In 2008 I finally visited London. It seems to be a rite of passage for most Australians (mine was a bit later than most!). Today, most don’t think of the UK as the “motherland” but for me it was bit like visiting my grandparents!
We arrived at Heathrow at 6am on a Sunday morning. After checking in at our accommodation (a nice spot near Hyde Park) we looked for some breakfast. It was a strange introduction to English cuisine as the only place nearby was a Turkish Cafe. At the next table, several men were using smoking implements – I have no idea what they were smoking and I didn’t ask! It is still one of my first impressions of London.
After breakfast my partner, Tom and I, decided we would overcome jet lag by keeping busy all day. Tom was born in England and has worked in London, so he was an ideal tour guide for me. I quickly became adept at using the Underground railway to move rapidly from one significant venue to the next. [“Significant” was a bit subjective – eg a pub he used to drink at] 🙂
It was great to see where Tom used to work at County Hall and I really loved seeing the Houses of Parliament. The London Eye was just like I expected. My favourite part of town was The Strand and the boundaries of Old London. I was also spell-bound by the Royal Courts of Justice – what amazing buildings! I have often seen them on the TV news.
I had a day on my own and decided to take an organised tour of London to fit in the usual tourist attractions. This included St Paul’s Cathedral, a boat trip on the river Thames, Buckingham Palace and a visit to the Tower of London and the Crown Jewells. The tour group travelled on a deluxe coach and I sat next to a woman called Doris from Texas. It was hilarious, as even though we were both speaking English, we had a lot of trouble understanding what each other was saying! It was the first time I was really aware of having an accent!
Doris and I spent most of the time together during the tour. We were scheduled to meet the coach at 5pm near a cafe, under a tree, where we first arrived. I was a bit negligent in making a note of the site. I realised this when it was getting near home time and Doris and I went to look for our departure site (under a tree, near the cafe). It was only when it was after 5.00pm that we started to get concerned about where the coach was. I finally found my tickets and rang the company to find out why they weren’t there. They told me the bus had left and it was too bad and I must find my own way home.
Doris and I were a bit unsure what to do. I had no context of where we were in relation to where I was staying. Doris and I decided to part and I have often wondered if she is still wandering around looking for her way back to her hotel. I told myself to be brave and to keep walking until I could get some bearing on where I was. After some time I saw a sign for the Underground Railway. I decided to take my chances on catching a train back to the hotel.
I was so pleased we had spent our first day in London getting on and off trains as I was able to find my nearest station, Marble Arch, and get myself back there in good time – probably quicker than the coach.
Now I take delight in telling the story about the day I was abandoned at the Tower of London. That was one of the biggest highlights of my holiday. There were more but I will save them for another blog on another day!