Sunday, May 20, 2012

Wanders with Winkie #5: London

If you're following the "pig" theme,  I didn't actually have Winkie with me this time, but I've decided to still name my travel posts for him.

We flew into Heathrow arriving early in the morning after an all night flight.  We managed to find our way through immigration, to baggage claim and onto the Heathrow Express to London.  I had done plenty of research ahead of time so I had an idea of what to expect at each step but was also realistic enough to know that there are always surprises.  But, we made it to Paddington Station and managed to find a taxi to our hotel where we crashed for several hours trying to feel somewhat human again.  In the afternoon we took a Duck Tour.  These are tours that start out on land and then continue on water using amphibious vehicles from WW II.  I had gone on one several years ago in Seattle and thought it was very enjoyable.  This one was not quite as good, but provided us with a nice overview of London with little effort on our tired bodies.
The second day we started out by oversleeping - still trying to adjust to the time change and then spent the rest of the day at the Tower of London.  We didn't get to see the current crown jewels since Queen Elizabeth was wearing some of them to open Parliament that day.  But there was plenty of bling left behind to impress.  I had several "take aways" from this part of the trip including:  The guard at the crown jewels wears a rather impractical dress uniform but carries a VERY serious weapon.  He clearly is there for more than show. The towers where prisoners were kept were sort of odd prisons.  They had large windows with only the height from the ground as a true deterrent to escape.  And it was strange that after executing some of the prisioners, they were then buried in the chapel in a place of honor.  That seemed like a sort of contridiction to me.
We also checked out London Bridge, but we were too late to take a tour inside.  The next morning we made our way to King's Crossing Train Station for a four hour train ride to Edinburgh.  As I mentioned, this was my first train ride of this sort. I was glad to have the experience.  My one amazement was the pressure in my ears as the train went through a tunnel!  I wasn't expecting that at all.

A few other observations included:  London fashion loves their tights - both with and without skirts.  A lot of the younger people working at the hotel and tourist spots were from other European countries.  Many of them had a sort of "awe" about New York City.  I found that interesting since London has everything that NYC has and more, but somehow there was a sort of fascination with NYC.  Water is not provided automatically at restaurants.  They really like their sparkling water - at room temperature and without ice.  In fact, there was no ice machine in the hotel, no ice bucket in the room.  And no top sheets on the beds.  Little things, I know, but they were all different for my sister and me.  It's those little things that add together to make the different "feel" of another country.  We even noticed that the smells were different - not good or bad, just different from what we recognized at home.

We left a lot undone in London and I wouldn't hesitate to go back again.  I'm even making peace with the craziness of Heathrow.  So maybe one day we will make a return trip.

Next - the Highlands of Scotland.

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