Friday, September 25, 2015

Leaving London

The past two days have been a whirlwind.  I'm sitting on a crowded train with India across the aisle heading up to Birmingham for my big conference.  It's about a two hour trip (I think) and so I'm just setteling in to write all this down.
We got to London about 48 hours ago after a relatively fast flight with a lovely and quite talkative London gal Rachel - about 30 and a self-described massive geek.  She and India hit it off and had deep talks regarding Doctor Who and Tolkein.  That made the trip fly by, so to speak.
We figured out the London Underground without much trouble - the Picadilly line came close to our airbnb and we alighted (as they say here) at Earl's Court Station.  It wasn't much fun hauling our bags up the flights of stairs and wheeling them through crazy streets to our place, but we managed and once we'd landed got right back out there by 4pm.
I hate to admit this, but our first meal in London was at a Whole Foods!  That wasn't really the plan, but we chose Kensington HIgh Street to walk down and couldnt really find suitable places to eat.  At least the WF was in a grand old building.  I had really yummy asian food and India stuffed herself with pizza.
Then on to the High Street Kensington Station where the Circle line to us to Winchester Station. Climbing the steps there was Big Ben!  And whoa, it's really big!  The Parlilment building is truly impressive and we joined droves of tourists from around the world on a bridge over the Thames taking way too many photos and selfies.

We were there for sunset and walked over to check out the London Eye and had a walk along the Thames.   It was beautiful but after a bit we got really cold and we're SO tired, we retraced our route and collapsed into bed.

The next day was our tour of the Harry Potter studio and we had to get there at a specific time for our booked tour.  Guess what?  Even though we'd given ourselves at least 75 extra minutes, I managed to get us onto several wrong trains and we got there with 2 minutes to spare.  I hate to admit how stressed out I was (and yes, I was tapping) - the 2nd wrong train was the one to Watford Station, way out in the country side.  We were supposed to get on an express, but got onto a commuter.  Instead of 20 minutes it took 45!  We had 18 stops!  Aarrrggghhh.
It wasn't until the smiling girl took my reservation printout and gave us our tickets that we finally began to relax.  I was afraid they would send us away!

But they didn't and the tour was really awesome.  I'm a little out of date with all things Harry Potter, but it's just as fascinating learning about the actual making of the films themselves, and we were not only seeing the real movie sets and props and all that, there was tons on just about every aspect of the process.  I loved it!

At one point there was an opportunity to mount a broom in front of a green screen, with different backgrounds projected behind you - so it looked like you were flying through london and over the Thames and around Hogwarts Castle.  It was pretty cheesy and India wasn't iterested, which is lucky as it was an extra 25 pounds for the video on a jump drive.  I was ready to fork out the bucks, but it did'nt actually look very real so I was glad she passed.  Instead I bought her a butterbeer at the Backlot Cafe which was just below the lethal dose of sugar.  It had an artificial beer-esque foam on it which was essentially marshmallow fluff.  India loved it.
The tour (including butter beer and our bagels from home) took us 4.5 hours!  We got back to London about 5:30 and dragged ourselves to go see Harrod's - the ultra-swanky department store.  It had a central ancient Egyptian style escalator that was so beautiful and groovy I didn't want to leave at all.
But by then our blood sugar levels were tanking and we found a little sandwhich shop across the bigzstreet that wasn't too dear.  I tried a grape elderberry soda that was really quite nasty.

We took a long bus trip home.  It wasn't supposed to be long.  I thought it was just a few stops, but long it was and a bit wild.  In bed by midnight and India woke me up at 9:30am!  I guess I needed my beauty sleep.
Today we had just a few hours in the morning and I chose Westminster Abbey for our final London tour.  I was a bit shocked that it cost 20 pounds though!  20 pounds each!  It was worth every pence though.  It must be the world's most beautiful indoor cemetary!  The only thing was NO PHOTOS.  I'm very ashamed to admit that I snuck a few.  I guess I'm an outlaw by nature.  I was being ultra discreet but got busted anyway - in a very polite and discreet British way by a smiling man in a vestment.  He suggested that putting a lens cap on my camera might remove any temptation.

Okay, I admit that my English history is a bit rusty these days but getting to see the tombs of Queen Elizabeth 1 and Mary Queen of Scotts and Sir Issac Newton, Charles Darwin, Michael Farraday, Lewis Carroll, Chaucer, etc. etc. etc. was pretty freaking cool.  And of course there's a beautiful memorial to Shakespeare, though they let his remains stay at Stratford on Avon.  

India had to drag me out of there, especially the outer courtyards where it was pefectly legal to take as many photos as one might desire.
So it was actually a bit of a stressful rush to get back to our airbnb and then all the way to Euston Station to find our train.  No time for lunch, but we had had a proper (vegetarian) English breakfast at a tiny place on our street, and as we wheeled our bags past the sweet Polish girl who had served us called out "Good bye!  Have a good trip!"
So far so good!