Friday, November 14, 2008

London for an Afternoon

London was amazing!! I loved it. I had no idea it would feel like such a foreign and European city. We arrived in London at about 5:15 East Coast time and a little after 10am London time. Got our passports stamped and looked for a place to store our luggage for the afternoon. On the way we exchanged about 100USD for Pounds. We have heard news reports of the dollar losing value before leaving; but you really don’t feel it until you get to Europe. The exchange rate is pretty close to 2 dollars for every 1 Euro and to make it worse it seemed like some things were 2x as expensive in the US. Or we’re not tourists and we know where to go in the U.S. We hoped to get lockers for our luggage and then we saw the price. 6.50 Pounds for each bag. Mind you, we have 8 big bulky heavy bags, there’s no way we can take them and no way were we going to pay close to 70USD to store our bags for 4 hours. So instead of lockers for 45.5 Pounds we rented a miniature hotel room for 4 hours in the airport. It was crazy weird looking. I’m assuming it’s a chain and it’s called Yotel. It looked like we were staying in a minimalist version of a room idea section of IKEA. We managed to cram our 8 bags in a small small single room. That had like a lower portion of a bunk bed with a flat screen TV at the foot, a sink with mirror and a toilet and shower and pull out bed side table- all for 27 Pounds for 4.5 hours. It was tiny. Once we got all our luggage in the room it was unable to function as anything but a storage unit. There was just enough room to pull on some warmer clothes, but that was fine, we were off to see London. We took the slower metro into London. It took about 20 minutes more both ways to get in the city, but it was one fourth the cost of the faster train and therefore well worth the price. We paid 7 Pounds each for a day pass. And were afford 20 minutes more sleep on the metro. The metro in London is much like the one in NYC with lots of lines and connections that I feel like would take a long time to learn and lots of people. We randomly chose a metro stop to get off of (the one that had the most connections and superfluous titles along with it and took our chances. It turned out to be the best choice. We talked to a lady in the information window and she gave us a map and a general route and we were off once again. We thought about taking a double decker tour bus, but we liked the idea of fresh air and walking after the long flight, and plus the tickets were like 27 pounds and walking is free. Walking made a lot more sense for a 4 hour window than a bus. I think the bus would be great if you had an entire day because then you can go everywhere and get off and on at different stops around the city. And also if one were budgeting for a vacation and not a layover, we wanted our spending to match up with the fact that we were there on a layover- not an extended stay. So we made choices that maximized our experience of a happenstance trip to Europe. Once we walked up stairs out of the subway station we saw what looked like the London version of Times Square. It was an amazing first look at the city. We began walking, in a little more than an hour we saw everything I could ask, big ben, the London eye, Buckingham palace, the horse guardsmen, West Minster Abbey; where we stopped for hotdogs at a venders. A bad bad choice they were nothing like Oscar Myer. We walked through St. James Park, saw the eros statue, the Houses of Parliament, tons of old architecture and statues of everything and everyone everywhere. I loved it. We didn’t meet many people; just one lady outside Buckingham palace who asked us if she could help us find anything and if we were from New York. We stopped in a small market and bought candy and coke and then headed back to the subway in perfect time. Grabbed our luggage and were off to the next flight.

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