Hey all! I'm writing from the youth hostel in Holland Park in London. I've got 17 minutes left on my time, so hopefully I can get everything out (despite the slow connection, missing keys on the keyboard, and keys in different spots.)
So, I should have written sooner about Friday because it was crazy with so much stuff to do (and not being able to find my passport) - but things just got more fun after that, so on with Saturday!
My pals Jessica and Jill stayed the night and they helped me make sure I'd packed everything I needed. (thanks!) My ride was on time and I got to the airport with 2 hours to spare and sped through security, as usual. Our plane was a bit late since they were still loading the luggage (and two poor dogs in kennels!) So when I arrived in Chicago I had a much shorter layover: I got off the first plane, walked a few gates down, got on the second plane.
Then we sat. And sat. And sat. And the 3-year-old behind me kicked the seat and whined and cried. Then finally the captain said that there was a leak in the engine and they'd let us know the status soon. Kick, whine, kick. The captain then announced that there was a fuel leak in the engine and they were working to fix it. It would take an hour and they wanted us to stay on board. To make things 'easier' they served water and started the movies. At this point it was midnight in London and I was ready to start forcing myself into my new schedule. But it was also 7pm and I hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast! After half an hour the captain informed us that we were getting off the plane and getting on a new one. So we all got off, waited in another gate room for another half hour, got on the plane and waited some more. I think we left around 9:00 - a bit after our original 6:28 time!
The little boy behind me settled down so I did get some sleep. We arrived in London at 10:05. It took anotherhour just to get to the terminal; then another 45 minutes to get through passport inspection. I am so glad I only brought carry on!
After asking around I figured out how to get a train to Kensington High Street station which is only a couple minutes walk, through a beautiful park, to the youth hostel I'm booked at.
After stowing my stuff, I set out to explore, and take care of my 'to-do' list my pals gave me. =)
I first wanted to head for Portabello Road and check out the market and antiques. I got an excellent map - complete with green highlighter marking out every road I should take. And I got totally lost! Well, I was able to backtrack so I knew where I was, but the map wasn't making sense and nothing was right. It doesn't help that they don't label any roads here!!
Totally depressed at my inability to find anything, I came back to the park for lunch. That's when I realized my mistake and the wrong road I'd taken. I went the right way and found Portabello Road. I meandered through the shops selling clothes, shoes, scarves from India, antiques, etc, etc. (I found something for my mom! Several of them in fact. =)
Anyway, I came out onto Notting Hill gate and decided to go do my errands. Now, I've been on trains here in England before and they've never made any sense at all! This was one thing I was worried a lot about. How would I ever find my way around!?
It only took a short time to get it. From Notting Hill I went to Tottenham Court Road, then switched to theNorthern line down to Leicester Square. (That was to get tickets for the theatre but they were closed!) So back down to the tube and on to Piccadilly Circus. That was to go to the visitor center and get bus/tube passes. (They were closed too!) The day was still young(ish) so I decided to go down and see London Bridge. I took the tube to Green Park, transferred to the Jubilee Line and went to London Bridge station. I was following the signs to the bridge, but got distracted by this beautiful church.
It turned out to be Southwark Cathedral, the oldest gothic church in London. It was rebuilt in 1212 after a fire and has been a place of worship for 1,400 years. They believe it was founded as a Saxon convent in 606. It was really beautiful. I kept following the path I was on, a really old awful cobblestone. You need good hiking boots for this stuff! Around the corner I came upon a full life-size reconstruction of Sir Francis Drake's 16th century galleon - just floating there in the water. Down the road was Winchester Palace (what's left of it) , from the 14th century. The most beautiful part was the carved stone rose window. I also passed by its prison, the 'Clink.' I walked along the Thames looking at all the bridges, one every few yards it seemed. I never actually saw the London Bridge - at least I don't think I did.
After this full day of walking I decided it was time to head home. Back on the London Bridge tube to Westminster. I wanted to catch the Circle Line to Kensington High Street, but it didn't seem to be running so I had to go to Earl's Court on the District Line instead, and transfer over.
Sorry to bore everyone with this. I'm just so glad I figured out the tube! Now when the girls come tomorrow we'll have that on our side (unless I'm the only one who didn't have it figured out...) Wish us luck connecting at Victoria Station - I don't know what they were thinking. =)
It's 9:00 and I think I might go to bed now. More later!