7 am. Our plane has just landed in the UK – half an hour delayed. It’s so early in the morning here London time, and it’s now my bedtime Toronto time. Unable to sleep much on the flight, we are so tired – and I have a whole day’s itinerary planned! I wonder if we will get anything done.
9 am. The line for immigration control is taking forever. It’s a huge line that snaked its way through many turnstiles and we seem to never be moving. We amuse ourselves by reading out aloud the landing card form in attempted English accents.
11 am. Finally, we are home. The Tube seems complicated, and boy was it hot! London is going through a heat wave (35 degrees C!) and we are in the middle of it. I know the London Underground is a pretty extensive network, but you think they should be able to develop A/c! It is NOT air conditioned, and I was cooking there. I must look like hell – a shower and tea later, we are now ready to explore London. We head for the London Eye.
With a little help from my friend, I start figuring out the Tube map and network. It’s actually pretty easy once you understand that there are MORE than one lines and zones (no thanks to Toronto!).
The wife: “Hey, do you think we have the correct time on our watch? GMT is not BST you know.”
Me: “Why don’t we ask someone what the correct time is?”
The wife: “You want to ask someone for the time? You know, you are UNDER the Big Ben!”
1 pm. The Big Ben and Houses of Parliament was just too good. The scenery, their layout, the river Thames, all side by side, was like a post card. We had beautiful weather for photography, clear blue skies and puffs of clouds on the horizon.
If only it wasn’t so freaking hot!
The London Eye, though expensive, was also something worthwhile. The lineup wasn’t bad, 30 minutes long.
It goes really up, and takes its time too, so we got a lovely birds-eye view of London.
I straightaway think three days is just too short a time to do everything in London.
2 pm. Where the HELL is that Cleopatra’s Needle? It SHOULD be here according to the Google map but no one here seems to know what I am talking about? Or maybe they are telling the directions but I just can’t figure out what they are saying.
2.30 pm. Being in London is like living in Monopoly!
Those of us who were brought up on the British version of Monopoly (in the Middle East) will know what I mean.
3 pm. Lunch at Trafalgar Square. Man!
London is an expensive city.
Everything figure wise is same, only in pounds. A coke is a pound. A Chinese take away is 6-7 pounds. When you convert to dollars its double! Otherwise it seems like home. The same diversity of people, all cultures in one city, and halal places galore! Loving those red phone boxes. Met some friends for lunch and then went for a walk to Leicester Square and Picadilly.
I thought I was tired?
5 pm. We are home. Their recycling bin here is purple! As soon as we are home, it started to rain. And boy, did it rain! I am done for the day, I think.
9 am. My friend tells me the Change of Guard is at 10 am, so we are out early. Had a good night’s sleep – well, we did sleep at 7 pm and woke up just some time ago! Once we are there we see that the Change of Guards will happen at 11.30.
So that gave us some time to do some souvenir shopping, walk the Mall (the street beyond the Buckingham Palace),
take some great pictures in the early morning sun and before the crowds get here.
We also surveyed and then occupied a great vantage spot atop a memorial.
11 am. The police constable comes and warns the crowd to beware of pickpockets and keep their belongings safe. The crowd is more interested in posing for pictures with him. My wife gushes out, “What language is he speaking? It isn’t English and I speak English and it sounds nothing like what I speak! These people don’t know how to speak English.”
I am tempted to add “innit”.
1 pm. After the Change of Guards, walked over to 10 Downing Street, which is now 10 Blocked Downing Street. I guess after their attacks they had to do this.
3 pm. They should give us an award. We finished the British Museum in 1 and half hours!
To be fair, I was only interested in the Rosetta Stone and the rest of the museum was spent posing for funny pictures along old statues.
4 pm. Enter Harrods. The Diana-Dodi memorial is ho-hum. Question, do you smile for a picture when you pose beside a memorial to their death? Tried to hunt for the “Diana and Dodi, killed” statement but couldn’t see it. Makes for a great story though.
Lots of Arabs. Especially the women in abayas. You can smell their perfume a mile away. They move with their own entourage. I have never seen anyone shop at a diamond section of a department store with a trolley. Holy! Then there was this cake that cost, believe it or not, 5000 pounds!
At first I think, too bad it’s Sunday and it closes at 5, need more than hour to explore Harrods, especially their oyster bar! Then, after seeing my wife shop, decide its great it closes at 5.
9 am. Today, we decide we simply have to do EVERY thing on our list. So that means early wake up plan. Which means we get comfortably behind our schedule from the get go. Women, apparently, need more than 5 minutes to get ready.
12 pm. Madame Tussauds was fun! Once inside there’s lines for practically every statue, especially Brad and Angelina. Our desi instincts take over. We cut lines, rush as soon as someone leaves, camera ready. So we do all. When in London, be a Londoner. Which nowadays means be desi.
Salman Khan was done well, Shah Rukh Khan was so-so and Aishwarya did not look anything like her. But man, was she wearing a lovely sari! The fun part was spotting the wax statues amidst the crowd!
1 pm. St Paul’s Cathedral is really, really huge.
2 pm. Brick Lane. Lunch. I guess I should avoid any buffets that have a sign "Please use only ONE plate".
3 pm. The Tower of London enactments are childish but fun!
And the Tower Bridge should be renamed the London Bridge, because it is definitely the better bridge.
They have a castle in the middle of the city? Wow! Er, wait, don’t we have something similar? Too bad I never went inside Casa Loma. But I bet Tower of London would beat that hands down.
4.30 pm. Greenwich. Where is that Prime Meridian?
“See that hill, that’s about 10 minutes walk away? Once you are at the hill, the observatory’s at the top.”
Man. This. Is. Taking. Forever.
4.50 pm. Finally, at the top of the hill. Just in time.
It’s so cool standing on the Prime Meridian. One foot in the East, one foot in the West. Kind of like me.
What a great view from this hill. There’s London in the distance. There’s the O2. This HUGE area is London. And they have a subway that covers it all. Toronto’s subway just looks babyish in comparison. TTC = Take The Car.
6 pm. Done for the day. London – done. It starts to rain as we head back home. Perfect.