Getting out of Berlin was always going to be challenge as just before I was leaving, the Pope was arriving and he had many appointments in the centre of Berlin where I had anticipated catching the airport shuttle. Suddenly a change of plan was required and thankfully the staff at the hostel were awesome in providing alternate routes, so not to get too disrupted. It was sort of the long way around taking 3 different types of trains/buses but eventually got there. I must admit that the main airport at Berlin is not that well organised but finally found a counter where I could drop my bag and collect my boarding pass. Ended up getting there well and truly before required so I had my usual Starbucks at the airport. It generally the only time I enter a Starbucks shop.
The trip to London was uneventful but the bonus of checking in early was getting a seat on the exit row. That extra leg room was worth getting in early for! Arriving in London I had to go through the usual customs and passport controls. I finally got a second stamp in my passport. Its no where near as any as my first passport though. Took me about an hour or so to get to the Hostel in Central London by the tube and luckily it was just before peak hour so it wasn’t to hectic.
After settling in I went for a walk in the local area to get my bearings and came back about 3 hours later. Ended up spending time in the Ferrari Store on Regent Street, Trafalgar Square and the M&Ms Store in Leicester Square. In Trafalgar Square there was the 2012 Olympic Countdown clock where there is only about 309 days to go (at that stage) and a dancing guy who was getting members of his audience to join him in doing the macarena on stage. Yes, that dance still exists for some people. I am glad he found some willing school kids to wanted to make fools of themselves. The M&Ms Store in London is much better than the one in NYC, as much as it hurts me to say that, as they have Beefeater M&M, Knight M&M and personal favourite of the Beatles M&Ms walking on Abbey (M&M) Road Crossing. If you get to London, this store is a must!!
After a good nights sleep, I headed out to Waterloo Station to catch up with my good friend Nicola, whom I knew from a trip in Australia, where we just wandered around the streets of Central London through to Abbey Road in the north west. Along the way we passed Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament where I cracked my usual Chevy Chase quote from National Lampoons European Vacation. If you don’t know it you should watch the movie. We then wandered through Regents Park which was still in bloom and had a lunch in the Boathouse overlooking the pond. Very relaxing after a pretty long walk. From there we headed into St John Wood where Lord’s Cricket Ground is located. I only went into the shop this time as I had completed the tour last time I was here.
Around the corner was Abbey Road where I did the standard tourist crossing photo, saw the Abbey Road Studios and the graffitied gates surrounding it where people pen their thoughts about how much they love the Beatles. Surprisingly there are very few Beatles souvenir shops around the area. In one way its good but in another way it just doesn’t feel right. It was at this point I said goodbye to Nicola as I headed back towards Baker Street to check out the Sherlock Holmes Museum. It was a interesting place, and if you are a true fan, you would love it. To me, my visit was more out of curiosity.
The following day I headed out to St James Park to get a few quick photos of Buckingham Palace before heading out to West Ham to catch up with one of first walkers, Ali, whom I had shown around Adelaide as part of my local tours, to see the new Olympic Park for the 2012 London Olympics. Unfortunately my good intentions of a few quick photos of Buckingham Palace came undone as it happened to coincide with the changing of the guard and there were people everywhere. What was planned to be a quick 10-20 stroll turned into an hour of hip and shouldering tourists as I struggled to get from one side to another. If nothing else, I’ll be prepared for a call up to the AFL as I have now mastered the hip and shoulder bump.
Having survived that experience I made my way to West Ham to meet up with Ali. As I later found out the the Mayor of London said that all walking tours around London would be free today. Based on that, close to 120 people turned to do the Olympics Walk through the London Walks company. Thankfully they brought a few guides and split the people up. The first thing I noticed about the Olympic Area is the smell as one of the main walkways that will lead people to the stadium is over the main sewerage area for London. It really is not very pleasant so if you are visiting for the Olympics bring a nose plug as there is no way the smell will be avoided.
The Olympic Stadium is coming together nicely looks as though it should be ready by the time of the games. There is going to be some weird sculpture next to it call the Orbit. I really don’t think it looks good but maybe in a2012 it will. The Aquatic Centre, the Water Polo stadium and the Basketball Stadium look as though they are finished, well from the outside anyway so good luck to London for the games and really hope you can do something with that smell.
After the walk I had to finally pay the bet over the Ashes I made with Ali where the loser had to buy the winner dinner. She chose chinese so we headed to Chinatown for a feast. Luckily it didn’t cost me as much as I thought it might have and it was well worth the money. No more betting on the Ashes for me now.
After all this walking over the last two days, I had no issue getting to sleep again. Sunday was going to be my favourite day in London as the tradition here in this part of the world is Sunday Roast at the pub. I was catching up with Claire, another whom I met when doing a trip in Australia, but this time in Richmond down in the south west of London. Richmond was located down on the River Thames and took about an hour to there via the tube. On this weekend things were delayed significantly due to works being undertaken on the underground. About a quarter of the tube lines were out of service this weekend.
It was great catching up with Claire and enjoying a few wines and lovely roast chicken with traditional vegies and yorkshire pudding. We then strolled around the town observing what the locals do, which is nothing more than having picnics playing ball games and watching tourists watch them. A lazy sunday was just what I needed at this point.
My last full day in London arrived on Monday and my original plan was to go out to Cambridge but at this point to justify £51 for the day was seemingly a bit rich. So in this case I decided to walk all through Hyde Park. The next time I even suggest this, please tell me not to be so stupid. The Park was huge and took close to 4 hours. It is a beautiful park with various gardens, The Serpentine, The Round Pond, Kensington Palace, The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, The Albert Memorial and The Holocaust Memorial Garden. By the time I got through it I was well and truly stuffed and lost for energy. I sought refuge in a small cafe in Notting Hill which was the Diana Cafe. The walls inside were a tribute to the late Princess Diana and from what I could see, she had visited this place on a few occasions which various letters from the Princess, signed by her PA (I think) thanking them.
After lunch at a pub I made my way to the British Museum, mainly because it had the perfect admission price, free. Once I stepped inside and could see how crowded it was I literally lost all interest once I saw the 2012 Olympic Gold Medal. I tried to maintain some enthusiasm going through the Egyptian section but to no avail. I was trying to get out of the museum but found myself going around in circles but eventually did and to be honest I was glad I got out of there. I am sure it is one of the best museums but I think I was all museumed out by this stage and really could not enjoy it.
From there I ventured back to Hostel for a good nap, went out for a quick shopping trip to Regents Street before reorganising my backpack for the trip home tomorrow. I did have a pretty damn good sleep as I didn’t hear anyone that night or in the morning.
Today is the day I start the long trip home. Its sad when a trip comes to an end, so now I start planning the next one for 2013.
Hope you have enjoyed my ramblings and see you on the other side soon.