I made the last minute (a week’s advance notice) decision to go to London for my week off of work. I kinda stressed out about it during that week between booking the flight and leaving, but as soon as I got to the airport I felt better (as I expected). I was flying through Detroit, and I had a short connection scheduled, only 55 minutes. So when the plane we were taking to Detroit hadn’t left Detroit until after they were supposed to already have landed in Buffalo I started to get nervous. The gate agent assured us we’d land at 9, with 40 minutes to make the connection. Except that we didn’t leave until 8:30, landing in Detroit at 9:35…my connection was 9:40. I thought for sure I was missing that flight, and even if I ran and made it, certainly my luggage wouldn’t make it. So I ran off the plane, ran to the other terminal, heard the final boarding call, ran to the gate, thought I was going to have a heart attack, but I made it. And landing in London, so did my luggage! Yes.
Upon landing at Heathrow, I had to make an expensive phone call to Verizon to make my phone work, which I’m not too happy about since the day before I had called global customer service twice to make sure the the phone would work, and then it didn’t work. Aggravating. Trained into Paddington, and since Pierre who I was staying with was at work, I decided to go off to the Freud Museum. The museum is in Freud’s house, which he moved to when his family had to escape from the Nazis. He only lived there for a year before he died, but his daughter Anna continued to live there the rest of her life. So the house featured all of the antiquities that Freud collected (which I had no idea he was interested in), his famous couch in his office, and other historical artifacts. It’s preserved just as it was when he lived there, and as Anna lived there. It’s small (it is just a house afterall) but it was very neat to see. Trained back to Paddington to meet Pierre, and off to his flat. Even though I was super tired from jet lag, we went out into the city anyway, walking around forever, got dinner at a pub, and back home for the night.
Saturday, the plan was to train out to spend time with Glen and Anna and the kids in Henley-on-Thames. Glen picked me up in Reading, and we tried to go by these old abbey ruins in town, which was closed (and Glen didn’t know why). So we headed off to Stonehenge, about an hour away. Unfortunately by the time we got there it was pouring, but that’s ok, it’s just rain. It just makes it difficult to manage an umbrella and cameras etc :). What to say about it? Everyone knows what it is, it’s definitely a weird sight to see when you turn on the road and see it on the hill. It’s cool to see it in person. While you can’t walk around the stones anymore, there is a circular walkway all the way around it, and you actually get much closer to it than I thought from other people talking about it. So it was neat. After the first walkaround the rain slowed, so we went around again before heading out for Henley. The rain cleared up into a nice day, so we walked into town from their house, went to a brewery in town which was great, and grabbed dinner at a pub. Yummy chili. I think I was still a bit jet lagged, and even though I was hungry, I just couldn’t eat very much of it. It was great to see the Lamberts again, the town is so cute, I could definitely live there.
Sunday was back into London for the Harry Potter Walking tour. It started in Leicester Square, and headed out to places in London that were either inspirations for things in the book, or actual filming locations. I think we saw the inspiration for Diagon Alley, Leadenhall Market which was the filming location for Diagon Alley, 2 different filming locations for the Leaky Cauldron (in Leadenhall Market for movie 1, a flower shop entrance for movie 3). There was a boat ride on the Thames to Southwark, which was inspiration for Knockturn Alley, and it ended at King’s Cross station (does it need explanation haha). We didn’t see the filming location for Gringotts, because I guess it was not remotely close enough to walk to given the rest of the tour route. It was a good tour, you see a lot of London, but probably would have been more fun if I was not alone. After that I think I headed back to meet Pierre somewhere and we probably got food but I can’t remember now haha. I think that’s the day we walked around the Notting Hill area and Portobello Road.
Monday brought “tourist day”. I had bought the London Pass which garnered you free access or extra stuff at 55 places around London, including most of the major tourist sites. I did the math and it did save me a little bit of money, so after picking that up from the tourism office, my first stop was Westminster Abbey. Being across from Parliament, I did a quick photo thing on the bridge, and headed to the church. Even as a nonbeliever, these massive churches are awe inspiring. Just the work that went into them, it’s ridiculous. No one builds this kind of thing anymore. Very cool. They had a small exhibit of photos from the royal wedding too haha. Close by was my 2nd stop, the Churchill War Rooms. This was the underground complex that was turned into Churchill’s headquarters during WWII, with the cabinet room, living quarters for all the important members, including Churchill and his wife, and other staff. Very interesting to see, and find out what it was like to be there during the war and the Blitz. Definitely recommended. Finishing up there, I headed to the Tower of London. Thankfully it was a nice day, because it’s a lot of outside walking, inside the walls, between the buildings etc. It was nice to see. I initially had no interest in seeing the Crown Jewels, there was a stupid long line outside the building, and there were a few more things to see before they closed so I skipped it. But after seeing the rest, and still having 20 min or so before close, I went anyway. The line was pretty quick moving, so it was ok. The jewels though…they look fake. And I dunno, just…whatever. They’re jewels.
Grabbed some food at a shop outside the tower, and had a little picnic. I thought the Tower Bridge Experience was open until 6, so I ran over there to try to fit that in, but turns out they closed at 5:30. Damnit, if I hadn’t eaten I’d have made it!
Tuesday it was rainy, which made it a good time for “museum day”. Since I missed the Tower Bridge the day before, that was my first stop. You get to go up the one tower, walk across to the other, and then down into the Victorian engine room, which used to run the bridge. They are doing construction on the walkways at the moment, so only one of the two was open but that’s ok. The engine room was super cool, well preserved steam engines, and explanations of how they worked to lift and lower the bridge.
Next was the Victoria and Albert museum. Not originally on my plan of things to visit, both Pierre and Glen and Anna recommended it, so I took their advice. It’s a huge art museum, which I found a bit overwhelming and confusing – there was no easy way to walk through the exhibits and see them all. I don’t think I saw everything in the 2.5 hours I was there, but that’s ok, I still saw a ton. It is very nice, lots of good stuff. From there, was the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons. In short, it’s the Mutter Museum of London…lots of stuff in jars. Tons of stuff in jars, and then more stuff in jars. Awesome! Across the park from that was the Sloane museum, also on my list but of course by the time I got there, they were closing in 5 minutes, so I missed it.
The annoying thing about London is everything is closed by 6, so on my list of things to do I didn’t end up at the National Gallery, or Portrait Gallery, didn’t get to the Chislelhurst caves, or the Old Operating Theatre. If things were, at least, open until 8 I think I could have gotten everything in. Oh well.
Wednesday was departure day, and it started off terribly. Pierre had given me the key to his outside door, so I could leave my luggage in the hall and go out before my flight. Except that somehow without leaving the apartment from 9pm previously, the key disappeared. I looked everywhere, was panicing, unpacked all my stuff, checked outside, the key was no where to be found. He said not to worry about it and he’d figure it out, except he posted later on on facebook that he had to pay 115 pounds on a locksmith, so now I feel terrible. Ug. There was nothing I could do, though, so I took my luggage off into the city again and went to the Tate Modern. I had been there last trip in 07 but only for about an hour, so it deserved another visit. Went through the whole museum, except the Miro exhibit (no time, and you had to buy tickets), grabbed some lunch, and headed back out to Heathrow.
The flight to JFK was uneventful, and we were actually an hour early because we got off the ground very quickly in London. That left even more time for me to sit around in JFK waiting for my flight to Buffalo, but what are you gonna do. Messing with my phone, I got a severe storm warning notice for Buffalo for the exact time I’d be flying in, awesome. The flight wasn’t delayed due to the storm, but as we got closer to Buffalo you could see the crazy lightning. The pilot came on to say we were 10 minutes away but we were going to have to circle around a bit wherever we were, and maybe we were going to land in Rochester or Syracuse instead. Great. I guess the storm had moved away enough from the airport, that we would be able to land, but that meant flying through the storm, and wow was that unpleasant. Constant lightning in the clouds, turbulence, but we made it through (obviously), and were able to land. We were delayed on the ground though, as since it was still raining and there was still lightning despite the main storm passing, the ground crew couldn’t be out working to bring us into the gate. It wasn’t too long though, and with all that we were still on time.
The end. ha.