15.02.2010 - 19.02.2010 3 °C
In the beginning ...
There was an 8 hour flight with a 3 hour lay over in Kuala Lumpur (or Koala Lumpa as Sam kept calling it). Then a further 14 hour leg to London. What can you say about this flight? Most Aussies will or have experienced the horror that is the long haul from the Europe to Australia. Us isolated Aussies are pretty used to the pain one has to experience in order to travel abroad, but this flight in particular is definitely the mother of all flights. Luckily for myself i've done it 3 times before and knew what to expect, but poor Sam ... Sam who barely ever gets cranky or mad, did on a few occasions put his cranky pants on. Fortunately the key to getting Sam's cranky pants off is food, and just when things were just starting to get a bit hairy along would come the hostess to adequately feed and water us.
We arrived and cleared Heathrow uneventfully and caught the tube to Gloucester Road Station and walked to our hostel. It was freezing and pouring, but in my somewhat twisted mind I was blissfully happy to be cold and wet, instead of hot and sweaty for a change. 2 years in the tropical muggy-ness in Mackay drove me to it! We arrived at our hostel drenched, jetlagged and unable to check in for FIVE HOURS. We opted to dry off in the hostel lounge and then in our crazed jetlag minds decided to check out the Natural History Museum (NHM), which was just down the road.
After queuing for 30 mins to get into the Museum we finally caught on to the fact that it was school holidays. The place was overrun by children ... shudder. Of course the only decent part of the NHM is the Dinosaur and human body stuff and of course there was a que to see that. So we checked out a few of the other sights on the Museum and by then it was nearly time for check in at the hostel. After swearing to each other we would stay awake for the day to try and get on London time, what was the first thing we did? Slept. We both woke up dazed and mumbling like crazy people at 2am in the morning. And let me tell you, four days in to this trip ... we still both wake up around 3-4am in the morning.
Natural History Museum & Local Kensington Dog
Quote of the Day (QoTD)
Sam: "That (pointing to a 10 million year old volcanic stone at the NHM) would make an awesome coffee table"
Our hostel was positioned behind the Royal Albert Hall in posh residential Kensington. Day two afforded us blue skies and sun, truly opening up the beautiful area we happened to book our hostel in. Rows of delicious creamy white Victorian townhouses mixed with gorgeous Georgian brick rows trimmed in sophisticated 'Chanel-esk' black. Only the very lucky ones live here! Sneaky side streets offer a hint of non conforming buildings which probably sell for 20 million pounds, instead of 40. We decided to take advantage of the lovely day and do all the "outdoorsy" stuff. We headed up the street to Kensington Gardens and walked down towards Hyde Park, ultimately heading for Buckingham Palace.
We unwittingly managed to stumble into some very "English" things. The British Army's Mounted Cavalry regiment training in Hyde Park and then a massive changing of the guard/pipe band ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Neither of which we'd planned. Masses of people filled every inch of the area surrounding Buckingham Palace. At first we weren't sure if the Queen was heading in (or out) and in an attempt to get away from the crowds and return later (sorry Queeny) we managed to get stuck right in front of were the guards and pipe band entered into the gates of the palace.
We continued our day and headed down towards the parliament buildings and Westminister. The was a a somewhat interesting exchange between a Squirrel in St James Park and myself. How a Squirrel could mistake my large black SLR camera hanging around my neck for food is beyond me. Sam claims he was just peering at it from the fence I was standing next to. Me, who has an irrational yet completely justified fear of woodland creatures swears it was two seconds away from attacking my face for nourishment. However, we continued on our trek past the heavily guarded 10 Downing Street, through the parliament buildings towards Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.
Sam & Big Ben
After a few snaps of Big Ben we headed towards the Thames and decided to do the Thames 'Southbank' walk heading towards the Tate Modern. The area was swarming with tourists, especially the London eye area, yet as we drew closer to the Tate Modern the crowds eased off. We spent the rest of the afternoon pursuing the Tate Modern. I was very excited to see Roy Liechtenstein's 'Pop' and Andy Warhol's 'Marilyn Diptych'. I studied both works for visual culture at university, and wrote an essay on the Marilyn Diptych. It is quite remarkable to see artworks once so foreign and far away, in the flesh. And even more interesting to see if they are how I imagined them to be.
Thames Walk looking towards Big Ben & Tate Modern
We concluded our Thames walk, and strolled across the millennium bridge, which acts as a almost perfect frame and corridor towards St Pauls cathedral. We found a tube station and trained it back to Kensington. Considering we'd walked about 10 kilometres today we decided to head to the local (The Gloucester Arms) to have our "local cuisine" meal. We've decided to eat one terribly terribly local meal in each country we're in (no matter how cliche and stereotypical) and Sam will give you a video blog about it (in his own unique way). On the menu for England ... Bangers and Mash.
Sam's local Cuisine Review
Charlotte: [To Sam] "You don't fart in Hyde Park!"
Day 3 & 4
Day 3 was the opposite of Day 2. It was grey and constantly raining. We decided to head to the Tower of London. Again, school holidays struck and the Tower was way too over crowded. I suggested we go see the Crown Jewels on display there before the inevitable ques began. They still travelator people around the actual jewels, which is a godsend for those annoyed by loitering (me). After the jewels we continued around the Tower. We both enjoyed ourselves but the crowds and bad weather became oppressive and we decided to head home. We picked up some supplies from Tesco's and headed to the warmth of the hostel. Made ourselves some soup and headed to bed to watch Glee episodes on the laptop. It was probably the first time we had STOPPED for two weeks.
Tower of London & Tower Guards
Day 4 was manic weather wise, with a bit of rain, bit of wind, bit of sun at varying points. A good day to discover more of the city on foot we decided. On our morning walk to the tube from our hostel we bumped into none other then Dustin Hoffman buying papers at the local shop. We did a bit of minor stalking and shot some very dodgy video on my phone held down at my side, to prove our celebrity sighting!
The Hoffman (... head tilting required)
We then headed to Piccadilly Circus and walked through to Leicester square, Covent Garden and through China town which was recovering from the effects of Chinese New Year. We ended up at Trafalgar Square at the National Gallery of London. Again, thrilled to see artwork i'd studied at uni. Highlights being Caravaggio's 'Boy bitten by Lizard' and one of my favourite Baroque artworks 'Peace and War' by Rubens.
National Gallery & Our Kensington Local
As we emerged from the gallery the sun had come out to greet the square in fine form and we cruised around each corner, before impulsively jumping on a double decker heading for Abbey Road. Cheesy, I know, but why not? Like two kids we perched up at the front of the double deckers top level like two wide eyed "rubber neck" tourists. 30 mins later we got off at Abbey Road which stops right outside the famous recording studio. There were a handful of other people annoying the local drivers by walking across the zebra crossing, so we decided to ourselves add to their annoyance. A bit of hype imo, but i'm sure it means a great deal to hard core Beatles fans more so then a pair of moderate ones.
National Gallery/Trafalgar Square
Abbey Rd & Abbey Rd Crossing
Day 4 marked our last day in London. We headed back to the hostel to collect our bags, then found our way to Liverpool St station and boarded our train to Harwich on the coast to meet our ferry taking us overnight to the Netherlands. We had a cosy 2 berth cabin with en suite. We were blissfully rocked to sleep by the north sea and woke up docked in Rotterdam. Goodbye to England, for now.
Trafalgar Square Panoramic from 6 photos