London on and off bus tour
07.04.2012 - 07.04.2012
Saturday 7 April 2012
Up early, the body not really sure whether my body is going to be in sync with the time zone. Hey! come on, this is a bit early, even for me, but my body won't listen and I get up, knowing it's probably going to be a long tiring day.
I set up the little netbook I bought from Tesco's at a bargain price. Now I can upload photos and get the blog working. Even as I start writing, that sense of surrealism hasn't quite left me. I know I am in Engand, but it's really hard to fully comprehend this fact.
Breakfast starts at 7.30 am and I enjoy the small, but warm breakfast room as I have toast and very strong coffee (just how I like it). The coffee beans aren't the best, but I expected worse. I sought out the Romanian desk clerk, who has a lovely accent and sounds just like Dracula. He was very helpful and organised tickets for me to go on the on and off bus, ticket for the Millenium Eye and Tower of London. He also gave me maps and a number of options for getting to the pick up point.
I chose to walk, which took about twenty minutes but gave me a chance to have a nice look around. I stopped at a small electronics store to pick up an international sim card for the phone. The man was very pleasant, I think he was polish or something close to that. He got a bit fresh too, saying that he was looking for a nice woman. Don't look at me mate. I laughed it off and we parted company both having got something from the encounter, me with a new phone and sim, him with my money.
PHOTO- EARLS COURT, WEST CROMWELL ROAD WHERE I'M STAYING
I got onto the bus and sat up top in the open air. Tnis posed a monumental task as the step up to the top were winding and very steep. I had to pull myself up by the arms more than step up. I was very pleased my knees held up well but I pulled up a little stiff the next day. The headphones they give you provide a very informative narrative all along the way. You jump on and off at stops and the ticket is valid for 24 hours.
I found it fascinating and couldn't think of any other way that you could see the sights and learn about the city at the same time. For instance, the bolards and hand rails in the city are all painted black. This started when Queen Victoria lost her husband Albert to typhoid at the age of 42. She went into mourning, which lasted until her death forty years later. As a mark of respect for the loss of her consort, the city painted the railings black and it has been a tradition ever since.
All over the city there are buildings with green plaques, which signifies that it was, or the site was, a significant building or event at one time. The Council give out the plaques sparingly, but it's a good idea for the tourists.
The on and off buses run thick and fast with a number of companies running them all over the city. There is a map of the routes and you can change routes at any time. The buses were jammed packed, being a weekend, but it didn't matter. I got some good video which I'll upload when I get back to Australia.
PHOTO - HARRODS WITH THE ICONIC CABS OUT IN FRONT
As we travelled around it was almost too much to take in. I expected little pockets of historic buildings, but it's the whole city. There are modern buildings all over the place but they fade into insignificance against the sheer number of historic and imposing buildings and monuments.
The traffic is heavy and the streets impossibly narrow. No wonder there is a problem with gridlock. in inner London business area most of the place was closed but would normally have 30,000 people working there. I can imagine the traffic would be chaotic. The buses almost look like one big red snake, moving around the city. They were all pretty full too and business is booming for these companies.
I found the crowds quite daunting, which is something I just don't deal with normally, but it's a fact of life here. There are millions of people in London and still thousands more doing the tourist thing just like me. Cameras everywhere and always a hodge podge of languages amongst the babbe of voices.
The trip on the Millenium Eye was very good. The line was long, but moved quickly and I met a very nice man from Brighton and one from the United States. We exchanged heaps of stories while waiting and were all excited about getting on the wheel. What a view. It's slow enough not to give the impression of moving but you notice the vista more and more as you move, displaying the new and old buildings in a wonderful pattern before your eyes.
PHOTO- BIG BEN AND THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT AT WESTMINSTER
I was so engrossed in the journey that I forgot to eat or drink since breakfast and it wasn't until 4.30 pm that I had a chance to catch a coffee and sandwich. I stopped at Earl's Court shops and found a coffee house. I ordered a medium coffee. My jaw dropped when I saw the size of the mug. It was a soup bowl size and the large looked like a mixing bowl with a handle. I did enjoy it.
I went out later that night hoping to taste the wares of the local pub but couldn't get a seat for love nor money. Earl's Court is busy with tourists at night, all looking for a good feed.
I went to bed tired but very satisfied. I off to Bath and Stonehenge tomorrow, going into the circle at dusk. I taking my big coat as although it's cold, I't's not too bad but it will be freezing on Salisbury Plain. More to come tomorrow.