Today was a good sleep in day. Daniel and I enjoyed a nice leisurely morning with breakfast before we headed out on the town. First up, we headed to London Euston station to get rail reservations for tomorrow’s trip to Cardiff. The guy behind the counter stated that we needed our Rail Passes to make the reservation so we decided to go out on the town before it got too late (it was already noon). There was not really anything pressing that we wanted to see, so we headed out over to the Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian. I visited this site back in 1996 with Mom and Gary and remember it being fun. I do remember we had to pay to get to the part with the line, but that the rest was free to see. Also in 1996, the Docklands Light Rail only went to the north bank of the river and we had to walk underneath the Thames and then hike to the observatory. I also remember part of the route being closed due to a recent bombing in London. Looking back at the 1996 Trip Diary, I noticed Mom didn’t hike up to the Observatory it was just Gary, Wesley, and I.
Well things certainly have changed in 11 years! First, the Canary Wharf development has blossomed and the entire area is full of condos and nice suburbs – offices, shops, restaurants, you name it. Daniel wasn’t a fan of how things looked, but I thought I could make quite a nice home here. The second big change is that in 1999 they poked the rail line under the Thames and extended it quite a bit. When we exited the train, there was a whole new development of shops and such above the underground station. That made the hike up the hill to the observatory even better. Finally, the big change was the Observatory itself. It is now free of charge and has more enhanced exhibits. There are several rooms and houses to walk through as well as a new plussed up Prime Meridian complete with a vending machine that dispenses certificates and a laser light that shines on the ground and through the air denoting the official line. In my opinion, they have really made this a destination worth visiting if you are in London, and I am glad that I came back. This is in contrast to the Tower of London which to me just seemed expensive and aged.
Leaving Greenwich, we headed towards St. Paul’s Cathedral. Much to my surprise, there was a fee to get in to the cathedral. I think the previous visits have been on tour busses with pre-paid entry, but there was no way I was going to fork over the equivalent of $20 to go inside. We were there around 3:30pm right before they were going to close so they had discounted the tickets to 5 pounds, but it was still a rip off. One good thing is that since we balked at going to see Mary Poppins in the West End, we at least got to pretend that we were feeding the birds, tuppance a bag – just for you Walt!
We then headed back towards SoHo and our flat and stopped by this Pizza Hut on Oxford Street. Now, I have had many numerous bad encounters with Pizza Hut overseas, but this one had a great lunchtime buffet (all you can eat!), and even though it was over, we wanted to give it a try. Turns out they had a special value meal for two people: 1 Medium Pizza, Order of garlic bread, potato wedges, and two desserts all for about 26 dollars. It seemed like a bargain for us, and it turned out it was. The meal had a lot of food and free refills on the drinks to boot. This came in handy when in my usual flair, I knocked my glass over and proceeded to dump a Pepsi all over my white shirt and jeans. By the end of dinner it looked like I had serious bladder issues and I knew I was going to get to test Phillipe’s washing machine.
After dinner and apologizing profusely for the mess (oh for dessert we both got a piece of Chocolate cake with cream – Daniel got whipped and I chose the Vanilla Ice variety), we headed out to do some shopping. We made it through a few electronics shops – I am raring to get a new digital camera after all the issues I have been having – and Daniel is chomping at the bit to get some Euro fashion. So far my favorite store is Uni Qlo which is actually a store just opening in London from Japan. It was one of my favorites there as well and I am glad to see it still is very stylish. I wanted to buy a jacket and some new cords and jeans, but alas that is not in the budget for this trip. Not seeing anything, we headed back to the apartment to get our Rail Passes to get reservations for tomorrow’s trip to Cardiff and Wales. After taking a breather for a bit as well as a change of clothes for me, we headed back to London Euston. This time the guy behind the counter just made a reservation without even looking at our passes. Where was he hours ago?
We decided to do some shopping on Regent Street and Carnaby Street but alas all was closed for the night. There actually looked like a few cool places to go into, and we are deciding to whether or not to go back at 10 am tomorrow when they open. Daniel also wants to see a few highlights of the British Museum, so I think tomorrow will be crazy busy in the AM. Seems like this trip we have planned it well with a relax day following a crazy day and so on. Funny thing about Carnaby Street is that I had no idea it was off of Regent Street on the SoHo side. From what I remember of 11 years ago it was over on the other side of London. Hmm, maybe that was Portobello Road. At any rate it is time to say bye for the second time this trip to London. We will be back in a week to take the train to Paris and then back again in two weeks to take the flight home.
I was looking at my journals from 1996 and noticed that I am way more verbose than before. I think it is due to the change in technology. Back then, I would write in a notebook and then transcribe to the laptop. Since Hong Kong, I have had my laptop with me and have been able to write directly here allowing me to post with ease. My only regret is that I was lazy in Japan. I really wish I had a good journal of that trip because it was so much fun. The four trips I am missing are Europe 2002, Walt Disney World 2003, and the two Japans in 2004. Europe 2002 went missing when I moved in 2003 and I suspect one day I just might find it somewhere. When I do I will transcribe it.
Enough asides, back to the present day. I am glad I spent time in London on this trip. I feel like I visited some good friends – people and places – and got to know them again. But the vacation begins in earnest tomorrow and I hope everyone reading this is just as excited as I am!