First of all - an apology for the lack of pictures ... I'm trying to organize a double set of digital photos on my computer (from me and my Dad's family) going back to Christmas 2004, so I'm in a picture-mess at the moment ... I will make a London Pictures entry as well someday when I've sorted this out! :)
For now, you'll have to enjoy the written entry about mine and Annikas London trip! :)
London 26-29 June 2009
I finally managed to get back to London again, after three years – again with Annika as a travel partner! I really wish I could have made this entry when I had just gotten back, as all the memories are fresh, but since I’ve been out of internet all summer … Anyway, I’m keeping a regular diary, so hopefully I’ll be able to give a pretty detailed travel description anyway!
June 26 – Friday
I was meeting Annika at Gothenburg City Airport at 8.30 a.m. and had a pretty intense morning before I got on the road. Lots of little things didn’t work out quite as planned, but eventually they sorted themselves out, and we met without major hitches. To avoid lots of extra costs, we had decided to share one bag that we checked in, so we had to do a little reorganizing at the Airport Carpark! Again to reduce costs we had decided on “online check in”, and neither one of us had no idea how that worked, but we managed to solve it without any problems! (Though it took the City Airport check in as well as the Stanstead Airport check in for me to “get it”, but I think I’ve figured out the benefits of it now! Better late than never?!)
We were really early, as we had been unsure of the check in, so we had quite a long wait at the airport, even though our flight was on time. I know there are lots of security checks now, which I think is really good, but I was still surprised at the tiny little City Airport (they have like 4 check in desks and 3 gates!), we had to show our boarding card five times (!) and there was even a passport check – they usually only check your passport on arrival!
We got good seats on the plane, despite barding rather late, and the flight was pretty eventless. We did buy Stanstead Express tickets, but I’m beginning to think I should look at other ways of getting those … They started selling them really late, and they wanted payment in Euros!! Since neither Sweden nor England uses Euros, you’re hardly likely to be carrying any with you, and the steward selling the tickets had no clue as to the exchange rate! For my next London trip, I’ll definitely check out other options! It’s one thing if they are a lot cheaper on board the plane, but somehow I doubt that! I think it’s possible to purchase the tickets online, I’m guessing that’s the best solution!
Before long we hS through Stanstead Airport and boarded the Stanstead Express – me with my usual after-flight-headache, but still really really excited about being in England once again! Upon arriving promptly at Liverpool Street Station, we bought Bus Passes and had lunch at McDonald’s before finding a bus.
This is probably going to sound silly, but I just love that first bus ride from Liverpool Street. I know I’m a slave under habit and keep doing the same things over and over – but if I’m happy with it, what’s the harm? It’s bus 23 to somewhere around Piccadilly Circus or Regent Street (or Oxford Street), where there’s a bus change to get to Bayswater. And that first bus ride, it’s just fantastic! You know you have the entire trip ahead of you, all the possibilities in the world, and you get a good tour of London as well. I have completely fallen in love with London, and it’s great to see all the familiar sites again – first the financial district, where the streets are crowded and the bus stops every 100 meters or so. Then the Royal Courts of Justice, a really impressive set of buildings! You pass through Aldwych before arriving at Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column. After that you reach Piccadilly Circus with the famous Eros statue and then turn up on to the fascinating Regent Street! We got off at Regent Street and waited for bus 94 to get to Bayswater Road. I had a fairly good idea on where our hotel was, even though we had apparently ended up in an area between Bayswater and Paddington, that none of our maps really covered!
At this point of our trip, the “Bus Problem” started. I know that public transport in London is huge and not 100% reliable, but during this trip, it was almost ridiculous!
Anyway, we waited for bus 94, and waited, and waited … and waited! We saw a few 94s in the opposite direction, but not a single one appeared at our Bus Stop. I knew that buses 15 and 23 went near Paddington, and our hotel was actually between Bayswater and Paddington, but I have always managed to get lost around Paddington – I get really confused there – so I was reluctant to take any of those buses! However, when we had waited probably about 40 minutes or so, enough was enough!! We had a musical planned that evening and we simply had to get to our hotel! We jumped on a bus 23 with me feeling quite nervous. I wasn’t even sure where we should get off, but figured it would be okay if we got off at Paddington station. As soon as we had decided on that, the bus announced that it was going on diversion due to some construction work! Thanks a lot!! Don’t ask me how, but we did manage to get off at the “right” bus stop (even though we didn’t know that at the time) and then started the uncertain walk to our hotel! Even though it did take a while to reach the hotel, in retrospect, we actually didn’t get lost! *yay us!* We didn’t take the very best way, but it wasn’t a long detour either …
We had a twin room booked at Paddington Court Rooms, but had been instructed to check in at the sister hotel across the street, Paddington Court Hotel and Suites, as our hotel did not have a reception disk. The check in presented no problems, but we did end up getting a room at the Hotel & Suites instead of Rooms … I didn’t protest, as the bill was the same, but we did end up getting a double room instead of a twin. I guess that’s not the end of the world, though I guess if we’d thought about it straight away, we could have complained and probably gotten another room!
The hotel was the nicest one I’ve lived in during my four trips to London, without a doubt! The room was small, but I know what you have to pay to get large rooms in London, and I really don’t think it’s worth it! It was really nice and fresh and clean, and the bathroom was fantastic!! That is … it was fantastic once we figured out how to turn the lights on in there! *lol* It was really a simple construction, and quite smart, though it wasn’t easy to figure out – Annika actually had to call reception since we didn’t get it. Just as you entered the room, there was a box on the wall, and when you stuck your key card in the box, the lights to the bathroom turned on!! Really smart – no risk leaving the bathroom lights on when you leave the room – but not easy to figure out on your own! :)
Time flew by really quickly, and we really only had time to unpack and catch our breath, before it was time to get ready for “Phantom of the Opera” at Her Majesty’s Theatre! I wanted to go down to Bayswater Road and take the 94 bus, because I figured that would be much quicker than a walk to Paddington Station, especially since those buses where on diversion and I was really unsure of where the bus stops were. Annika however was really unsure and argued that if the 94 buses didn’t arrive once we’d gotten down to Bayswater Road it might just jeopardize ‘Phantom’. I figured it wasn’t worth the risk, so we walked to Paddington and found a bus without any problems. We walked from Piccadilly Circues and stopped for a sandwich on the way to Her Majesty’s Theatre!
We got fantastic seats on the third row of Stalls (Row D), and it was just amazing to see Phantom in London!!! (for further details, see separate entry on Phantom of the Opera!)
After the show we did some shopping for breakfast the next day, before catching a bus from Piccadilly. Things went smoothly until we got to Marble Arch, where the whole traffic came to a complete stop! It was impossible to see what was going on, but we were standing there for quite a while. I’m the kind of person, who really wants to know what’s happening, but it was completely dark outside and the traffic was at a standstill so you couldn’t see anything. Yet another “Bus Problem” … After a long wait, the bus had to take some kind of detour – as I said, it was practically impossible to see anything, but I think we went down to Hyde Park Corner and turned around there … but I’m not sure! Eventually we ended up back on Edgeware Road and from there things went okay!
We were both really tired, and practically collapsed when we got to the hotel – it had certainly been an intense first day!
June 27 – Saturday
I didn’t sleep well at all the first night, I have to admit that I’m not used to – or that great at – sharing a double bed for a start. I also woke up several times with a headache, which was quite annoying. When I woke up “for real” the headache had developed into a true migraine – at the worst possible moment of course! I felt really dreadful, and not at all ready to face an intense Day 2 in London, and I also felt guilty toward Annika, I didn’t want to ruin anything for her. When she woke up, it turned out she had a migraine too and was feeling quite sick! I guess I didn’t have to feel guilty but it still felt pretty rotten that both of us were so out-of-it when we were in LONDON! I usually have a very hard time trying to get rid of my migraines, but at this point I felt I had no choice, I simply had to do anything and everything in my power to get back on track as quickly as possible! I managed to get up and take a shower. After that I drank all the coffee we had in the room and a number of my own headache pills (I don’t think I should get into exactly how many …). The headache wasn’t all gone, but at least I felt good enough to be able to deal with the day – but unfortunately Annika didn’t! She managed to get back to sleep for a while, and could get up after that – and I ran downstairs and got her a coke, which I think helped a little.
We were both able to leave the hotel at about 11, and while I know we were really really sick, I can’t help but feel it was a waste of London hours! I know there wasn’t anything we could do, but I still can’t shake that feeling … I love London oh-so-much, and I want to be able to make the most of every single hour I’m there!
We went straight to Queens Theatre and got our Les Misérables tickets for the matinee show, and then we headed down toward Trafalgar Square. We had bought some “food” (or whatever we figured we could eat, I had a sandwich and Annika who’d been sick earlier had some crackers, and popcorn … the popcorn weren’t that great though …), so we had some kind of lunch next to Lord Nelson!
After that we took a walk along Whitehall down to Parliament Square! I know I’m just repeating myself, but I really love the atmosphere and the feel of London, especially around these parts. It was however, quite hot, and my migraine was quickly coming back! We did some photographing around Parliament Square, but there lots of people and none of us were 100%, so we never went over to St. Margaret’s Church and Westminster Abbey, though I really wish I had had the energy to do so. We realized we had to take a bus back, due to the heat, and I also really felt I needed something to drink or my migraine would spin completely out of control. We walked to the nearest bus stop and waited. And waited. And waited. Again with the “Bus Problem” … It turned out the police had closed the entire street, all the way up to Trafalgar Square, for a demonstration from Sri Lanka!! At this point, I felt I was really close to fainting, and I honestly didn’t know what to do! Luckily I had found a bench so I could sit down, but all I could do was look at my own feet, as soon as I moved my head I saw black spots in front of my eyes! Not funny!! I really can’t say how long we had to wait, to me it felt like we sat there for hours, but of course I know we didn’t! I guess it wasn’t more than maybe half an hour, even though I felt we’d never get on a bus!
Since the buses were so late, we had to stand up, and that was also a trying experience, as I had struggled against fainting just sitting down! Eventually we did get to Regent Street and rushed into a McDonald’s, and I got a life-saving large Coke! Unfortunately when we were in line, some young kids came in and one little brat decided to throw his opened juice bottle toward the line – meaning both me and Annika got quite wet from orange juice!
Anyway, due to all of this we were almost running late for Les Misérables so we hurried up to Queens while I tried to drink my Coke.
And what can I say!?! Well, one thing is for sure – I’m soooo happy that we had Les Miz planned for this day, because I was feeling really rotten before it started and had it been any other musical, I think it would have been completely ruined for me. As it were, I didn’t have to pay that much attention to the plot or the characters or the songs, as I know it all by heart, and instead concentrate on the bits that really interest me. That also meant I could relax a little bit during the parts I’m not so into, so it was really lucky we decided on Les Miz that day! (for a detailed review on the show, see separate entry!)
I did however, feel completely out-of-it after the show, and we took a bus straight back to the hotel! My migraine had come back and I’m pretty sure I had a fever when we were on the bus. When we got to Paddington it started raining, and by the time we’d gotten off, it was almost a hail storm!!! The temperature dropped radically, and we rushed into the nearest store – we had to do some shopping anyway. We got in there completely soaked, and the store had full air conditioning! I don’t know if I’ve ever been so cold in my entire life, I ended up standing in a corner of the store just shaking! After a while the rain eased off a bit and we managed to get to our hotel, even though we were totally soaked once we got there. We had thought about taking a rest at the hotel for a while, and then head out to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, but I was really ill when we got back and jumped into bed straight away! Again feeling kind of guilty toward Annika, but I was really out-of-it and I feel asleep already at 9-9.30, I just couldn’t help myself!
June 28 – Sunday
I didn’t sleep very well the night to Sunday either, but at about 4 a.m. we opened the window and that really helped. I guess the ventilation in the room wasn’t good at all (practically nonexistent) and we didn’t want the air condition to run during the night – and I’m guessing that’s what caused both our migraines and headaches … I did wake up with a headache anyway but at least I felt better than the day before – though Annika didn’t feel great.
We left the hotel at about 10, and took a bus to The Tower. We got seats on the top floor so we ended up taking quite a few pictures during the bus ride. I guess you always wish for even better photos, a better camera and a better objective, but I still like my series of pictures from that bus ride! I had been to The Tower once before, but I enjoy it a lot and didn’t mind going back at all – and Annika hadn’t been there before. Though it’s rather pricy (even though I got a Student ticket which was cheaper), it’s very much worth it. Since it was Sunday we weren’t exactly alone there (!), and I think I would have liked it even more had there not been quite so many people there. I really wanted to take one of the guided Yeoman tours, but there were so many people, I don’t think we would have heard anything even if we had decided to take a tour. But I really wish I would have studied a bit more first, I have a strong feeling you’d get so much more out of the visit if you knew more of England’s history!! We walked around for a while and when we took a break outside the White Tower, we ended up in the middle of a … live theatre-thingy … It seemed really cool, a couple of actors gathered several groups of visitors, and acted out sort of a play! We weren’t involved, but one group gathered just where we were sitting, around an actor portraying the Archbishop of Canterbury! He was really great, and it sounded so much fun – I wish we could have taken an active part. Annika had unfortunately some problems with her foot, and since the exercise did seem to involve lots of walking and running around, we decided to take it easy and walk around in our own pace instead.
Naturally we went in to see the Crown Jewels, and even though there are a lot of video displays and not that much time with the actual Crown Jewels, it’s quite an experience to have actually seen them!
When we decided we’d seen enough of The Tower we took a bus back, but again with the “Bus Problem”. We were on a regular bus, and just behind us was a Routemaster heading for Trafalgar Square. For some reason we stopped in the middle of an intersection, and all of a sudden, the co-driver from the Routemaster came running up to our bus driver, who put the bus in reverse … I didn’t get it at all, but it took quite a while before we got started again, and the bus was completely crowded! When we reached Trafalgar Square, the bus went on some really insane diversion! Instead of heading for Piccadilly Circus and on to Regent Street and Oxford Circus, the bus went straight up to Tottenham Court Road and from there to Oxford Circus. When we got off, we had lunch at McDonald’s before going to Hamley’s! That is such an amazing store, and I could easily spend half a day there! I found some cute rabbits for my sisters, that didn’t cost a fortune (!) so I bought them before we took a bus up to Oxford Street (I guess we could have walked, but there was rain coming and we were really tired).
We went into the Disney Store – but didn’t buy anything – and to HMV … and that was bloody dangerous!! At first I didn’t find anything that I REALLY wanted, and I felt quite pleased with that, since my economy isn’t that great at the moment! Then all of a sudden, I kept tripping over sooo much stuff I wanted!! They had the soundtrack to practically all the James Bond films – even the really early ones – 2 for £5!! I also found a lovely box with 6 old musical movies, for £15 that I really wanted! And when we reached the DVD section I nearly fainted! I found the first two seasons of The Flying Doctors and the first 64 episodes of Prisoner: Cell Block H!!!!! *GASP* I knew Prisoner had been released on DVD but it’s still cool to actually see it in a store, and I had no idea they’d released The Flying Doctors!!! It was impossible to not buy anything, but I practically endured torture when trying to decide on WHAT to buy! :) I ended up buying the second season of The Flying Doctors, and the Prisoner Box with episodes 33-64 … even though it ended up being quite expensive! *feeling happy and guilty at the same time* We also bought a few souvenirs and presents, and I actually got a really nice compliment from the guy at the till … he thought I came from England or America, and when I told him I was from Sweden, he complimented me on my English! :)
We were pretty tired at this point, having been on our feet constantly since 10 in the morning, so we went back to the hotel and relaxed for a while. After a few hours we took a walk to Queensway, but we wanted to spend some time in Hyde Park as well, and time was getting on, so we went there pretty quickly – but it was still getting darker by the minute! I wrote a few postcards on a bench, when suddenly a police car pulled up and told us the park was closing and that we had to make our way out. It felt sad we didn’t get to see more of the park, but I guess you can’t have everything, right?
June 29 – Monday
We slept with the window open all night, and that did make a difference, I woke up at about 7 a.m. and felt better than ever!! A bit ironic since it was our last day! The plane left at about 2.30, and since it’s a long ride to Stanstead and we were a bit unsure of the check in procedure, we had decided not to plan anything else, but instead be able to take it easy all the way to the airport.
We checked out at about 9, and there were no problems there, and took a bus to Liverpool Street. It was nice not having to change buses, since we had our bags with us this time. We were lucky at Liverpool Street, as there was a train leaving for Stanstead about 10 minutes after we got there! The train trip was okay and when we got to the airport, we had lunch at Burger King. Annika was kind and bought me lunch, as we had decided I would drive her home, when we got to Gothenburg. We ate in peace, and when we were done, we went over to the Ryanair check in desks. Again not so easy to figure out how it worked with online check in, but after a while we had it figured out and there were no problems with checking in the bag. Next stop was the security check, and that worked pretty smoothly too, though I was quite surprised. On earlier trips I have had a certain handbag with me, and all the time it has been pulled aside in the security check! Last time, in 2006, I had another bag, and that went through without problems! This time I had the “suspicious” bag, but I had it packed in a larger backpack … and it went through! Very weird!
We did some shopping at WH Smith and then had to wait a while for our gate to be announced – but once that happened things moved along quickly, and we were only about 10 minutes late!
The flight went well, and it was lovely coming into Gothenburg where we saw the entire Swedish West Coast with the sun about to set out to sea – very beautiful!!
Going through City Airport went quickly and there were no problems in collecting the car, so before long we were on our way to Annika’s hometown! I dropped her off before heading up to the summerhouse, where Zorro was very happy to see me!!
Before this London trip I was very nervous about how I would cope! I hadn’t been in London in three years, and even though I generally feel a lot better now, I still felt uncertain! And I’m thrilled to announce that I did cope better than I could have dreamed of!! Despite being ill and coping with those sorts of problems, I think I handled the trip in a really good way … and now I’m very much hoping to be able to go by myself there fairly soon! Money is definitely a problem that I’m not sure how to solve, but I really really want to take a trip to London on my own – to once and for all prove to myself that I really can cope!! I did go to London alone in 2004, when I had been there both with my Mum and Dad (on separate occasions of course!), but I didn’t handle that trip very well at all – so I would like to go now and really prove to myself that I can do it!! *fingers crossed*