Day 5 – London and Justin

London Travel Blog

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Sept. 15, 2007:  Day 5 – London and Justin


            I awoke around 8am on Friday so that Beata could show me the library where I could use the free wireless internet. 

            She cooked me breakfast (Polish breakfast of boiled hot dogs (with no buns), tomatoes, and other fruit that I don’t recall) despite my complaints that she’s too nice.  AND, she made me two sandwiches to take with me during my day of walking.

  I couldn’t have asked for a better host!

            At the library I did my usual logistical/blog thing and found out that Justin was in town.  We used Skype to figure out a time/place to meet later on.  I saw that Danielle was also online and had my first video call through Skype with her.  It was good to see her and hear her voice at the same time.

            I was almost thirty minutes late in meeting Justin at the National Gallery.  I was lucky he hadn’t left.  He said he’d have waited for up to 1.5 hours if need be since he didn’t know where I was exactly (we hadn’t specified an exact spot; just “right in front of the National Gallery at 12:30pm”), and he was scouring the crowd below and thinking “Where is Cliff?” (pun intended)

            Since Justin had already spent a lot of time in London he had seen a lot of the city.

  We decided to go to the Natural History Museum because it’s free and he hadn’t seen the dinosaur exhibit. 

            The dinosaur exhibit was incredible.  I had never seen so many complete skeletons of dinosaurs.  The skeletons ranged from Triceratops, T-Rex, Stegosaurus, Raptor, and many more which I will not even attempt to spell.  They had the only evidence of a carnivorous dinosaur larger than T-Rex.  The evidence was a pair of huge arms with massive claws at the end.  The arms were about ten feet long and each claw was about one to two feet long.  I would not have wanted to face off with it in a battle for sure.

            After the museum we knew we had to figure out what we were doing the next few days and so we went to Justin’s hostel, the Anitgallican, since they have free internet.

  Justin asked if he could come to France with me and I of course said yes.  But we had to figure out logistics.

            At the hostel I met two employees who Justin had made friends with since he had spent many nights there.  One guy, Stan, was from Poland.  When I told him about my trip he commented about how I should spend more time in each country so that I could absorb and understand the culture more.  It made me think about how people have different philosophies about travel.  My philosophy is to see the world and meet the people in it over a relatively short period (one year).  I believe one to three weeks in each country is sufficient to slightly understand the general culture.  Meeting local people through CouchSurfing helps me to do this.

  Stan’s philosophy is to stay in one place for months and absorb the culture over a longer period of time.

The other hostel employee, Titel, is from Romania. 

In the kitchen we met a couple from Australia who had been traveling for five months through Europe and had some good tips for me about the Eurail Pass which I planned to activate once arriving in France.  When you buy a Eurail pass, you might think that all your tickets will be free.  But they do not describe clearly the fact that you will have to make reservations on some trains, and this reservation costs a fraction of the total.  A reservation could consist of going to the station an hour before departure and paying the fee.

  But, how do you know if your desired trip requires a reservation?  Well, you can either go to the station and check or check online here:  These reservation fees can range from 5€ to 30€ with France and Italy being the priciest.  Stan said to avoid these fees you can try and book multi-leg trips to your final destination using slower trains.  If you book from one major city to the next, the fast trains will most often require a reservation.

We ate dinner at the hostel (1.50£ from grocery) which consisted of pasta, sauce, OJ and Justin’s garlic bread.  Beata and her flatmates were later amazed at how cheap I could find food.

After dinner we went out to explore London at night and see the 10th annual Thames Festival.

  I got lucky in that the festival was ending that weekend and so there were a lot of festivities going on. 

We walked around the London Bridge to Millennium Bridge areas, taking many night-time photos as we went.  We joked about who’s a better photographer, but there is no denying it is me since I have a tripod, zoom lens and higher capacity Compact Flash memory card (sarcasm).

We parted paths for the night, and decided to spend the next day in London, and then take a bus to Paris on Monday.  I was just hoping that Beata would allow me to stay an additional night.  If she did, it would be a total of three nights that I would end up staying at her place.

When I got back to Beata’s everyone was asleep.

  I had to wake Beata up so she could open the door for me.  Luckily she had only been asleep for half an hour.  I told her I was taking her and Votek out to breakfast in the morning.  She said “No, we are taking you out.”  I said “No!”  But, again, there was no convincing her otherwise of her decision.

Before going to bed I usually blow my nose, and since I’ve been in London I’ve noticed my snot is gray or black.  Justin said he noticed the same thing.  Maybe the air is dirty?

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photo by: ulysses