Sunday, July 08, 2007

London Calling

(For those that have not followed my blog in the past, the abstract is here for those of my friends – Trevor Millar – who don’t like to read my rambling posts, but want to know what is happening. Thus, an abstract of the post is at the beginning to help him along in his day. And I will add pictures as we take them.)

Abstract: Left Victoria. Arrived in London. No real problems.

I am down 0-2. First, it is cheaper to buy Underground tickets once in the Underground than it is when you fist get off at the London Victoria train station. Secondly, the orange arrow on the map is NOT in fact where Anna lives. She lives on a street in the opposite direction to the orange arrow on the map. Very opposite. I am down 2 points to Sonja at this point as she stood her ground on the first (resulting in cheaper tube fares) and conceded to me on the second (resulting in us having to have to drag our jetlagged butts back up the street aptly named Haverstock Hill).

Trevor, always the gentleman, picked us up at 6:00am this morning in Victoria, BC. We made our plane with plenty of time, ate Harvey’s breakfast sandwiches onboard, got off in Toronto. Simple. Simple, but we were literally in the baby vortex at the back of the plane. Thankfully one baby moved and we knocked the other two out. No, we didn’t, but if the dynamic duo of Pippa Whitfield and Dominic Stubbs had been with us, we would have let them sort things out for us in a rumble not seen since the Jets danced their way into Broadway lore.

Getting to our Air Transat flight was easy enough. Switching terminals in Toronto was actually quite easy. And Air Transat was good. Maybe I have lowered my standards after flying Air Canada for so long, but I was impressed. Sonja and I had two seats to ourselves, so sleeping became less of an issue. They served decent food. The movie was an edited version of Blades of Glory, which is a great airplane movie. Overall, a good experience.

Upon arriving at Gatwick, with our backpacks and oversized carry-ons, we had to find our way to London proper. Anna, our host in London over the next six weeks, suggested the Gatwick Express, which is a direct train from Gatwick Airport to London Victoria (think Union Station). It looked good, but was 17 pounds each for a one-way ticket. This was a little too much for us. Sonja found another train for 8 pounds each, and although it was not direct, it only had three stops. After a little concern over the discrepancy between what the information officer at the station had told us (Oh yeah, buy tickets once you are on the train) and what the big sign in front of us said once we were on the train (You must have a ticket! Failure to produce a ticket will result in beheading! or something like we were going to pay 3x the fare) we were left with our first decision. Stay and plead ignorance to the ticket collector or jump off at the next stop and buy a ticket. Well, fate forced our hand. Said collector of tickets emerged through the door at the other end of our car. I would love to say that there was a big ordeal and we had to beg for our lives, but he just took our money and gave us tickets. Crisis averted.

We arrived at Victoria Station and followed Anna’s well laid out descriptions for our travel on the Underground (get on the light blue line until the black line and go north on that line – it actually makes perfect sense in the plate of spaghetti that is the London Underground). This is where Sonja was right about waiting to buy the tickets from the Underground station rather than the first automated ticketing agent I saw. 0-1. We followed the underground with little problem, and stepped out into a beautiful day at Belsize Park, just outside downtown London. Listening to people speak puts me somewhere between the BBC version of The Office and the movie Snatch, which is fun as I have always wanted to be on TV or in the movies. Now I pretend that I am, and that Hugh Grant is going to be walking by any moment all muddled up my some woman problem.

Now, the map Anna sent via email had her street on it. Let’s get that clear. It is close to the Underground stop as well. It is just that I didn’t see it in the 5 times I studied the map. But there is also a large orange arrow on the map, and I thought, “Why else would there be a large orange arrow on the map if not to indicate to me that this is where Anna lives?” Although we had her street address, and the street was not near the orange arrow, I thought we should just walk there and it wouldn’t probably be near the big orange arrow. So we heaved our packs and descended Haverstock Hill, watching the double deckers rumble by and enjoying the very Englandness of the street. We finally reached our orange map to (surprise!) find no house. 0-2. After 20 hours of travel to reach an orange arrow, I approached a lady walking on the other side of the street to ask directions. Although a little startled at first at my crossing the street and calling to her, she hastily gave us directions which lead right back to the Underground station we had just left. She said it was just past there, on the left. After apologizing to Sonja, who had upon leaving the Underground suggested the very logical idea of asking a merchant for help, we hiked back up the hill to eventually find Anna’s amazing flat.

We let ourselves in as Anna was out for a run, and after freshening up, we promptly slept for 6 hours.

And here we are.

Tomorrow we will explore. I will run. I will eat some fish and chips. And read some Harry Potter.
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