Saturday, December 11, 2010

London: Day 1

While our Minneapolis friends and family were bracing for Snowmegaden 2010, Andi and I squeaked out of the Twin Cities just in time.

We arrived in London around Noon Friday, hopped on the Heathrow Express Train (which was super slick, by the way) and arrived at our hotel in central London by 2:00pm. The 8 hour flight wasn't too bad, especially since I was passed out before our plane even left the ground. Andi and I each took a sleeping pill and a B12 vitamin to help us some zzz's on the plane and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I put down the tray, laid my pillow on it and woke up 8 hours later. Not my best beauty moment, I'm sure. I do have a faint recollection of the flight attendant asking me "pasta or chicken." I must have said pasta because I woke up to a tray of food in front of me. Dozed off again and woke up to a breakfast sandwich. Not completely sure what happened but I never did have anything to eat ...

Anyway, after we arrived at our hotel in London, we showered up and hit the town. We were both a little groggy from the flight/time change but didn't want to waste any of the day. Our hotel's within walking distance to most of the tourist sites so we set out to get lost in it all. What we noticed immediately it how freaking busy it is! If this is the "slow" season, I can't imagine what it's like here in the summertime. That said, everyone's pretty friendly and helpful which surprises me a bit.

Our London Hotel

First stop was Hyde Park. By now, it was about 4ish and getting dark. There was a really neat Winter Wonderland carnival going on with rides and a ferris wheel lit up in the night sky. As we walked closer, we saw a massive crowd of people and that should've been our first clue. But it wasn't. We walked into the carnival area and were completely swarmed with people. With a second thought, Andi and both looked at each other and we walked back out. We trolled through more of Hyde Park and found another less-busy entrance to the Winter Wonderland - score, we thought. We went in again and tried to find the restrooms (or toilets as everyone says here). After fighting more crowds, we finally found them and waited in line (or que as Brit's say) for over 20 minutes. Ridiculous! Andi and I both gave each other the "let's get the heck out of here" sign and we fought the same agonizing crowd of people to the exit again. Two things came to mind as we pulled our hair out from closterphobia: 1) are there no safety laws here because if something bad went down, NOBODY was getting out of there alive and 2) a drink was in order.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

We left Hyde Park and walked toward Piccadilly Circus. This area of the city is very reminiscent of New York's Times Square and just as crazy busy. We walked around for a while taking it all in, then ducked into a cool, old-school pub for a beer. Pubs look exactly the way I envisioned London in my head. Lots of old wood and walls that could tell stories from hundreds of years of patrons. We were lucky enough to snag a table in a corner of the bar and it felt like heaven to decompress over a pint of London Ale.

Picadilly Circus

London Pub

After Piccadilly Circus, we decided to grab dinner and head back to the hotel. It was only about 7pm, but we were both beat and a little crabby from all the crowds. We looked into a store window and saw a case of samosas and pizza slices and desserts. Good enough, we said. Although after making our selections, we quickly realized we'd made a purchase at the equivalent of a 7 Eleven. I don't think either of us cared. We jumped into a cab and took our Carrot & Pea Vegetable Pizza and Chicken Samosa back to the hotel with a bottle of wine. Cheap dates maybe, but it was perfectly fine for us.

Internet's hit or miss here - meaning, it's everywhere but you have to pay $30+ to connect so I'll try to write more when we find free Wi-Fi.

Until then ...

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