London Travel Diary – Day 2

Our continuing adventures in the UK! Check out Day 1 if you missed it.

Bobo-plane to UK

Day 2: Saturday, October 31

Our second day started on the plane. We know this because Steven and I were both still awake. Also present on the flight was Steven’s plush Canadian Mountie bear, Bobo. (He’s keeping an eye on our progress in the picture above.)

They served us some breakfast snacks and drinks on the plane. I had a croissant that didn’t quite agree with me. Perhaps I oughtn’t to have jumped back into eating gluten so suddenly. But a croissant is a tough thing to resist while on vacation! As it turned out, that particular croissant was literally tough. What a waste of gluten consumption! Of course, it could have been the “proper” tea I drank with it. (By “proper”, I mean not herbal.) Based on later experience, I do blame the tea and not the wheat. Either way, I arrived in the UK with one doozy of a stomach ache.

We arrived at Heathrow, but it was so cloudy as we flew in, we couldn’t see much until we were fairly close to ground level. Customs was quick, easy, and friendly. Our bags were already off the carousel and waiting for us when we got to baggage claim. ‘Twas a really solid start to our UK adventure. I felt quite welcomed! And the airport itself was shiny too.

We bought “Three” brand SIM cards for £20 each from a vending machine in the baggage claim area and installed them immediately. Steven’s worked as soon as he turned his phone back on. Mine didn’t (except for texting) until I fiddled with the APN settings a day later. I was too out-of-it to do it there in the airport, and as long as we had one working device, we didn’t really need mine to be able to access the internet.

James (of the late, lamented Doctor Who Podcast) was kind enough to pick us up at Heathrow and drive us to our hotel. Gawking at London was fun! We stared out the windows like a couple of puppies. We even drove through Perivale!

Our hotel room wasn’t ready because it was so early in the day. They did let us leave our luggage there, which was nice. James was once again incredibly kind and drove us back to his place for tea (how British!) and lovely chat with him, his wife, and his mother-in-law. We chatted about Doctor Who (as you’d expect), London, the UK, and all manner of things.

Then he gave us Oyster cards (used for the London transit system) with £10 on them and showed us how to navigate the transit system. First, we got to ride a double-decker bus on the top! Then he took us on the tube for the first time. I could go on about how great London’s transit system is. And maybe I will later, but for now I’ll continue with our day.

James walked us from the tube to our hotel. (We were within a couple blocks of three tube stations.) And then he showed the ultimate kindness by helping carry our bags up to the 5th floor, only to realize we went up the wrong staircase. It was an odd old building! So back down we went, and up the right staircase. Both were steep and winding, and my bag was heavy. James is a prince.

Oh, and this picture greeted us at the base of the correct staircase. As I said, it was an odd place.

Steve Jobs

Then we settled into our adorable little teeny studio room on North Gower St. It was about 150 square feet with barely enough room to walk around the bed, but we hadn’t expected any more than that. It had a teeny stove, oven, microwave, fridge, freezer, and basic dishes and cookware. (The dishes and cookware were normal-sized though.) There was just enough closet/shelf space to hold all our things and keep them out of the way. The bed was moderately comfy, and the bathroom was serviceable, if also teeny. (My only real complaint was the shower had no shelf in it, and there was no room to bend down to the floor, so I balanced my shampoo and such on the top of the door. Tricky!)

Possibly the coolest part about the room we had was the view. We’d been in the room for about 20 minutes when I turned to properly look out the window for the first time. And what was looming over us, but the BT Tower, formerly known as the Post Office Tower, where WOTAN, the world-dominating computer-villain was housed in Doctor Who‘s “The War Machines”. For the rest of our stay, we simply referred to it as WOTAN (or WOTAN tower). I could see it from bed. It was both really cool and quite eerie. The picture below does NOT do it justice. It looked like it was so much closer and loomier in person.

Wotan from our room

Steven and I played around with the tv for a while and determined we couldn’t watch Doctor Who on BBC1 because it kept cutting out. The whole channel would just go black, and occasionally the whole satellite box would stop working. (I guess that’s my other substantial complaint.) We’d been hoping to watch DW like proper British people, but sadly, it didn’t work out that way.

We had a few hours to kill before DW started, so we went for Indian food. There were about 10 Indian restaurants within a few blocks of our hotel. Indian is our favorite cuisine, so we could not have been happier that I randomly chose a hotel that was right there! We chose to eat at a vegetarian place called Ravi Shankar. It was late enough we’d missed the buffet, so we ordered a few dishes to share: saag aloo, paneer mahkni, rice, papadums, masala tea, and falooda kulfi (a delicious dessert drink we’d never heard of before). It was all great stuff, and the service was very friendly.

We walked off our dinner by heading to Euston Station, which was only two blocks away. We needed to stay awake and find groceries, so it seemed like the thing to do. We bought some cereal and milk and snacks and supplies to put in our wee cupboards. We couldn’t find eggs though. I knew I needed to look on the non-refrigerated shelves (which will be appalling to most North Americans), but no luck.

We’d thought about going to a friend’s house to watch, but we were too tired to try to find our way around in our overtired state so we decided to watch it on iPlayer instead. It took a while to get our computers hooked up to the wifi ’cause we had unblock-us installed, and it didn’t play nicely with their router. Oops. Eventually we got it sorted and were ready to watch our show. We just had to be awake for it.

Steven napped before Doctor Who, but I stayed awake. I knew if I conked out, I wouldn’t get up again in time. And I honestly wasn’t feeling too sleepy until just before it started. Of course it had to hit then! But I managed to stay awake all the way through Peter Harness‘ “The Zygon Invasion”, despite being so very tired. I loved it! It wasn’t the perfect British viewing experience we’d hoped for but Steven and I both loved the heck out of the episode, and hey, we were in London! No complaints.

By the time DW ended, I think I’d been awake about 32 hours. So you’d think I’d’ve had no trouble dropping off, but alas! Insomnia strikes when it’s least wanted. Happily, Steven zonked right out. Eventually, I followed.

We slept straight through until Sunday morning, when we both woke up feeling refreshed and fairly normal. Yay for defeating jet lag! And that victory promised great things for Day 3, so stay tuned…

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