I left Vancouver for London on an Air Canada flight in late afternoon on Friday. Time wise, the flight was not too bad — it took about 9 hours in all and I did had a chance to sleep quite well.
Grant told me I should have booked on British Airways. Grant was right, the Air Canada plane was a really old plane. The inflight movie was on a CRT TV. The seats although comfortable, has seen many. many years of service.
Right after the flight took off, dinner were served. I was not given a choice at all unless you had special dietary requirements. The meal was chicken with potatoes and some vegetables. The chicken breast was pretty good.
The meal also came with salad and Balsamic Vinegar for dressing. There were also a small tub of vanilla ice-cream. The meals were passable but I remember many years back, airline meals were a bigger deal.
I choose red wine. It knocked me out right after — I wanted to sleep throughout the flight and it did the trick.
About 1 1/2/ hour before landing, I was woken up by the announcement about breakfast. Breakfast was served in a simple box. The box contained a muffin, peach, orange juice, yogurt and dried raisins. I also had coffee.
I have never been to London before. Right after I checked into the hotel, I quickly made my way to the City on my own. I actually had a great time and seriously wished Suanne were here. I know she would have loved it here too.
I have tons of pictures I took this afternoon. Check out the link below if you care to read about them …
The best way to get around is via the Underground. It is also known as the Tube because of the tunnel (and the shape of the train) resembles a tube. The London Underground is the oldest underground rail system in the world. It is over 100 years old. The age shows and many of the stations were not in very good shape. The air is pretty stale and some parts reeks of urine!
Having said that, London Underground network was very extensive. There must have been more than a hundred stations in all. Took me a while to understand how the how system works.
Frankly, I am not impressed. The train and the station were not air conditioned. On a hot day like today, it was like I am in a sauna. I was sweating. The train also stopped twice on the way downtown — weird because there were no announcement why it stopped in the middle of the dark tunnel.
I bought a Travel Card for 6.30 Pounds. That allows me to travel up to six zones (I am staying near Heathrow) throughout the day. It’s the cheapest way to get to the City. The journey normally took an hour but it took longer because of the two unscheduled halts.
I chose to get off at Picadilly Circus and start my tour from there. The place was packed with people and almost every other person has a camera on hand. This is a tourist mecca.
I will get on one of these double deckers one of these days. I’ll try to get on the front seat on the top deck — I bet that has the best view of all!
I can’t resist taking a picture of the post office box. This design must have been hundred of years old. When I was young, I was an avid stamp collector. I recalled that the Black Penny was the first stamp in the world and was issued in England.
I don’t have the benefit of a tour guide and in my haste to get out of the hotel I forgot to take along my London tour guide. Here is the guard in St James Palace. When I took the picture from the side, I saw her (I think she’s a she because she looks well … endowed) moving her eyeballs to look at me. Hey, she is not supposed to do that!
This is the front view of St James Palace. I don’t know what’s the significance of this place. Seems deserted to me though.
As I walked towards to the Mall, I caught a glimpse of the London Eye. It looked very big.
The Mall is the road that leads to the Buckingham Palace. The road was paved red and the road were lined with large Union Jacks. It looked grand.
On one side of the Mall is the St James Park. There were a lot of people on a nice warm day. I see a lot of old fashioned lawn chairs (never seen anyone using these types in Canada before). Because they all looked the same, I think the city placed them there. It was a pretty neat idea.
Further on, I caught a glimpse of Big Ben for the first time. It looked much better than in the picture. I have never seen a more beautiful clock tower.
London Taxis … perhaps one of the kind in the world. They use a locally made model and all of them have this quaint old-fashioned design.
Buckingham Palace — official residence of the Queen. Another tourist mecca. Although the surrounding area was very nicely designed but there were a lot of trash everywhere thrown there by tourists. It’s a shame.
There were hoards of people hoping to see the Queen. I noticed that the Union Jack were flying on the Palace … does that mean that the Queen is present in the palace?
In front of the Buckingham Palace is the Queen Victoria memorial. It is during the reign of Queen Victoria that the British Empire was at its peak.
I have always wanted to buy a wide angle lens. I just can’t get the whole palace with the zoom I had on my camera.
Here the view of the Mall from the Palace and Victoria Memorial.
I decided to next walk towards Big Ben.
The area around Big Ben included the Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. They were all closed by the time I got there. These places seems to close early — about 5pm everyday.
I have booked a flight on the London Eye tomorrow. I hope we will have a clear day like today. I can imagine the scene will be awesome.
I also decided to make a visit to Tony Blair’s home — 10 Downing.
The whole street were gated off and the police were heavily armed. From the distance, I saw 12 Downing … I think 10 Downing is the house next to it and hidden around the corner. It’s amazing that central London is so compact and everything is within walking distance.
London is an expensive city. I got a few shocks on how much things costs. So, I just pop into a Mac D to get myself a “Bigger” Big Mac. The Bigger Big Mac meal costs 4.29 pounds.
The fries were thinner, unlike the thicker ones we get in Canada.
I wanted to see the Nelson Column in Trafalgar Square. It was closed for renovations.
It was getting darker. As much as I wanted to continue to explore the city I decided to start heading back. The subway were built very deep. This particular station was a major transit point and is built four levels deep.
It’s a pretty amazing engineering feat knowing that this underground system were built more than 100 years ago.
I will be making a walking tour along the South Bank tomorrow.