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World Travel Log

Follow James and Jay on a trip around the world.

Tue
1
Dec '09

London Bridge Is Not Falling Down

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Boarding the plane is Cairo, at 4 am Greenwich Mean Time made for a very long first day in London. Getting from the airport to the hostel was no big deal. In fact, it was great to find that the hostel is on top of a bar and that reception is at the end opposite of the beer taps! Within in an hour of being in London the disappointment of the past two days was completely gone.

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Turns out, the first night in town ended up being a wash. After enjoying a couple of pints and a decent meal, I was out sleeping for almost 15 hours. The only real downside to this much sleep was waking up 1 or 2 hours before any of the cafes were serving breakfast, and I was starving! Imagine my surprise when Jay and I found ourselves in a middle eastern restaurant, serving an English breakfast, while playing Egyptian music. Go Figure.

U2

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The main order of business for the day was to locate U2 tickets for the night’s concert. This proved to be a little bit more difficult than planned, because most of the craigslist postings were for the day before. After 4 or 5 Skype calls, we found a seller who would meet us outside the stadium. Grabbed some lunch, got some tickets, and then relaxed until show-time by watching a football (the soccer type) match at the bar.

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The concert was amazing, as expected. It was also the source for another good line from the trip. After two opening bands Jay asked me if I knew who the third act would be. I replied “Yeah, I have heard they have a few hits.” He thought there were three openers, not two. :) The two that opened were “The Hours” and “Glasvegas”? I could be mistaken, but I believe I have seen The Hours perform at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. They are a band I want to check a little bit more into.

Once Bono and crew took to stage, the show was definitely on. Great mix of old songs and recent hits. Hanging out, solo, in the Hostel bar afterwards was fun until the taps were shutdown. I actually ran into a couple of people who saw the Friday night show, and they seemed to enjoy it as much as I did Saturday night’s.

5-pence Tour

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Sunday morning was a little rough for me to get going, but I was okay after breakfast. Shortly after packing my bags and completing check-out, I got an IM from Brian letting me know he was at his flat. So we grabbed a only-found-in-London style cab, and headed towards our next accommodations.

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At this point, I should mention that the room in London was the smallest yet most expensive of the trip so far. Jay and I actually couldn’t pack or unpack in the room at the same time. So when we arrived at Brian’s 1250 sq-ft (my approximation) flat, it took all I had to not hug him. In the morning Jay and I had talked about skipping Budapest because we were both getting pretty tired. Him being sick didn’t really help. However, after a day of living like civilized men again we were recharged enough to go on.

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Brian and one of his friends from Austin, currently living in London, were kind enough to take us to a handful of major tourist-spots. These included Tower Bridge (which is mistakenly called London bridge by many), the actual yet boring London bridge, Buckingham Palace, and an shopping area called Camden. Buckingham Palace was pretty under whelming. Plus, there was no changing of the guard during our visit.

Camden Square was alive with punk culture. Tattoos, piercing, hairdos, and Goth dress were running rampant. The shops all appealed to some form of punk. The coolest shop was Cyberdog, which was basically a rave with clothes racks. My inner-nerd, the same one that draws me to light shows, couldn’t help but gaze at the UV-style lights they had on display. Since pulling out a camera results in being tackled by a spike-faced kid, I can’t show what the lights looked like.

A quick word about London Bridge. If Brian had not told me we were standing on London Bridge, I would have had no idea. There are no signs, no fanfare, nothing. Just a great view of Tower Bridge, which tricks people into thinking that’s the famous bridge. In any case, neither of them are in danger of falling down.

The night ended with Brian taking us to a local BBQ place. It had been a very long time since either Jay or I had decent beef. Along with the (relatively) over-the-top loft, this taste of home made for an excellent night’s sleep.

Westminster Abbey

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Early the next morning, Brian got up and left for work. Jay and I headed for the nearby subway station, and hitched a ride over to Parliament and Big Ben. After checking our watches, we walked around the corner to Westminster Abbey.

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Throughout New Zealand I would run into girls from England, most near London and asked them all what to do in London. Most said things like the London Eye or the British Museum. None of them mentioned Westminster. In fact, if my sister had not asked if I was going, I’m not sure we would have even known it was so close to Big Ben.

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The Abbey is absolutely spectacular. Inside looks to be 3 or 4 times larger than the outside. Every inch is covered in memorials or displays. Famous poets, scientists, historic politicians, and clergy are either memorialized or even buried in the Abbey. Photographs were not allowed. I honestly think this might be more because of crowd control than tourism control. If I was snapping photos, my camera would have burned through both memory cards and batteries before I was half-way through.

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Without question, any visit to London needs a visit to the Westminster Abbey. It is simply too beautiful to miss.

British Museum

After a totally awesome Ham and Cheese crepe lunch, we headed into the famous British Museum. This museum houses historic pieces from all parts of the world. As I mentioned in my post about Egypt, some of the best stuff to see in Egypt is kept here.

Normally I like to breeze through a museum to get an idea of the history of the places I visit. They also tend to be climate controlled and make for a nice easy day. The sheer volume of this museum makes “easy day” pretty tough.

Please do take a look at the Picasa album I created for the British Museum.. This includes pictures from both Jay and I, and additional information when possible. Aside from seeing the real Rosetta Stone, my two other favorite exhibits were: Medals of Dishonour and Clocks. The Medals were medals created for historic failures (distributed at the time). While clocks were types of watches, clocks, and calendars from various time periods all over the world.

The un-Mexican Martini

After another day’s worth of kilometers on my shoes, we met Brian for a couple of after-work pints. Then went to a Mexican restaurant for margaritas. The ritas weren’t really very good, and so I am still pining for a good one. That, and a glass of Crown Royal.

London is definitely a location I will be visiting again. There is much more to see in Great Britain as a whole. Getting through most of England and Scotland could probably take another three to four weeks. For now, we are headed to Budapest for a couple of days before Ireland.

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