London Bridge is Falling Down

Tower Bridge is quite interesting to observe at night. The lighting is spectacular and the color schemes have a medieval toy set feel to them. You see the bright blues and the clean whites in movies of times gone by, but you don’t think that they actually looked like that back then. The actual bridge may be the same way, but seeing the structure lurking overhead with the hue of a fleeting childhood memory makes you wonder if maybe, just maybe, hollywood’s representation of times gone by holds some hint of reality.

As we walked along the Thames to Tower Bridge, a large floating ball of light glared menacingly at me. As my eyes slowly adjusted, I noticed the outline of a sleek WWII gunship – HMS Belfast. The history channel recently ran a show on gunboats of WWII and it was quite fascinating. They’ve been replaced by aircraft carriers and are no longer in service, but in the evolution from wooden ships to gunships to aircraft carriers they play an important transitionary role. The ships are just incredible. The HMS Belfast is a modified Southhampton class light cruiser which makes it not too menacing, but definitely armed. I’ve become a fan of machines of war lately – is that an indication of some subliminal agression that I must figure out how to deal with? Or just a normal male fascination with violence and destruction?

We are gathering info about trains, planes, and (hahaha) boats to depart from the UK on. The train seems the most sensible as it is cheaper and we get to see more scenery. We are in no hurry to get anywhere in particular and if we aren’t careful could end up staying in london for the entire trip!! (the problems with not planning a departure date…something we experienced on this trip that got delayed for months!) On that note, I’m off to check train destinations, fares, and times!

cheers!

Advertisements

London, easyEverything and the countdown timer

The internet cafe is not as common in the US cities I frequent as it is in the European cities I visit…I’m a fan. The easyEverything shop is quite interesting in that the amount of time you get for a unit of money (in this case a british pound) changes depending on the time of day and demand. We popped in this afternoon after a day wandering the city and got 20 minutes for a pound…we bought 40 minutes and it was gone before you could get oriented at the chair!! I went downstairs to renew our accounts as erik stayed and continued working…each workstation has a countdown timer that looks like this:

Well, erik’s got down to nine seconds as I stood in line waiting to pay…as I gave the guy the money, he punched up the account info and added the time…barely saving all of erik’s hard earned work. Ahhh, the adventures of internet access.

We are now staying in Surbiton courtesy of David and Maryse O’Neill who are off in South Africa getting married. It’s unfortunate our visit with them couldn’t have been longer, but we moved our flight to make sure we got to see them at all! We are having some trouble with the rail system and ended up in Epsom last night instead of surbiton. We realized we had gotten on the last train from london and it was not heading to our correct destination!! We hopped off and queued for a taxi. The taxis were coming at a rate of about one every 20 minutes and we were easily 5 people back in line – arg! We got to talk to some people in line though and that was a lot of fun. The funniest exchange went something like this(sorry dave/maryse):
Guy in line: where you heading to?
me: surbiton
guy in line: surbiton?! well, I guess somebody has to go there!

I, of course, am not complaining at all as I get to stay in a nice place for free!

The weather is cold and rainy. This is to be expected and I was warned quite a bit about that before I ever got here. As erik and I walked around, erik pondered aloud “what advantage does london have over new york or boston, as far as the city goes?” This is a good point. London is a large city and as I’ve said before a large city is first and foremost a large city…the local culture and flair comes in second to the normal city things: large crowds, busy streets, and people asking for money from you wherever you turn. I see a few advantages to london from my viewpoint: i have some good friends here already, easy access to the continent for travel, and I already know the language! The downsides are cost of living, lower pay, and having to watch the exchange rates closely.

We ate today at a noodle shop called wagamama – it is the model of efficiency. The tables all run parallel to each other and run the length of the room. You are directed to a seat (european style with no real regard for “your” table…strangers sitting at your elbows) and the server comes by to take your drink and food order (after ample time for you to figure out what you want, of course) and punches it into a wireless device that sends the drink order to the bar and the food order to the kitchen. He then writes down the numbers of what you ordered on your paper placemat and scoots off. A moment later somebody else comes with your drink (confirming the correct location by noting the drink number noted on your placemat) and about 3 minutes later the food starts coming. All the food is cooked on demand (familiar to jack in the box fans) yet it is fast and fairly affordable.

The british airways london eye is an interesting attraction. You get to see all of the city and it is quite fancy in design and construction. We noted a couple of things that would prevent it from working in the US though.

  • The wheel keeps moving all the time…some greedy lawyer would find a way to file a lawsuit if somebody fell or something.
  • about 25 people ride at a time. This is quite comfortable. You could probably fit about 40 people in the capsule with little to no room. The 25 people per capsule number is quite generous and allows everyone to wander around the capsule and get a great view without much delay.

We had a fun night out on the town last night and got to visit with james and jayne pearce. We had a great time and got to talk about everything from air traffic control to pickup lines that are bound to fail. Here’s one from james hayward that I don’t recommend: “How much for a coffee?” Especially if the girl you are talking to is not a waitress at the place! We got a good kick out of that but I couldn’t talk him into asking her boyfriend the same thing when he walked by the table.

Well, once again the countdown has begun and time is running out on my account.

Cheers!

Depart for London (via Dallas) at 7am

I groggily woke up this morning at 445am in order to get to the airport and fly to dallas. I’m meeting up with erik and then we have a direct flight from dfw to london – arriving at the perky hour of 720am!! In a daze, I am jolted back into the airport reality: lines (or as they call them in the UK: queues). They are everywhere…lines to unload your stuff at the curb, lines at the ticket counters, lines at the metal detectors, lines at the terminal to get on the plane. Surely something can be done to reduce the amount of time people have to put up with this!!

I wandered down the isle, dreading my middle seat assignment when I realized that luck was with me – my seat was next to a cute blond girl with…double check, score! no ring. How often does that happen? Usually I get the middle seat between chris farley and roseanne barr…elbows sloshing over the already miniscule arm rest so that I don’t have any personal space, but a generous amount of sloppy sweat that is dripping from each of their arms. But as I was saying – I got a cute, skinny girl! I sit down and watch the parade of people, knowing for sure that any moment, I’ll have to stand up again and let tubby into the window seat. But, it doesn’t happen – we get an empty seat for the whole trip!! I’m happy – kris (as I later found out) comments at our good fortune and I scoot over a seat to take advantage of our abundance of room. (this is, of course, one of the only times that you slightly regret that I have to move over a seat) She is flying into dallas with 4 other people to take a paramedic test in – amarillo! They flew into dallas because it was way cheaper and then they are renting a car to make the 7-8 hour drive to amarillo, take the test, then drive back to dallas, fly back to indy, then drive back to logansport.

The world is a small place and this was the proof. My parents are from the logansport area and we started trying to figure out who she knew that I knew/am related to. Turns out that her friend sitting across the isle knew my cousin in high school! Funny how those things work out. I wish them good luck on their test!

I was greeted at the airport by derek and marina. The true test of friendship is telling somebody you are flying into dfw during rush hour and asking for a ride, but not saying what airline, flight, etc. I am on but they go through the effor to figure it out anyway!! I was so happy and surprised!

I’m a walking zombie at this point and trying best I can to stay awake until a little ways into the flight to london. Hopefully I’ll adjust to the new timezone in a timely fashion and actually be awake for my london visit this time. For now, derek and I are wandering around my old stomping ground of dallas! A note on pictures: working on getting the develop/get on the web logistics…this won’t be a text-only site forever!!

Luggage – choices, choices

It seems that the enjoyment of every trip I’ve ever been on is directly proportional to how well my luggage works for me. I’ve been a fan of light packing since day one and can tell you that this month-long adventure will be no different. I’m struggling with what to carry everything in, however.

My friend Michael Fuchs (the catalyst for me starting this site because of his latest trip information) prefers the Eagle Creek Endless Journey which I find large and not as comfortable as outdoors backpacks such as the Gregory Reality. Since I’ve been slimming down my possessions through give-aways (less frequently) and sale on e-bay, I have a lot less stuff to haul around.

The conclusion I’m coming to is that I need to balance my view on life now (I need some clothes and a toothbrush) and what my view will likely be in 2-4 weeks (what happened to all my stuff?!). The answer now is to not carry anything but clothing, a camera, toiletries, a notepad, some food, and an emergency GSM phone. I think that will fit nicely into 4,500 cubic inches and so I won’t have to worry about anything on that front. I’ve been purchasing some rain gear: gore-tex shoes from vasque and a Switchback Parka from REI. Now all I need is some waterproof pants and I can handle any weather that comes my way.

A Planning Rant

Gear is damn expensive! I can’t believe this. I’m supposed to be taking a relaxing trip through western europe to relieve myself from all the worldy race for money and possesions…and I end up spending around $1,000 on gear for the trip!!! Something is definitely wrong with this picture.

Where To Now

It seems I am now unemployed, however erik will have to wait for another month to free himself from corporate opression. That leaves me with a month to try to figure out how to live on just enough funds that I can actually afford this trip when we are both able to make it!