London 2008 Day 1: Close call with Scotland Yard & It's happy hour for us, not the bartenders!-Matt

London Travel Blog

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London: The Temple Church
I have been sick the past couple of days. Instead of working 3 nights in a row, I only worked 1 and called out sick on the following 2. The thought of canceling my trip to London came and went. Waste my $600 plane ticket? Yeah, I don't think so. So I sucked it up, took medications that I simply detest and rested to the height of boredom. To top it all off, my departure day was a miserable day in NYC. It rained all day. My camera which I dropped that previous Saturday for the millionth time cracked. The camera itself is still working but the LCD screen has the crack. So, despite the pouring rain, I ventured out to buy a new camera. I took the subway to 86th Street's CircuitCity and bought myself a purple Nikon digital camera.
London: The Temple Church - effigy
I felt awful, a traitor - that I actually bought a non-Canon digital camera. The one I wanted - a Canon - cost $200 more, so I bought a cheaper one instead before going back home to finalize any last minute packing and apartment cleaning. At 4pm, I left my apartment thinking that with the rain and it being a Friday, there sure will be traffic, so I better add an extra hour to give me some time. It was difficult getting a taxi with the rain. I had to wait 25 minutes outside my apartment building, while the edges of my jeans got soaked and my new flats getting 'blessed' by NYC spring rain, before I was able to get one and although we did hit traffic, the ride to the airport was only an hour long! I was expecting it to be at least 1.5 to 2 hours! I slept halfway through so I'm sure the taxi driver did some maneuvering that I didn't know about resulting in a shorter ride than expected.
London: The Temple Church


I checked in with no mishaps. With so much time to spare before boarding - I had to wait 3 hours! - I walked around, ate, bought a book and listened to my iPod that has rarely been used by me. Boarding was on time but we were delayed taking off with rain and whatever else British Airways and JFK control tower said it was. I wasn't quite surprised. BA always are delayed when leaving JFK.

Because of the delay in JFK, my flight arrived in London Heathrow, 20 minutes behind schedule. Tired after only getting an hour or so of sleep  because I was watching 2 movies on the plane, I texted Matt to let him know that we just got off the plane and on my way to immigration, zipped through easily to retrieved my luggage. I came out of the arrival gate and didn't see Matt.
London: The Temple Church
I texted him again and decided to get some cash while waiting. It was 10 minutes later when we saw each other. He fell asleep sitting down while waiting. Oh-kay. We left the terminal to the car park where Matt's car was located. We took the elevator and got off the 1st floor - no car. Matt didn't remember which floor he parked his car. Next try, the 3rd floor, and there it was - Matt's bright orange Cayman S. It was quite hard to miss, you know. We quickly loaded my luggage in the trunk and drove out the airport to gas up. We also bought some goodies. Chocolates for lunch according to Matt, water, gum, a London map, and Matt's soda that he ended up spilling in the car which resulted in him buying tissue to clean it up. LoL. What a mess!

We left soon after such mishaps and reached Central London with ease.
London: The Temple Church
That is until we reached the area of Knightsbridge where we hit traffic and made a detour to lead us to Embankment. Not familiar with London streets since it had been 6 years last time I was in London, getting lost was an easy thing to do - and we did - we got lost! We reached Embankment and missed the turn that led to Matt running past a red light, turning left on a one-way street, made a sudden U-turn with the Scotland Yard witnessing the whole thing! Crap! Matt brought the car to a stop - no choice there as the officer signaled us to stop. Matt apologized, said we were lost, thought this was the street we were supposed to turn but apparently not. The officer let us off, but not before pointing out to Matt that it was a "nice car" but he won't "be having it that long, if [he] continue to drive that way.
London: The Temple Church
" We said our thanks, and left with no tickets, Matt's license suspended or jail time. Phew! A close call!

Laughing it off, Matt continued to drive, cautiously this time, until we found an alternate street to turn, towards our destination, our hotel - The Russell Hotel located in front of Russell Square. After a turn around the park, we found the parking garage about a block away from the hotel as per the hotel's instruction. We checked in to our rooms and was suprised to see our rooms to be lovely. Small but clean with modern design. The bed was small, but comfortable and oh so soft! The bathroom was surprisingly spacious!

After a quick shower and change, I met up with Matt for lunch. Matt and I were starving by then! We hopped on the tube station which was only around the corner of the hotel to Covent Garden and had lunch.
London: Thirst with Matt and his thirstini
Matt had wine, while I stuck to water. As Matt said, "that is so American." Hey! I needed to hydrate! After lunch, we walked down to the Embankment in search of the Temple Church. It took a while because Matt wasn't sure where it was! A good 30-45 minutes walk from Covent Garden to Embankment! The Temple Church is located in a maze of a neighborhood along by the Embankment. Built in the 12th Century by the Knight Templars, it was the headquarters of the Templars in Great Britain during the Crusade. Numerous effigy is located at the entrance and plenty of lights enters through the glass stained windows from the east.

Exhausted with the walk, Matt and I caught a taxi to Thirst, the bar where we were to meet my friend, Heather, and her friends. It was close still but across the street, we found a pub, Bar Carlisle, where we nursed half a pint of beer, chatted and waited for the bar across the street to open.
London: Melati - Heather's birthday dinner
At 5pm, Thirst finally opened. Matt and I were the first ones and we immediately ordered after a quick browse through the list. It was happy hour til 730pm! Yay! I order a cosmopolitan while Matt ordered a Thirstini. The preparation for our drinks was elaborate. The bartender cooled the martini glasses while mixing our drink. He strained something into Matt's drink - some fruit, and ignited an orange peel over the drinks before dropping it into our drinks. It was cool and only £7 ($14) for both of them! And with that, I gave the bartender £5 note as tips which outraged Matt. "It's happy hour for us, not the bartenders!", says Matt. Apparently, tipping is not customary in London - except in touristy and posh places that is adopting the American tradition of tipping. Well no wonder the bartenders were staring at the £5 note I left at the bar like it was diseased. Okay. Lesson learned. Heather arrived and slowly a few more of her friends trickled into the bar. We chatted and laughter filled the bar. I ordered another drink for Matt and me - this time, I only left £1 for tip. Okay, I really jsut feel bad not tipping, ok? I just had to! My friend, Hendrik, from Germany, arrived with his girlfriend, Lena, and after figuring out that we were going to a club after dinner, Matt and I left the bar to change into something dressy and would meet the rest of the group at the restaurant for dinner. We hopped into the cab - and quickly changed as soon as we reached the hotel. Matt was so slow. We then caught a cab to the restaurant. While waiting for a cab in front of our hotel, Matt found a tiny diamond in his mouth! LoL. And consequently, dropped it on the sidewalk - forever lost. Was it real? We will never know.

The cab dropped as at the street the restaurant is located. However, we couldn't find the restaurant and after 20 minutes of walking back and forth between 2 blocks of the same street, looking for the buidling number and numerous phone calls to Heather (my phone bill this month is going to be so astronomical!), we finally found the restaurant, Melati. Melati is a Singaporean-Malaysian-Thai restaurant. It was small and ridiculously warm inside. No AC! And if there was, it was too weak. The food was good and the portions were generous but the service was so slow! Dinner took 3 hours! Chatted. Ate. Drank gallons of tea because Matt and I were losing our voice already. A few pictures here and there. And finally the dinner was over. After leaving the restaurant and byes to Heather's mom and sister, we walked around the corner into a pub. Drinks were light and at 1115pm, thye stopped serving alcohol. WTF? Is this for real? It was Saturday night, was it not? What is going on? We were annoyed. Well, I was beyond annoyed. With utter Disbelief and simply pissed off, Matt and I decided to leave. Call it an early night.

Exhausted after a long travel, Matt with his drive from Bristol, and losing our voices, Matt and I said our goodbyes to Heather and her friends, and went back to our hotel via taxi - and headed straight to the hotel bar for a shot of vodka and sprite chasers, followed by a double shot of gin and tonic before retiring for the night.  Ah. It was not a terrible night after all. ^_^
momiji says:
great blog!! my phone bill would be $$$ too ;)
Posted on: May 15, 2008
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London: The Temple Church
London: The Temple Church
London: The Temple Church - effigy
London: The Temple Church - effigy
London: The Temple Church
London: The Temple Church
London: The Temple Church
London: The Temple Church
London: The Temple Church
London: The Temple Church
London: The Temple Church
London: The Temple Church
London: Thirst with Matt and his t…
London: Thirst with Matt and his …
London: Melati - Heathers birthda…
London: Melati - Heather's birthd…
London Hotels & Accommodations review
Great hotel for price, location, and access to transportation!
The Russell Hotel London (now known as Le Meridien Russell Hotel) is a 4-star hotel, located in front of Russell Square in the historic area of Blooms… read entire review
London
photo by: ulysses