Arrival In London: Dec-7-2013

Caught my flight out of Philly at 10:00 pm.  It was very hard leaving my love back at home, but I know she will be ok (she's a strong little lady).  I hadn't thought about finding out beforehand in which terminal British Airways was located, but I definitely missed it by 3 terminals.  I had to walk back outside, in the rain mind you, and hike back to the first terminal get my tickets and check my bag.  While walking outside I found a woman who was struggling with her bags.  I got off the phone with Kelly and asked the girl if she needed help with her bag(s).  I took a bag and we were on to the ticketing.  I hung out with her for the duration leading up to our departure (she was also on the London flight).  Her name is Sarah and she was an Au Pair, which is a live-in nanny. 


She has been living in a wealthy suburb on the main line...which I'm sure gave her a very stilted perspective of "American Life" as it was her first time in the states.  She has had a boyfriend for the last 3 years and was long distance for the last year...that HAS to be hard!  She was en route to her home country, Austria.

After buying an apple, turkey, Brie, and craison salad I boarded my flight.  I chatted for a while with the gentleman next to me.  He lived ~1 hr. outside London and was in Philly for the week on business.  He said he worked in IT...but was hesitant.  I think his job was more complicated but he was trying to keep things simple for me.  I have asked him if he had seen the show, "The I.T. Crowd"?  He said he had and that he thought it was Brilliant.  Actually he said that main guy with the Afro is a funny comic in Britain and that he performs often.  Please watch that show if you get around to it.  I watched it on Hulu.   It was such a success they made a US version.  PLEASE do yourself a favor and watch the UK version.  This is series does not follow the same relationship that the UK "The Office" did when it came to the US.  The UK version is ACTUALLY much BETETER!

I told him about my pending adventures through Africa and he told me about two of his friends that recently took quite the adventure.  They had a truck that they converted to a camper--Installed a bathroom, cots, etc.  He wanted to call it a Lorry (I'm not sure what this is, but I presume it is a robust overland recreational vehicle).  They started in London and drove all the way down to Cape Town, South Africa.  It took them 18 months and they stayed no longer than 10 days at any one location.  They then shipped the vehicle back to London and vacationed in nice hotels while in South Africa.   That is a great trip that I would love to do through the American National Parks.

After chatting for ~45 minutes we started to watch our respective in-flight entertainment.  I caught up on 3 episodes of "The Big Bang Theory".  The medicine I took prior to boarding had been taking its hold on me and I stopped fighting it.  I took out my inflatable travel/backpacking pillow (Filo Nemo - $45 retail).   I was sleeping in no time.

Woke up for dinner:  Chicken curry w/ rice, a salad (that I didn't touch), a roll (that I didn't touch), and a cinnamon cheesecake like dessert.  Food was all in all very good.  Also woke up for breakfast, which was a sweet croissant.

I decided to go into central London for a few hours since I had ~8 hrs. till my next flight.  I took the Piccadilly line (and NOT the faster express) because it was 1/4 the cost.  I am taking the Piccadilly Underground to the Piccadilly Circus stop and will transfer to the Bakerloo line.  I plant to take this to the Waterloo stop.

My Plans while in London (for the 3 hours that I am here):  Start off south of the River Thames and work my was northwest following the Jubilee line.  If I make it all the was to the Green Park stop on the Piccadilly line I will head east to the Piccadilly Circus stop and get back on the head back to the Airport.  I wanted to walk around Piccadilly Circus (the reason for walking back that way).

I really like meeting people while traveling alone...even if it's when it's on the airplane or in the airport.  They are like you're best friend because at the time there is no one else either person has and it's human nature to form connections with people.  Traveling alone really gives the traveler the ability to reach out and talk to anyone.  I met a great couple from France on the Piccadilly line.  They are visiting London for the first time.

Or I forgot to mention...I was able to use my first aid kit for the first time EVER.  And I have taken it with me to at least half a dozen countries and on at least half a dozen overnight backpacking trips thus far.  That girl, Sarah, had actually fallen and torn her jeans and cut up her knee pretty bad.  I guess that was the reason she was struggling with her bags when I met her outside.  I used antibacterial spray and a Band-Aid.... You would have been proud, Mom!

Just finished walking around London and switched onto the Piccadilly line to Terminal 5 (where British Airways is)--should arrive at the terminal w/ 2.5 hours before my flight.  I have needed to go to the bathroom since I was on the plane but still haven't found time yet...I'll be able to relax a bit at the airport before my 12 hr. flight to J-Burg, South Africa.
I walked west along the south bank of the Thames River and visited a large Ferris wheel and merry-go-round.  There was
a fair going on and what seemed to be a weekly farmer's market.  I could see Big Ben from across the river and took a few photos.  Along the way I came across a handful of street performers--some were actually very good.

I walked up to Big Ben and approached Westminster Abbey.  I was a bit disappointed...I guess I was expecting more.  I mean, don't get me wrong.... it WAS beautiful!  I think I just appreciate different elements of countries when I visit.  Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square were ok.  Nothing I haven't seen before.  I went into the free National Museum but didn't have the time to have my bag searched so I just looked at the interior.  It was beautiful. 

The entire square was a bit too touristy for me.... THIS is the entire reason why I have NO desire to travel through Western Europe.  I'm trying to work out the logistics of a Round The World (RTW) trip sometime in the next 5 years.  Seeing as I want to skip over (much) of Europe I think I can avg ~15/yr.  But I guess that is for another blog.

All on all I really enjoyed London...more so for the people than any one thing I actually saw.  Everyone has been extremely nice--though most people I stopped on the street to talk with are not even from the UK.  Did I already say how Touristy London was/is?

After 4 solid hours of walking around London I'm ready to take breather.  Call me odd but there is something so fulfilling about pushing oneself through fatigue and getting completely engulfed in the culture/environment.  I probably asked a dozen strangers all around down if they wanted me to take their photos.  About 80% of them said yes.  Of those 80%, a bit more than half seemed to actually be grateful.  Either way, it allowed me to spark up some great convos.

Trafalgar Square

I am on the train right now and it doesn't feel too different than the regional rail in Philly.  The Subway in Philly is pretty Ghetto, no a problem with all the train/underground lines here.  My guess is that there is some type of 'Urban'' influence on the matter...

I was able to get Wi-Fi for a bit at the airport and checked my email.  I was able to secure a spot on the Dec-9-2013 Devil's Pool tour ($80) in Zambia and a spot for the rafting trip ($140) along the Zambezi River.  Sources have stated that this rafting trip is the best, more intense, one-day rafting trip in the world.  The guides make us actually take our raft out of the water and walk around some of the rapids that they think is not safe.  They call some of these class-6, but I've never heard of this?  I know people say that different regions will grade their rapids on dissimilar scales, but I've only heard people use the 5-grade system.

The cost of my train ticket, which can be used on ANY train/underground as many times as I want for the duration of the entire day, was ~8.5quid.  In the previous sentence I used quid because I thought 8.5pounds didn't look right.  Also, what does lbs. REALLY mean?  Is it the abbreviation for the word pound or for JUST the weight?

Nothing else to say...probably already said too much for only having been gone not even a full day.  But I'm bored on this train and this is keeping me busy.

Keep you Posted!