London/Bobbingworth, England 11/9-11/15/08
The train ride from Penzance to London was a long one. I passed a lot of beautiful countryside and got in a bunch of reading. I am currently reading ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ by Jack Higgins. That is one very nice thing about vacations; I seem to be able to get in a bunch of good reading while on vacation. My head cold has settled in and is making the train ride not that enjoyable. I want to try to head out for one more day trip after I get back to London, but if I don’t start feeling any better I think I will just hangout with my family and friend. On this last long train ride I have had time to reflect on this great trip. It has been a very unique experience traveling by myself for so long. There has been some very fun times, and a few lonely times. Would I do it again? Sure; but it is much better traveling with a good friend!
I got back into London and jumped on the tube to head out to Epping and my families house to stay with them for a few days before I head back into London to spend a couple days with my friend and take in another football match. I spent the rest of the evening relaxing and enjoying the company of my family.
Saturday I hung out with my uncle and helped him set up a dinner party at his church. The theme for the dinner party was an international one. A family from South Africa was at the church helping us set up for the dinner that night. Saturday afternoon I head back into London via train and then on the tube. I walked over The Valley; it the home of Charlton Athletic football team. I was meeting up with a friend that I meet on the Flickr photo site; he is a big football fan and his team is Charlton. There was a lot of good atmosphere in the crowd, we sat down near the pitch by the end of the away supporters; they were quite boisterous. The match was a good one; I must be a good luck charm for all the teams I go see here in the UK. So far all the teams I have gone to see play have won. Or I just pick good teams to support…Haha. I had a good time hanging out with my buddy Keith at the match. Now he needs to come out and see some MLS football action here in Salt Lake. After the match I walked back to the tube to head back out for the dinner party. The dinner party was great; there was a lot of good food from all over the world. I stuffed myself with some of the good South African food. After dinner some of the people at the party got up and shared some traditional songs from there homeland. That was one of the highlights of the nights; especially when the older generation got up to share some old English songs.
Sunday I went back to West Ham to hangout with my friend. She and I decided to go out and check out a few scary sights in London. After watching a bunch of ‘Most Haunted’ episodes online we headed off for the London underground and then headed down to the Tower of London; I took some good night pictures of the Tower Bridge. It was very surreal walking around that area with Kat. Back in July of 2005 I flew her over from Hamburg to see The Phantom of the Opera. After we walked around this same area; I would have never guessed I would be back here in London walking around with her. We ended up walking all over for hours, by the time we finally got back to the tube we caught the last one of the night to get us back to West Ham.
Monday I headed out on my own to see some more of London. I jumped on the tube and headed down to the Elephant & Castle area. I worked my way over to the Imperial War Museum. This is one of the most amazing museums I have ever been in, and it was FREE to get in! http://www.iwm.org.uk/
I spent a good 4 hours walking around this museum taking in everything I could and snapping a bunch of pictures of all the neat displays. When I first walked into the main hall I was greeted by all the war planes hanging from the rafters. There is very good displays on WWI & WWII. I am a huge history buff when it comes to WWII; so naturally I spent a good majority of my time in the WWII display. There was also a major display on the Falklands War; it is the 25th anniversary of this war. I am not too familiar with all that was involved in this war; but now I am very familiar after visiting this museum. I grabbed a quit bite to eat in the museum café and then headed out on foot toward Parliament. Darkness was beginning to fall upon London and I wanted to snap some more night shots. Walking towards Westminster Bridge I decided I would head over to the London Eye and check into going for a spin on it. There was no line to get on it and the price wasn’t too bad so I got a ticket and took a spin on the London Eye. If you find yourself in London this is a must to do; especially at night. I shared the pod with 4 other people, so I had plenty room to walk around and snap a bunch of pictures of the lit up London skyline. Another great part of traveling this time of the year is that there is not nearly the amount of tourist to compete with for such sights. After the ride on the London Eyes I walked across Westminster Bridge and snapped a bunch of pictures of Parliament and The Clock Tower. For those of you who don’t know this. Big Ben is the name of the bell inside The Clock Tower, but The Clock Tower is commonly referred to as Big Ben. I then walked over to Westminster Abbey. Sunday was Remembrance Day here in the UK, much like Veterans Day in the US. There was a very nice display in front of Westminster Abbey for Remembrance Day.
I headed down to the Apolo Victoria Theater to meet up with Kat. I got us tickets to see Wicked the musical. What a fantastic show this was! If you get the chance to catch this show do so! After the show Kat and I headed back to her place and watched a few more ‘Most Haunted’ episodes before calling it a night.
Tuesday morning I said my goodbyes to Kat as she headed off to work. This was my fifth goodbye with Kat over the last two years; always hard to say goodbye to such a good friend. I headed back to Upton Park to walk through the West Ham United team shop and pick up a team shirt and some other gifts. After drooling over all the West Ham gear I walked into the main office to try my luck on getting a tour of the stadium. They told me they don’t do tours during this time of the year, but they told me they could tell by my accent that I had come a long way to see the stadium. They arranged for someone to come down and show me around and take me out to the pitch. I got to sit in the VIP bar while I waited. I got to go back into the stadium and see the Home and Away Dressing Rooms. What a difference between the two! I then got to take the walk down the player’s entrance and out on to the pitch. I had goose bumps all over my arms walking out the player’s entrance. Never in a million years did I think I would be standing on these hollowed grounds. I was in complete shock the whole time! I took a bunch of pictures and in my shock I forgot to get some of me standing on the grounds. The guy was kind enough to take me back in and take some pictures of me on the grounds and by the player’s entrance. He had some very cool stories to tell me about the club; he has been working there for well over 20 years.
I headed back into the heart of London to see some more sights. I started in Hyde Park at the Speakers Corner. Not much speaking going on today on this rainy day. I took shelter under the famous Marble Arch. Donning my rain gear I walked through the park making my way to Buckingham Palace. Walking under Wellington Arch I worked my way down Constitution Hill along St. James Park ending up at Buckingham Palace. From the flag flying above Buckingham Palace I could tell the Queen was home. I should have rung the bell and see if I could come in for some warm tea, haha. I headed back through St. James Park and walked through Horse Guards. My next stop was Downing Street to say HI to the PM. I walked up to Trafalgar Square. The sun began to peak out behind the clouds and the rain had stopped making for some very nice pictures of Trafalgar Square. Catching a quick bite to eat while hanging out in the Victoria Embankment Park I decided to walk down the Embankment to the Millennium Bridge. By this time I have been walking for hours, but I find that the best way to see a city is by foot or on a bike. I worked my way under Waterloo Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge finally ending up at the Millennium Bridge. I walked halfway across the bridge to get some pictures of St. Paul’s. I walked around the grounds of St. Paul’s before heading in to see it from the inside. It is an amazing place; such a beautiful building. By this time I was tired from three very long days of walking and was ready to call it a day. Jumping back on the tube I headed back to Epping to meet up with my Aunt for a ride back to Bobbingworth. That night I got out my laptop to watch ‘28 Days Later.’ The start of the movie takes place in the English countryside with a very intense scene of zombies chasing people down. So there I was lying in bed late at night out in the English countryside watching this. After that scene I kept a weary eye on the window expecting at any time a zombie to come breaking through.
Wednesday was my last day of my trip so I just planned to take it easy and relax with my family. My uncle and I decided to go out for short hike. This short hike ended 6 hours later! I had a good time talking with my uncle about life religion and all sorts of other things. With good company a hike like this goes by very quickly. My aunt picked us up and took us tired hikers back to the house for a warm meal. The rest of the evening I spent getting ready for my departure the next day. I had to get up very early to catch the tube to a train station to jump on a train that would take me out to the airport.
Thursday morning came very early! James dropped me off at the Epping Tube Station and off I went. No sooner was I a few stops away did I have my first delay on the tube, go figure. I finally got to the train station and jumped on a train to Gatwick. I arrived with just enough time to get checked in and hit the duty free shops before boarding my flight. My flight to Atlanta was a full one so no three seats all to myself.
I always find the flight back to the states to feel much shorter; must be the fact that one gains time by flying back to the states from Europe.
Arriving in Atlanta I had to stand in the customs line for a little over an hour. I had a four hour layover in Atlanta; so I tracked down a power outlet and watched the movie ‘Last King of Scotland’.
I had a great trip over in the United Kingdom. I got to see some amazing country side and wonderful cities. It was great catching up with my family, my friend Kat, catching three football matches, one with my English Football buddy Keith.
I will return to the British Isles someday, hopefully in the not so distant future.