michigan.  Actually, it wasn’t as cold as I had feared it would feel after being in London, which had temps in the 40’s and actually sunlight for part of the days.  Ooo.  Sunlight.  We don’t see a lot here in Michigan in the winter. 

After the horror that was just trying to get into the air towards London, things got better.  I slept well the first night, got up Friday ready to go.  Checked out Josh’s conference (PHP London) and caught the last bit of his talk.  Met some people I had only heard about before, and then decided to head out into London on my own.  Josh’s friend suggested I check out Oxford Street – it’s basically the place to go to shop. 

This required me figuring out the London Underground on my own.  I armed myself with my travel book guide’s map (which had the city map and an Underground map), made my way to Angel Station, , got my ticket and followed the crowd to the escalator down.

And then I  looked down the escalator.  And grabbed onto the railing for dear life.  It was the longest escalator I’d ever seen outside of a nightmare.  Actually, it was the type of escalator I tend to dream about when I’m stressed.  In my dreams I’ll be on a very tall escalator, usually going fast or out of control and I fear I’ll be thrown off.  On the escalator at Angel Street I had to make sure I didn’t get knocked off-balance by all the people running down it to catch the next train.  Turns out the one at Angel Street station was the longest escalator in Europe until they built a longer one at Heathrow.

I survived it…and got used to it.  I even made Josh take a picture of it for proof (pictures to arrive later.)  We spent quality time with the London Underground, jostling for good spots, minding the gap, taking our litter with us as we left the train.  The London Underground is actually quite clean and neat and doesn’t smell like urine like other subway systems I’ve been on.  And they have loads of information everywhere, it’s really hard to get lost on it.

Friday I tackled Oxford Street on my own and went out for Indian food with some of the other conference guys.  Saturday we went down to London Bridge, which is not the big bridge with the two towers like you see in the movies. That’s Tower Bridge, which you can see from London Bridge.  We took pictures of both.  We walked around the Tower of London, saw a big monument that commemorates the Great Fire in London, headed over to Borough Market (which I might have spelled wrong), which is a food market underneath a bridge, slightly hidden away but will completely overwhelm you with all its food choices – it’s only open certain days of the week, so check times if you go there.

After that, jet lag and not enough sleep caught up with me and I got to feeling just plain gross.  So I went back to the hotel to nap while Josh went to Camden Market with friends for lunch (which turned into a little bit of a pub crawl.)  That night we walked about the neighborhood we were in (Islington), got something to eat and plotted our course for the next day.

Sunday, we went back to London Bridge, only took a left and made our way to the spot we both wanted to go to – The Globe theatre.  Remember, once upon a time we were theatre geeks.  We literally met on stage in college.  We did “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” together (I was a fairy, he was Flute.)  We started dating during production and when it ended, we were engaged.  As an English major, I read almost all of Shakespeare’s plays.  So yes, we were going to the Globe.  We did the tour, snapped photos, eyed the stage wistfully, took in every detail.  There was an acting class there that would randomly shout out stuff while our tour guide (a very proper English lady) was trying to give her speeches.  Josh noticed that the acting teacher seemed to be taking a little joy about directing her students to start shouting lines as the guide started in on another speech.  I’m sure our guide thought they were ruining the effect.  Josh and I loved every moment.  Afterwards, we may have bought out the gift shop, but we needed those shot glasses with Shakespearian quotes on them.  And the boys had asked for swords – they just got wooden ones.

The Tate was right next door to the Globe, so we wandered in there (if I hadn’t, I’m not sure my mother would have forgiven me.)  I found Picasso and Monet and left happily after that.  We walked further on, ate lunch at Gabriel’s Wharf, wandered down to the London Eye, which I looked up at and promptly refused to get on.  I’m not a big fan of ferris wheels or open heights.  I don’t care if I’m in a capsule. It’s still too open for my taste.  It was also cloudy that day so you wouldn’t have seen much.  So down the Thames riverbank we went, where we found Parliament and Westminster Tower (you know, the clock tower that holds Big Ben – the bell.  That’s right, Big Ben is not the clock, but the bell – or so I was told by an Englishwoman.)  We got there right at four o’clock so got to hear Big Ben chime.  We wandered around Parliament, which is bigger than you think and so full of detail work it is amazing, were only able to see the outside of Westminster Abbey, then went across the street…and found a statue of Abraham Lincoln.  I’m not sure why he was there, there was no plaque to explain that one, but we took a picture of Honest Abe. 

At this point, we were a bit cold and tired.  However, we were also so close, we soldiered on to Buckingham Palace via St. James Park.  We saw the big statue dedicated to Queen Victoria, but not the guards in the red coats with the big bushy black hats.  We decided we must be on the wrong side of the palace so we’d just go around it.  Twenty minutes later we realize that we’re no where near the palace anymore, we’re on the other side of the gardens.  We were not going to walk all the way back around so we got on the tube at Hyde Park and made our way back to the hotel to drop off stuff and head out for dinner at a Turkish restaurant.  I’d never had Turkish before, or so I thought, but it all ended up being very good, I will definitely go back out for it again.

Monday, our goal was to see Baker Street.  When we told friends this, they asked why and I said “Because our last name is Holmes.”  It took a moment, then they caught the connection and laughed.  Yes, we went to the very cheesy Sherlock Holmes Museum, located at 221B Baker Street.  And it turned out to be not too cheesy.  The museum itself was set up to be as if Sherlock Holmes had lived there, with coal burning in all the grates, Mrs. Hudson’s room, all sorts of knick knacks and gadgets they would have used in that time.  The uppermost floor had scenes set up with mannequins, but those were even done pretty well.  I especially liked the one coming out of the attic trap door.  After that it was out to lunch, then through Hyde Park (quite pretty) where Josh fed squirrels who came right up and took the food out of his hand, then back over to Oxford Street to Regent Street where Josh abandoned me for a few  minutes so he could go drool inside the Ferrari store.  Yes, a whole store dedicated to the Ferrari brand.  It was located right across from a five-story toy store called Hamleys that was celebrating its 250th anniversary.  Oh, Monday morning, we went first to Covent Garden, which is full of shops as well.  That was really fun and we had perfect weather for it – nice and sunny and not too chilly. 

Monday night we met up with another couple for dinner – finally at an English restaurant!  First one we’d been to the entire trip (well, for me it was.)  Josh finally got to order a steak and kidney pie, and really liked it.  After dinner, we walked to another bar for a nightcap, after passing by the Bentley showroom and the Rolls Royce Showroom.  It was funny to think the one car cost more than my whole house…and maybe all the belongings inside it.  Eventually we parted ways and headed home again after what was a very lovely evening out with new friends. 

Tuesday we were leaving London, but not after we had a great cabbie who made us a good deal to get to Heathrow, showed us Abbey Road (where Japanese tourists were waiting for traffic to clear up so they could pose like the Beatles.)  We got to Heathrow to find it filled with Olympic athletes on their way home!  First it was the Swedish women’s hockey team…then more Swedes.  Then I sat down and looked over to find Olympic athletes from Denmark down the row from me.  Then athletes from Slovakia went by and there were more across the way who I couldn’t make out what country they were from but they were blue with red trim.  Josh flew from London to Oslo (Norway) and had Norwegian athletes on his flight.  We were well and truly geeked about that, being rabid Olympic fans.  Also at Heathrow, my shoes set off the metal detector, so I got to get patted down, re-scanned, had my feet wanded, and the handles of my luggage tested for any chemical substances.  I didn’t object to any of this treatment – I’m not stupid.  I thanked them politely for patting me down and wanding me and testing for chemicals and looked as non-threatening and compliant as possible. 

After that, the rest of my trip home was dull, which really, dull is good when flying.  Today I could use a nap.  But already I’m back into real life.  I’ve hassled the boys about school work, stopped by the store for a couple items and brought something up to the school for Maura.  Oh, and I’m doing laundry.  Real life means laundry.  Yep, vacation is definitely over.