Three Americans in London

So, on November 21, Thursday, I left work slightly early to catch the El (subway) to O'Hare airport, carrying my large backpack on my back and my small backpack on my front (it was quite a sight) where I met up with my traveling companions, Al and his friend Aaron. We went through metal detectors. Unfortunately, Al and I got beeped when we went through it. So we had to take off our shoes, get patted down and get wanded (hand held detectors). After all that, we were off on our merry way. We sat in the middle of the plane. Al was in the middle, Aaron and I (so I can go the bathroom easily) had aisle seats. So it was an uneventful plane ride. I can't remember what movie was shown b/c I thought it was a movie I seen or just wasn't interested in. We had chicken pasta for dinner and omelets for breakfast. This was the fourth oversea trip I have taken and for the first time ever, I was able to sleep a few hours on the plane (yippee). So we landed in London Heathrow around 10am. Went through Custom without any problems.

Day 1-London

We arrived around at Heathrow around 10am. Got our luggage, Aaron called Chad (his sister's boyfriend). We stayed with Aaron's sister, Elise and her boyfriend, Chad. Anyway, we also got tickets for the London Tube (subway) for the next couple of days. So we took the tube to the Isington neighborhood. Northeast side of London, an up and coming neighborhood that has been yuppified. It is a very nice neighborhood with lots of restaurants and lots of shops. It took forever to get to the apartment but finally, we made it. We met Chad, got the keys to the apartment. The apartment was sooooo small. The living room only have room for a pullout couch bed so poor Aaron had to sleep in the kitchen for the whole stay at London. Then, Chad went to work and Aaron, Al and I went out in search of lunch and sightseeing. We were really hungry so finally we found a restaurant that we choose b/c it was where we decided that we must eat NOW. It was a Chinese place and it sucked. I liked my dish but Aaron and Al did not. It was sunny when we arrived but by the time we went to lunch, it was pouring and Aaron had his umbrella but Al forgot his and I had mine, but it was on the verge of breaking. And it broke shortly afterwards. So we spent the next few hours looking for umbrellas as we went sightseeing. Then we went to the tourist area near the river and we walked and walked and walked in the rain. We went to the financial district and walked along the main streets, we walked along the Thames and across many bridges including Hugerford Footbridge, the Millennium bridge (it did not collapse) and the Southwark Bridge. We went into this Royal Academy of Arts (or something like it) and there was a gift shop that had umbrellas (we could not find a place to buy umbrellas), so we bought a 13 pound umbrella (like it's 20 dollars). I never bought such an expensive umbrella before, but at least we helped the arts. So finally we got our umbrellas and it was very hustle and bustle in the financial area. Finally, it was nearing dinner time, we were hungry, tired and sleepy and we went back to the apartment, waiting to hear from Elise for dinner. We got back and I stayed awake, but Aaron fell asleep and Al barely was awake. Elise called and we went off to meet her and her two friends for dinner at Tartuff, a flat pizza, French place. The put stuff on flat bread, it was good. Then we went home, talked and went to bed finally. yippee.

Day 2 -London

We woke up late (goody), arguing who have to take a shower first. The five of us, Al, Aaron, Chad, Elise and I went off to see an Aztec exhibit at some Royal Museum. It was the first of many earpiece museum where you pay to get an audio device and it tells you about the exhibit. Afterwards, Elise and Chad went home. Al, Aaron and I went to tour around Westminster (but the Abbey was closed when we got there). Took lots of pictures. Went to the famous Tower bridge and took a tour of the bridge and how it worked and was built. We took a break at a pub in nowhere land (out of the tourist area). Then we met Elise and Chad for dinner at Khans, a terrific Indian restaurants, it was sooo delicious and we pigged out....Yum. I think this was my favorite meal of trip. Then we went back to Westminster and took lots and lots of Night Pictures (Aaron, the budding photographer) of the area around Westminster. All day we were lucky, it was a nice warm, non rainy, sunny day in London, so were lucky. Then we went home, talked and went to bed.

Day 3-London

Woke up late again, arguing who have to take a shower first, and Aaron, Al and I took the Tube to Abbey Road, where the famous crosswalk was in the Beatles’s Album titled Abbey Road. Al is a BIG Beatle fan. There was bunch of Japanese tourist taking picture and they left, and it started to sprinkle. We started to take pictures of the crosswalk and walking across the crosswalk. Then afterwards, it stopped raining and we walked to a nearby bar/restaurant where we got lunch, it was a quaint small but good restaurant. Then we took a long, long, tube train ride out to Watford, a suburb of London to watch a professional rugby (my first) between the London Saracens (home team, who we were rooting for) and the Newcastle Falcons. We met up with Elise and Chad and another friend at the station and we walked to the stadium. It was a really cool game, tho, I think it stopped alot for penalty. And at the end, Saracens won, Yippee. During the game, the sky opened up and it was pouring but after the game, it pretty much stopped raining and we walked to the train station (heavy rail) and got back to London relatively quickly and went to dinner at a make your own stir fried place, I liked it. Then we went home, talked and slept.

Day 4-Bath

Woke up early to catch the Tube to get to the train station to go out to Bath. We were in the Tube and it was delayed and looked like we were going to miss our train. We got there late, but the train was delayed, so we brought our tickets and waited to get the train so I brought myself a sandwich (which Al and Aaron made fun of me for getting, but little do they know how my eating sandwich in the morning will affect them) and Al and Aaron wanted to get breakfast at Burger King. Finally, our train was still delayed and Al was going to order is breakfast, when I grabbed him out of the line and Aaron, Al and I ran to our train that was announced to Bath was departing soon. We got a seat and proceeded to Bath about 2 hours away. Of course we slept on the way there. We arrived and we went straight to the Roman Bath house. This is where the Romans built a large Bath House that contained the natural warm spring water there. It was in enclose building, and there was alot of ruins and it was a large. We enjoyed ourselves immensely, though I was bummed that I couldn’t go into the spring. Then we had lunch at a bar. We got fish and chips, Paella and tortellini which we shared. Al and I liked the Tortellini alot, but Aaron hated it and refused to eat any more pasta while he was in England. Then we proceeded to explore Bath. We were lucky, it did not rain. It was a very busy, touristy place. We went to see an old bridge (Putney Bridge) and we went to some row house that formed the crescent. We went postcard shopping, when my eye caught a picture of wall of an old castle (Sham Castle) in the postcard. That got my attention and I was determine to see it. So after talking to a few people we found pseudo direction and we decided to hike to the castle far from the city centre. We got directions form different people as we walked. We walked to the end of the old city, walked up a hilly road, turn off to another hilly road, and walked up the field (by this time, it was getting very very foggy), and walked up another road and walked up a small road and walked up another muddy field and we made it. It was dark and very, very foggy, but we made it. Aaron was getting really hot, but we found our castle wall. We took alot of pictures. If it was a clear day, we would have seen Bath from above and it would have been nice, but b/c it was foggy, we could not see nothing, but it was very mystical and it was very neat. Then we proceeded back to centre city. and the city was dead by 5 or 6 and we tried to find dinner place. After much indecisions and finding place with no food, we finally decided to eat at an Indian place. Then we walked to the train station and passed an internet cafe. When we got to the train station, they announced that the next train will be in 2 hours b/c of train death, so we had to kill some time and everything was close, so we went to the Internet cafe and was on it for awhile (The beginning of Al to find an internet cafe every day and it was unsuccessful except for today). Then we went back to the train station. Finally, the train came, Al and Aaron slept (We then proceeded to say we need to bring playing cards, but Al could not find his and we keep forgetting to buy them or can't find a place to buy them so we never played cards on the train). We got to London, but the Tube was messed up with signal problems, so we have to take alternative routes and detours to get home. Finally, we got back at 12:30. So a really bad mass transit day. We talked and went to bed. We had to wake up early the next day. Yuck.

Day 5-Canterbury

We woke up really early and we went to the train station and there I made my biggest discovery, the Upper Crust. They made baguette sandwiches. I bought a baguette sandwich and again Al and Aaron made fun of me. We got on the train for Canterbury and of course we slept. When we got to Canterbury, we wanted to go to the Castle, but it was closed L We were bummed. But we continue to walk along the walled city. We walked to a mound and it had a neat view of the city. Then we saw a playground maze and I wanted to play in there, but adults weren’t allowed. So we continue our journey and we went to the famous Canterbury Cathedral. We went everywhere in it. Inside, outside, in the crypt, saw dead people, structures that is attached to the church. I liked the fact that we were able to see most of the church. Aaron continue to take photographs while Al and I went to a “show” that showed stories from Chaucer’s Canterbury tale which involves narration, with photographs with mannequins. Then we met up with Aaron and went to lunch at this pub that Aaron like (he has been to Canterbury before) and he told us about a giant Jengha (sp?) and I was looking so forward to seeing it, and alas, it was not there anymore, I was very disappointed. We walked to the River and West Wall and went to a small park. Then we climbed a small west wall tower (our first spiral stair case). Then we attempted to walk to St. Augustine Monastery/Abbey, a old ruin, but after a long walk out of the centre city, it was close. By this time, Aaron feet was hurting, so we went to a pub/cafe and rested where this drunk, old English dude who started to talk nonsense to us and we really didn’t understand him. He talked about Cowboys and WWII but he was strange. He finally left and left strange things, like medicine, business card and a pub where we should meet him. We never figure out what his name was, Sean, Jean, who knows. Then we took evening photos of the Cathedral. It was a perfect day, sunny, no clouds and obviously no rain. We at dinner at a pub that Aaron suggested, it had bad food but a really good atmosphere. Then we took the train back, no delays. I brought another baguette sandwich for breakfast tomorrow. Aaron and Al slept again and no cards to play. I brought another baguette sandwich for breakfast tomorrow. We got back, we talked and went to bed.

Day 6-London-Day of Rest-Yeah

Woke up late. arguing who have to take a shower first. We went to St. Paul’s Cathedral and looked around it, and went into the crypt to see more dead people. Then we decided to walked up to the top of the dome. There was 3 circular staircase to get to the top. So we walked up and up and stopped and looked down inside the church. Then we walked up and up and stopped and took pictures of the outside. Again, we walked and walked to the top of the dome and saw a nice view of London under construction. Took more pictures and walked back down (it was easier than going up). Then we got lunch at another pub called Blackfriars and it had good sandwiches. Then Aaron went to some abstract art museum and Al and I went to the Tower of London. We were able to walk around the Tower and see some old “prison” and old walls and bathrooms and then we saw some crown jewels and lots and lots of armory. I liked it, it was better than I thought. Then we went to Buckingham Palace (it was dark by this time) and saw changing of the guards but it was not the big ceremonial one that people heard of, it is a low key thing. Then it started to rain and Al and I walked along the street into Soho/Picadily Circus area and rested at bar. Then we met up with Aaron and we walked around the area and went to Chinatown for dinner. It was no good…(it wasn’t good the first time I was there 4 years ago). So I have decided that England has bad Chinese food. We came back to the Isington neighborhood (stopped raining by then) to find an Internet Café for Al and there was none but we found a restaurant for Aaron to eat Pudding, but he didn’t like it but I thought it was okay. Then we went home, talked and slept.

Day 7-Oxford

We woke up moderately early, went to the train station, got my baguette and Aaron also got one too (he saw the light). Al never got baguettes, but he ate mine a lot so he knows what a good breakfast meal it was. We slept on the train, again. We got to Oxford and it started to rain. We got a Bed and Breakfast reservation and walking tour tickets and dropped off our backpacks. It was pouring then. Then we took a short walk around Oxford and had lunch at a pub. Then we took a walking tour of Oxford. By this time, it stopped raining, so that was nice that the walking tour was dry. As we began the tour, we walked by a hotel and all these reporters was coming out. We asked why there was so much media and they responded that President Clinton was there visiting his daughter. So we missed Clinton by only like 20 seconds, so I was bummed that I missed him. But anyway, we continue the tour and the guide gave history of Oxford University and the city. We were able to go into several of the colleges, mostly chapels and some of the grounds so that was nice. We all wished we had more time to explore the city but alas we didn’t. After the tour, we grabbed our bags and went to our Bed and Breakfast and met Vivian, the person who ran the B&B who is her 60’s and made quite the impression on Aaron. and we rested. Then we went in search of our Thanksgiving dinner and we found a Moorish/Spanish tapas place. It had good food and a great atmosphere. Then we went to the pub, drank and talked. Then we went back to the B&B and it was soo good to have some space b/c Elise and Chad’s place was very tiny so it was nice to have a bit of a room. Aaron was definitely happy to be on a bed again after sleeping on the kitchen. Aaron had such pleasant dreams that night.

Day 8-Warwick

Next morning, we woke up and had breakfast. I had bacon (it was ham, darn) and eggs. Al ordered sausage but it was not like in the US so he was afraid to eat it and it tasted funny. We took the bus to the train station to go to Warwick. And accordingly to all the tourist books, it is the best preserved medial fort. So off we went on the train and of course we slept. And we got there. We first went to St. Mary’s Church, a small old church. A really nice lady let us in the bell tower. So we walked up spiral staircase and saw a nice view of the city. Then we walked down and we had lunch at some pub. Then off to Warwick castle we went. It was a really nice place. We walked around the grounds, it was soo pretty and quiet. We were able to see the Peacock garden where there was tons of Peacocks frolicking there. We saw a place where the electric was produced in the late 1800’s. Then we went inside the castles and we walked along the walls and we went up and down all the towers (in spiral staircases) and saw dungeons and rooms that looked like it was from the 1400’s. Then we went to a re-creation of how the castle was used in the 1800’s and saw Madam Toussad’s mannequins present the life of the 1800’s. That was pretty neat. Then we took a early train home (tried to find a internet café on the way to the train station but did not). Aaron and Al slept again, we still have no cards to play. When we got to the train station in London, I bought my last baguette L for breakfast for tomorrow. We dropped our things off and went to dinner at Gem’s, a Turkish restaurant near Elise’s and Chad’s that Aaron been wanting to go all week. It was really good. Next we went home, waited for Elise and Chad to come home, chatted and then we went to bed.

Day 9-London-Day of Shopping-Yuck

Woke up late again, arguing who have to take a shower first and they finally made me go first. We have decided that we need to buy gifts. So we had a late breakfast/early lunch and Elise volunteered to help us. We went to this HUGE market and there was so many gift stands and we bought lots of souvenirs. There was sooo many people but it was a nice market but we couldn’t go through all of it. Then Al and I went to Harrods and Elise and Aaron went to another department store. I will never go to Harods ever again. It was so F@$# crowded. You can’t do any shopping b/c it was just people and it was sooo expensive. Al and I decided to go to a small café and ordered a small appetizer and drink so we can relax and watch others walk around Harrods. Then we met up with Elise and Aaron and we went off to Charing Cross neighborhood to find history books for myself. We went to couple of book store and I got couple of history books so I was happy. But by this time, Aaron was tired and bored of shopping. Then we went home, rested and met up with Chad. Then the five of us went to Notting Hill and got dinner at this Sudanese restaurant. It was good, but very slow service and we met the owner and he was nice. The food was good. We were “late” for a going away party for Chad’s co-worker. It was a very yuppie, finance party. Everyone was dressed up (well, almost). It was very interesting party. The girls wore a lot of revealing clothes and Elise and I was overdressed. I like looking at the weird outfits. We three visiting Americans, were introduced by Chad to this fellow, Manuel, as American liberals who disagreed with Bush’s policies. Manuel was glad to meet us and we try to convey to them, not all Americans back Bush. We then rushed to get back to Isington so we can go to a nightclub and to catch the tube before it ended. We got on the last train to Isington, so we made it…whew. Then we wanted to go clubbing and we went to this club and we waited in line, but when we got to the front of the line at 1pm, they said no more people were allowed in for the rest of the night. So we were bummed, but Aaron was happy, he did not want to go clubbing. So we went home, talked and went to bed.

Day 10-London and back to Chicago

Woke up late again, arguing who have to take a shower first and made me go first. So as Aaron, Al, Elise (who is returning to the US soon) and I pack, Chad was making us French toast for breakfast. It was good and we ate our final meal on the table after we cleared out the crowded living room. Then we took some final photographs and waved goodbye to Chad and Elise. They were great host who put us up and tolerated the messiness and the lack of space. I’m sure they looked forward to walking around their apartment without bumping into people. Then we hopped onto the cab to Heathrow. The cab driver drove along all these small streets (it was confusing). We got to the airport and there was like no people so we were able to get through security really fast (this time we didn’t get beeped when we walked through the detectors) and we waited. Then we boarded our plane and they was showing Bourne Identity, My Big Fat Wedding and Sixth Sense. I seen them all. I wish I can go on a plane where I can see a movie I want to see and never seen before. I listen to music, slept and read Startide Rising. I was really getting into that book. Anyway, Al and I sat together, he has the window and me the aisle, Aaron had the window seat behind us. Al watched the Bourne Identity twice and he slept. We had Salmon for dinner and Pizza for snack. We arrived on time. We went through immigration easily and the customs easily and then Andrew was waiting for us. It was 51 in London, 20 something in Chicago when we arrived….brrrr, welcome back to Chicago. Andrew drove Aaron home, then Al and then me. And my vacation ended. Notes and Observations
  1. It's nice to hold someone hands and squeeze the life out of it during takeoffs and landings b/c it scares the crap out of me.
  2. My hair was sooo soft and full (which never is in Chicago) b/c of the humidity, I like that. One good thing about England being very rainy.
  3. I heard so many different languages in London, more than I hear in Chicago.
  4. I was pleasantly surprise that it did not rain more. We were very lucky. And I think the temperature was in the low 50's most of the trip, while in Chicago it was in the 30's, so that was nice.
  5. I was the organizer and motivator for our sightseeing but they only listen to me part of the time. Al was the map reader. And Aaron was the "I don't care, whatever you guys want to do" person and the tripod man who took alot of pictures.
  6. It was very hard to wake up in the mornings to go sightseeing that is why we are always arguing who will take the shower first so that the later shower takers can get more sleep. I usually won, but by the end of the trip, Aaron and Al made me go first...meanies :-(
  7. I’m going to miss my baguettes sandwiches
  8. It seems to me that people are allowed to go into more rooms in castles than on the continent
  9. So I though England is always raining, so I assumed everyone would wear coats, nope they wore just plain coats and really dull ones too. I wore a bright orange raincoat, I think I was the brightest object there.
  10. We wanted to goto Wales but we were all afraid to drive on the wrong side of the road and with all these small, narrow streets