Saturday, August 29, 2009

Vacation: Day 1: London

The train ride to London went well. Tea heard a whining noise from the seats in front of us, and asked, “What's that?” with some alarm. I pointed to the cute Chocolate Labrador Retriever who was sticking his nose into the aisle. Again, I really like that; probably because all the dogs have been so well behaved so far.

There was an amazing collection of tents near the railway station at Reading, including a big top. Turns out it's the Reading Festival -- pronounced 'red'; books aren't the draw here :-) -- the world's oldest popular music festival that's still running, according to Wikipedia.

Paddington station was very impressive; I'm sure I had the dropped jaw that I seem to wear each time I emerge in this city. One oddity: when we went to get on the Hammersmith & City line, the train barely stopped before it was off again. Tea said, “It's like there was no one peeking out to make sure everyone was clear,” as we realized that a husband had been separated from his wife; that's how fast the doors closed. To make matters worse, the next train -- which we were on as well -- was delayed! At that point we immediately made a contingency plan that, should the same thing happen to one of us, the person(s) who got on the train should get off at the next stop and wait for the rest to catch up.

We got to the hotel with little difficulty, and then Stephen was down for a nap. Much heckling ensued, but he was much happier an hour later. While he was sleeping the rest of us started planning: back on the tube to Piccadilly line and the Original Tour on an open-top bus; we wanted to get a quick look at everything to help us prioritize the next three days in London. But before that it was off at Covent Gardens for a bite to eat: delicious pasties, as it turned out. We'll be back to that part of the city at some point, I'm sure.

Our Original Tour guide, John, was fantastic, sprinkling lots of trivia throughout, laced with a very dry wit. The weather was holding out until we hit London Bridge, when it turned in an instant. I'm not kidding; I was paralyzed for a good 20 seconds, thinking, “It can't be raining this hard; there's blue sky almost directly overhead.” Tea was long down on the ground level of the bus when I finally dragged my drenched butt below. Unfortunately (for them), Nancy and Stephen were behind me in the stampede down the stairs, and were similarly soaked. Luckily the Little Frankie's that we decided to eat in, after jumping off at Trafalgar Square, had a powerful hand-dryer in the washroom; we were almost dry by the time we look the tube -- along the swanky Jubilee line with a stop called Canada Water! -- back to the hotel.

I'll be adding to a new album throughout the London leg of the trip; check it out for the pictures we took on the tour.

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