So we hopped on the plane. Luckily it was pretty empty, with not a single seat in First or Business Class booked. So as soon as the dreaded seatbelt sign flickered off, we spread out like ivy. I managed to scale four seats all to myself, but even so, it was a loooooooooong flight.
I could tell things were going to get problematic when the airhostess started handing out landing forms, and we couldn't tell if we needed one or not. I would not have been impressed if we had gotten to the front of the queue only to be told we didn't fill in the form and should go home!
When we finally got off the plane, the weather was not what I was expecting. It wasn't cold, or raining, or snowing, or even remotely cool. It was hot. And humid. Kind of like the country I had just come from. This was not a good start.
After having a calming cup of tea, which nearly cost a week's wage, we trotted off to find someone to book us a hotel. Which took nearly two hours. Well, maybe not that long, but seeing as every hotel was full due to Wimbledon, it wasn't exactly and 'in-and-out' job. We then had to find our way to the hotel, by means of a train and the underground.
Sad as it may sound, I was truly excited at the sight of the train platforms. We don't have trains in the UAE, and we never really took the train in my home country of South Africa. So we rushed on board, took some photos of the historic moment...
Until we got to the Underground.
I'm not surprised that it's called that actually, as it reminds me a lot of what hell must be like - hot, stuffy (again), crowded with morbid and depressed looking people, mind-warping twists and turns purposely put there to confuse and torment you... well, you get the picture.
When we had finally hauled our 10 pieces of baggage to the train, we then could not figure out which train to actually board. No-one will even think about helping you, and when you're as tired as we were, the boards on the wall seem to be written for the Greeks. We then chose to board the very next train that came along, whether it was right or wrong. Fortunately, it was right, and after a harrowing half-an-hour of swinging from side to side and trying not be get pushed out the doors by the Happy Smiley People, we got to Tower Hill, our destination . It was like finding land after spending years at sea - I just wanted to kiss the ground. Some weird disembodied voice said, "Mind the Gap." I paid attention to this, as it would have been rather sad to have come all this way, and then fallen under the train.
The hotel (Grange City Hotel) was gorgeous - 5 star with marble reception, gigantic pool, beautiful rooms etc. But since it was about 10am, we didn't sit around for long. We did the tourist thing, taking a huge, double-decker tour bus around the city. And on this bus (The Big Bus), we saw (in no particular order):
-The Ritz Hotel (very glam)
-The first ever Hard Rock Cafe (can't say I was overwhelmed to hear that)
-Oxford Street (famous for shopping)
-The Queen Mother Gates
-Hyde Park (yes, that's where they had Live8)
-Marble Arch (which is at the site of all the public executions they used to have. Yuck.) :
-Piccadilly Circus (great for the nightlife)
-The Horse Guards
-St. James' Park
-No. 10 Downing Street (no Tony Blair though)
-Big Ben (which ended up being pretty disappointing - I thought it would be more Wow!)
-The London Eye (this was really impressive, but didn't realise it moved soooo sloooowly) :
-Her Majesty's Royal Opera House
-The Royal Courts of Justice :
-The Millennium Bridge (which had to be closed three days after opening because it was so unsafe)
-London Bridge (also really impressive, seeming a lot bigger than I thought) :
-Tower of London (houses the Crown Jewels... yummy
-The dragons at the entrance to the city of London
-The Houses of Parliament
-Westminster Abbey (a lot of people waiting to get in there, so you understand why we didn't bother to try and get inside
-The old and new Scotland Yard
-The Bank of England (which is totally depressing as it has no windows on the ground floor, for safety reasons)
-The Waterloo Bridge
-The Swiss RE Tower (which looks like a giant glass gherkin)
-The London Dungeons :
On the way home, we stopped at a small Tesco for the first time. I never knew I could get so excited about a grocery shop, but it's always fascinating to see the different products you get in other countries! Then, for the hell of it, we took a taxi back to the hotel. Stupid. Foolish even, I know. At the end of the trip, we swore we would never do that again. Not because of a reckless driver or terrible roads, but because of the cost of the rather short trip. Seven pounds. For us, that is a lot of money for a drive across town.
And so, the first English day was over. We experienced a lot in a short time, so understandably, we were knackered and no longer seemed to notice our five-star surroundings once at the hotel.
MOST FASHIONABLE FASHION IN UK TODAY:
- Peasant skirt
- Jeans with chunky belt
- "Crazy Chick" by Charlotte Church
CAR OF THE MOMENT TODAY:
- Mini Cooper (gotta have one kids!)
- A beautiful snowglobe of important London landmarks - Big Ben, London Eye and the Tower Bridge
- A calendar of important London landmarks including a big red bus, Buckingham Palace etc.
- A little money bag in the shape of another of London's important landmarks - the Telephone Box