Tim and I went to London one year not long after the holidays.
This is what happened.
I have a really horrible habit after we’ve returned from a holiday to think, “last week at this time we were in [fill in the blank].” For instance, last week at this time, Tim and I were in London, probably in Leicester Square or Harrods.
MUCH better place to be in than today. Today I am at home. Sick. Tim is sick too. He thinks we picked up a wicked London bug and I’m inclined to agree, because I NEVER get sick and this thing has been hanging on since Tuesday. He’s had his little buddy since Saturday.
(I just had to stop writing and run to move Maddie to the linoleum because she was throwing up. And then clean it up. Awesome. Everyone is sick).
On my solo-without-Tim flight I ended up sitting in the aisle seat next to a guy named Roger from Tennessee. All his friends were in 1st class on business and left him in the exit row with me and a flight attendant. Our plane didn’t move for an hour after we were supposed to take off because we had some…medical issues…that occurred before everyone managed to find their seats. One lady fell and “heard her ankle pop” and another fainted. Yes, you heard me. FAINTED. I guess someone forgot to tell her that to travel to London without getting on a boat meant flying thousands of feet in the air. And apparently that was a little too much to take in all at once.
So we, the rest of the plane, who knew how to watch our step and remain conscious had to wait for an airport doctor to check them out.
Roger and I knew all of this and got firsthand knowledge from our flight attendant. She was just as annoyed as we were.
Long story short: Neither ended up on our flight.
After we finally made it into the air, my flight partner Roger proceeded to tell me, as he was looking out the window, that he was an adrenaline junkie and LOVED doing anything that got the juice flowing and that we were at about the height required for sky diving. I just stared at him like I would seeing an alien for the first time. I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you quite clearly. You said you jump? Right about now? No thank you. My whole goal during a flight is to get to our destination as fast as the pilot can safely do so.
My first day in London was something of a blur due to my fatigue I mentioned in my earlier post about no sleep. I, however, will definitely not forget lugging my suitcase from the airport to the packed Gatwick Express to London Victoria…then trying to figure out where the tube station was amongst hundreds of people in work clothes, bustling about.
Just a little hint: the tube station it is NOT in the London Victoria train station. It is not even attached. It is across the steet.
Thanks to our plane leaving late, I got to experience rush hour in London because we arrived around 8:00am London time and I wasn’t in the underground system until around 9:00am.
And let me tell you, it is no cakewalk with a suitcase and no idea how to get to where I needed to go.
I eventually followed a large group of people headed outside the train station and across the street who led me to the London Victoria tube station. I knew I needed to get to Tower Hill so I waited for a Circle Line train or a Tower Hill train.
And I waited. And waited. And continued to wait…during a time of day where the trains are so packed people are shoving their way to the front of the line and cramming into a train car while those already on the train have looks on their faces like, “I am about to be squeezed to death. Do NOT let anyone else IN!” I had no idea how I was going to fit myself and what may as well be another person, albeit one that doesn’t do any kind of shoving for you, onto a train.
I stood right in front of the yellow “mind the gap” (so you don’t get too close, fall over the ledge and get hit by a train) line, train after train, while Londoners made their way past my self-made road block, my face in despair because the electronic sign never said “Tower Hill” or “Circle Line.” It kept saying “Upminster” over and over again. I panicked and searched in vain for the Upminster stop and couldn’t find it anywhere on my map. Then, thinking I was in the wrong place, worked my way back up the stairs to check the larger map on the wall, realized I was in fact in the right place, and went back downstairs, cursing the suitcase every step of the way.
I finally realized I could take trains other than the two I had set my mind on to get to Tower Hill and jumped on a District Line train, throwing my suitcase and my eyes left and right as I boarded, daring anyone to deny me a spot on that train after I had waited and watched about fifteen trains come and go. It was my turn, dammit, and I was getting on.
When the doors closed and the train started moving I wasn’t paying attention and almost fell over. Thanks to the girl with blond hair – I didn’t mean to put my hand THERE – I just didn’t want to cause a domino effect and look any more ridiculous than I had already managed.
I was sweating and in complete disarray when I finally made it to the hotel lobby. I decided my best bet was to take a shower in the hotel locker room because I wasn’t allowed to check-in until 2:00pm. The hotel staff directed me to the elevators and so I went – glad to be rid of the dreaded third unplanned for appendage that I had to drag around like dead weight.
I got in the elevator, pushed the L button, because they told me it was on the Lower Level, and confusedly stepped right back out into the lobby I just left. I looked around, perplexed, and went to the front desk again to ask where I was supposed to go. It was the LL button, NOT the L button. My fatigued brain didn’t hear that part. So I went back and tried again, made it to the correct floor and stepped out into a hallway with doors on either side.
Both doors were closed and had a sign that said “Fire door. Keep closed.”
Now I was completely confused. How was I supposed to go anywhere except back into the elevator if the doors have to stay closed?? I saw people through the glass portion on the other side of both doors but I didn’t want to open one and an alarm go off or security people come and take me away or have my face on the front page of London Daily. Fortunately, just before my panic reached an uncontrollable level, the elevator doors opened and someone else came through and opened one of the doors with the warning plastered on the front…..and nothing happened.
Now I understand why the people at the reception desk at the spa/workout area decided to “show me” how to get to where the showers were and walked me all the way. They may as well have been holding my hand and given me a lollipop for being good.
I showered, put the same clothes back on – which was gross but my bag was upstairs but I couldn’t get away with trapsing through the city in a towel, and made my way outside, back to the Tower Hill tube station.
I decided to go to Covent Garden. My plan was to go shopping but my stomach said, “Hi, remember me? Well, I haven’t had any food for almost twenty-four hours and I’m putting my foot down. No discussion.” Now, let me give you a little history: I have a VERY difficult time picking something to eat when in a new place. I don’t want to go somewhere, eat, and then see something else as I leave and think, “I should have gone THERE. WHY didn’t I just WAIT?!”
On that day, my stomach didn’t care. I got off at the Covent Garden stop, wandered around, deciding that I would probably get lost, found a Pret, asked if they took credit cards, grabbed a sandwich and a brownie, sat down and ate the former whilst staring out at a street, amazed at how many near misses there were with double-decker buses versus pedestrians or smart cars, and shoved the latter into my bag for later. My meek attempt at “shopping” consisted of walking into TopShop, which happened to be right across the street from the Pret, and then, realizing how tired I was, decided to find the closest Tube station to take me to Westminister. I figured I should at least see something before Tim got in the next morning. I didn’t want him to ask me what I did and my answer be, “Nothing.”
I made my way to Westminster, which, by the way, is much easier without a suitcase, walked outside the tube station and immediately saw Parliament and Big Ben. In my mind I was thinking, “I think this is what I think it is…but I’m not entirely sure…they don’t have anything else that looks like this, do they? Is this right??”
The answer is no, they don’t and you’ll know you’re there based on the throngs of people trying to get their picture taken on this bridge with both Parliament and the ginormous clock in the background.
I managed to visit the inside of Westminster Abbey before I realized I was actually falling asleep standing up. I tripped over some signage inside the Abbey and almost fell into a tomb, which got a lot of mixed looks – some glares and some surprised – both tisk-tisking me after the drama ended.
Satisfied that I would be able to tell Tim I did something, I went back to the hotel and checked in. The porter brought my bags to my room and I started rummaging through my mini-wallet for the four pounds Tim had given me before we left so I could tip him. I started emptying the contents onto a table, telling him I knew he didn’t want American money and I had some pounds somewhere…eventually the poor guy started backing out of the room saying, “It’s ok, really. If you need anything, just call.” I think my discombobultation scared him off.
I got in the bed and immediately fell asleep. The phone rang and woke me up around 6:30pm. It was Tim, checking to see if I made it in ok. He told me I better not sleep too much and I promptly told him I didn’t care – I didn’t sleep in the plane and I’d sleep right through until tomorrow morning.
I was awake when I finally hung up the phone and realized I was hungry again and walked outside to find somewhere to get something to eat. The only places I could find that were open were pubs and I wasn’t ready to try one of those by myself so I went back to my room and ordered room service – pizza and a brownie. Completely unadventurous.
It started getting dark and I wanted to turn on a few lights andcouldn’t figure out how to accomplish a seemingly easy task. None of the switches worked. The TV and the clock radio were on…but the lights…how do I turn them on?! I tried everything I could think of to do…nothing worked.
A knock on the door produced a maid asking if I wanted turn-down service. I said, “No, but could you show me how to turn on the lights?”
She looked at me like I had just asked her where to find Nessie, recovered enough to pick her jaw off the floor, pulled out a room key and showed me a little slot mounted on the wall next to the door, put her key in, and all the lights came on. Mystery solved.
I would have never figured that out.
The maid left and I put my key in, the lights came on, I took the key out and walked over to the bed…and all the lights went off again.
It took another five minutes for me to realize I had to leave the key in the slot.
Lets just say I was very happy when Tim got in the next morning.