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Monday, September 24, 2007

London

London

We left the University Club with our backpacks on and walked to the Toucan for a pint of Guinness with Keith & Tracy and Andy then Keith drove us to the Kingston airport for a quick flight to Toronto via Air Canada. We ate some very tired sandwiches at Pearson Airport and once on board our flight to London we slept like babies.

Off the plane we took the underground to Trafalgar Square and walked about the city. We mostly fell asleep in the National Gallery before giving up and taking the underground to Earl's Court and walked to Easy Hotel at 44-48 West Cromwell Rd. We had dinner at Earl's Court Tavern.

We slept in late and had breakfast in bed. We walked to the Natural History Museum where we saw the dinosaurs and human biology exhibits. We ate soup and sandwiches in the cafeteria and saw the geology exhibit.

Next we walked to V&A. The Piano Dress by Karl Lagerfeld was really cool. We also saw plaster casts, photographs, marble, music and architecture. They ahve a beautiful courtyard.

We walked through Hyde Park and hid from the rain under tree. After that we walked to Top Shop and ate take-out dinner from an Indian place.

Next morning we slept in late again and took the tube to Black Friars where we walked about the Cathedral and the Globe Theatre. We had lunch on the riverside and had a tour and snack at the Tate Modern.

Excerpt From Amanda's Blog

Our first day of our travels started when Mike and I hefted our backpacks onto our shoulders in the parking lot of the University Club and walked away from my parents. My dad took our photo and I'm afraid my face couldn't conjure another smile.

We walked through the construction at Queen's and up to QP, where Mike had planned to meet some of our friends. QP was shut. Keith and Tracy showed up a few minutes after we made this discovery and we all went to the Toucan and were met by Andy. Keith drove us to the airport after an hour and we went through the facade which the Kingston airport calls security.

We got on a teeny plane to Toronto and ran through the wedding day, step by step. (Mike and I didn't spend all of our time together on our wedding day, so we had some catching up to do.) We got to Toronto before either of us knew it and found the gate to take us to London. It was about 11pm and both Mike and I were exhausted. We had some nasty dinner from Starbucks, filled our Nalgenes with water from Tim Horton's and then went and sat at our gate. We both fell asleep before the plane took off.

We woke up and it was morning. About 5 am our time. We had breakfast on the plane. Rather, Mike ate my breakfast. Then we got off the plane, skipped the luggage collection because we have no luggage and caught the tube to downtown. Mike was all for going straight to our hotel, but being exhausted and continually falling asleep on the tub ride from Heathrow, I knew that seeing a bed would make me sleep. So, we took the Tube to Trafalgar square with the intention of dropping our packs at the National Gallery. Coming out of the tube station and into the air at Trafalgar Square is one of happiest moments of my life. Mike says "Things are different here" as we watch groups of kids in uniforms play on the steps, people crawl all over the lions, a group of people protest the fines you have to pay if you're caught feeding the pigeons and the cabs zoom around the square.

We ditch our bags and walk down to Parliament and along the Embankment. I got a package of chips - Walkers makes the very best salt and vinegar chips - and a pastry and we head down to a nice park along the Thames. We sit and have our snack. We were navigating on my memory of London. Last time I was here we spent a lot of time along the Embankment, so I could remember how to get places.

We go back to the National Gallery and walk around. About 3 pm I fall asleep in an uncomfortable couch-chair and knock my head. Mike and I get our bags and take the tube to Earl's Court where we're staying.

We had the most trying time trying to get to our hotel. It was no problem finding it, but getting to it was impossible. There is only one way to get across the street that the hotel is on and you have to cross 3 roads to get to it. We were both panting by the time we got to the hotel.

It's an Easy Hotel and awesome. It has a teeny japanese-style bathroom/shower and the room is just 10 ft x 8 ft big, including the bathroom. It's really clean. Mike and I debated, on the second day, whether we should open a franchise in Canada.

We go out and have dinner at a pub. Mike has Guinness and fish and chips. I have some sort of sandwich. Then we go to the grocery store, which is just around the corner and get some water and food.

We get back to the hotel at 8pm and I pass out immediately. I was worried that Mike wouldn't sleep and would kick me all night, but he slept a ton.

Excerpt From Amanda's Blog

We woke up about 10 am. It took us - read: Mike - about 2 hours to get ready to go, but eventually we left. The weather was beautiful and sunny. We walked up the street to the Natural History museum and spent the morning looking at dinosaurs and exhibits about humans.

We had lunch in the cafe and then went on a tour of the earth exhibit. There was one hall where an escalator ascends into a model earth suspended about 2 stories above the ground. Mike took my picture and I hope it turns out.

We left the museum about 4pm and went to the V&A. We saw sculptures and plaster models of pillars and arches and loved their photography room. The architecture section of the V&A was wonderful and I had a blast in the Fashion room. The V&A is dedicated to showing off the best things that humans have created, from rooms, paintings, ironwork, sculpture, musical instruments and anything else you can think of.

Mike and I were both amazed by the V&A and Science buildings. The detail and expense that went into the interior and exteriors of the buildings is mind blowing.

We walked from the V&A up to Hyde Park and got caught in a rainstorm beneath a chestnut tree. We got to watch Londoners bike, run and walk past us in the rain as if it weren't raining. We had a lovely time waiting for the rain to stop and then headed up to Oxford Street.

Oxford Street is a magical place for me. All of fashionable London crowds its wide sidewalks. The street is lined with shops from every continent, all with the most beautiful displays of shoes and clothes. Mike and I walked a long way along Oxford street to find Top Shop. Top Shop is full of cheap clothes and brags that its London store is the largest department store dedicated only to clothes in the world.

Both of us were tired, but being on a floor entirely dedicated to accessories - bags, scarves, hats, stockings - recharged me and I began racing around. Mike sat down in a hand chair to rest and I promised to come back for him. I took the escalator one floor down and, in a crowd of women, grabbed clothes of all shapes and colors and sizes. Before trying anything on, I went back to find Mike, who wasn't in the chair. <gasp>

I find him as I head back to the front of the store and drag him downstairs as I try on the heaps of clothes I'm carrying. We end up buying a scarf, a top, a pair of stockings and some awesome socks, which you'll see in later photos.

After leaving Top Shop, Mike is now up for something. It is 8pm and I'm exhausted. Mike loves "going out" at night, while I like reading. He wants to find something to do. I, feeling a little like humoring him after the shopping extravaganza, ask him what he'd like to do. He can't think of anything and we take the tube back to Earl's Court, grab some Indian take away (take out) and go back to our room. We're both asleep before 11pm.

Excerpt From Amanda's Blog

Mike gets up and starts shoving me awake. He has loads more energy than I do, and up to now it's been suppressed by jet lag, but no longer. So, I get ready and we head out to check out the Tate Modern and see if we can catch a show at the Globe.

We get off the tube at Blackfriar's and walk up to St Paul's cathedral. The Millennium bridge crosses the Thames from St. Paul's to the tate and as you stand and look north you see a perfect picture of St Paul's and south a perfect picture of the Tate. We walk up to St. Paul's and then, because Mike loves exploring, walk around the alleyways along the river.

We cross the Thames after admiring the different decades of architecture that line it, and go to the Globe and get tickets for Friday's matinee showing of Love's Labour Lost. (It's what we're doing today, and we'll be standing in the pit. Oh, and it's raining!)

We have lunch at a riverside restaurant and head over to the Tate Modern in time for a tour of the conceptual and abstract art they keep there. Mike gets really steamed over a pile of Bricks the Tate paid for and we have coffee and fight over what gives things value: the thing themselves or the idea they represent. We're pretty tired after this, so we buy some postcards and walk along the south side of London.

Mike loves walking along strange streets, so we take a round-about way to the London Eye. (All this time, we've had no proper map of London, just a map we got the first day from a guy selling bus tours) We get on the London Eye just as the sun is setting and have a wonderful half hour going round and round.

The weather has changed to cold and nasty now, and I'm getting cold. We walk to Waterloo station and after wandering around for a long while find the station, get directions to the Sailsbury train - which we plan to take the next day - and then hop on the underground. We get home after stopping, desperately, at the grocery store and getting some food and I pass out. Again.

This night neither Mike nor I sleep very much. Mike does a lot of tossing and turning, which makes our bed seem like a possessed ocean.

Excerpt From Amanda's Blog

Mike and I woke up really early for us.. I think he got out of bed about 7am and we left home by 8. We got on the Tube and tried to go east, but there was a strike on the tube and there weren't any trains running on the line that we were trying to take (!!! Chagrin!) So we got another line and got to Waterloo station by 9am.

We had a bit of a problem figuring out how to get a ticket to Sailsbury: the kiosk was well designed, but doesn't take the kind of credit card that we have. (It needs a validation chip or something) So, I empty my wallet of cash and we get two tickets, find our train and have a 1.5 hr train ride. I'm kinda grouchy because of the early waking, so I go back to sleep. I woke up one stop from Sailsbury and Mike and I got off. (Sometime I'll explain the fussing Mike goes through when he gets anywhere: he likes to move all sorts of things around in his bag, his pockets and then rearrange his jacket. This was the biggest reason that I pushed for such minimal luggage.)

He went to the tourist information booth and I went to the washroom. The night before Mike had found a suggested hike in the magazine and he wanted to do it, so he was getting information on how to get to the starting spot and the things we could see when we got there. The biggest tragedy of the day was that I didn't know how much he wanted to go on this walk: I thought our goal was to see the Sailsbury cathedral and Stonehenge. Disaster ensued.

We walked down the street and towards the main part of town. The shops we were passing by were very quiet and kind of relaxed, everyday kind of shops. There weren't a lot of people on the streets. Mike found a little wall outside a bookshop along the Avon river, or what we thought was the Avon river at the time, and we sat down and tried to plan our day. I was hungry and in response to Mike's asking me what I wanted to do, I consistently answered lunch and eventually we head off in search of something to eat.

We walked along the river and along twisty winding streets in the sunshine. It was a beautiful day. We came to the village centre and were overwhelmed by the number of people. We went from having a nice, easy walk along some sleepy side streets to walking through pedestrian streets - very narrow - crammed with shops of all sorts. I ducked into a bookshop because Lady Chatterly's Lover was almost at an end and I wanted to see if I could find a copy of Love's Labour's Lost to read. I couldn't and the queue - so quaint! - was too long so we headed out of the store. We entered Fish Row and Butcher Street and a census lady asked if we were 14-19. We told her no. I asked her where we should have lunch and she pointed at a place on the corner, whose windows were full of glass shelves of pastries. It was sunny and the whole place was lit like a haven. (I swear there was a halo and heavenly music, but I may have just been starving)

We went in, and waited for about 10 minutes and then had an amazing lunch. Mike ordered a giant pastry - it was full of beef and burnt his tongue - and, after receiving a lot of pressure from me, jacket potatoes. I had lasagna and it was remarkable. We had no room for dessert and headed out to the market to shop.

About this time Mike is getting a little ancy, and I can't figure out why. I ignore him - entirely my fault - and look for scarves. We bought a purple on for me - everything in my teeny backpack is purple - a red one for his mom and a green one for Mrs Carbino. I walked to a candy seller and bought 3 pounds - as in the currency - worth of fudge. By this time Mike is in a real stink and I'm wondering what's going on: we have tons of time to see Stonehenge, even though we've just missed the last bus. So I ask him and - although we are surrounded by noisy generators - we communicate effectively, if a little harshly, and figure out that the first thing we're going to do is go on the hike that Mike found in the magazine. We strike off and after a couple wrong turns, we find ourselves in the middle of a greenspace that runs along the Avon River and rises so that you can see an awesome view of the city on all sides. We keep walking, along this rough trail and come to a huge, manicured lawn used for 4 or 5 soccer courts. We walk through this and towards the place we're heading to: Old Sarum, an old, Roman castle. We go in, and after telling a very pushy English Heritage man, Hugh, that we weren't in England long enough to get the value of a subscription, we get into the castle grounds. Mike runs around, exploring the ruins and I sit and eat my fudge.

Mike has a map and a bus timetable of how we can get from Old Sarum to Stonehenge and goes into the shop at the gate to confirm the directions and find out where we can catch a bus. After about 10 mins, I head in to find out what's going on. Hugh is giving Mike the poorest, least clear directions and I drag Mike away in the nick of time: Mike's head was about to explode with confusion. We find the bus stop and put on our rain jackets as it starts to rain.

We travel to amesbury on the bus, and past a Secret place. Literally a "Secret" military base. We're in the top of the bus and get no end of enjoyment out of feeling the bus hit the trees that run alongside the skinny little roads. We arrive in Amesbury and have a 45 minute walk to Stonehenge, most of which is through old, winding country lanes, but some of which is along a 4 lane highway, which we have to cross at one point. As we're walking along the highway it begins to rain, the path disappears and the wind picks up. I'm happy about my sturdy shoes and my raincoat. We're approaching Stonehenge from the foot of the hill and it's beautiful. It's much better to approach it via walking than by bus.

We get to Stonhenge with 15 mins before the last bus goes to Salisbury and Mike goes in, walks around and comes out. (I didn't because I've seen it and they don't let you that close to the stones anyway.) We get on the bus and head back in to Salisbury.

When we get there it's cold and rainy. We walk towards the downtown: I'm hungry and have a one track mind. I want one of those pastries we saw in the window earlier in the day. The shop is closed, along with everything else. I manage to get a tea and Mike and I walk to the cathedral and marvel at it's size and what it must have cost to build it. It's amazing. We walk around it and the weather begins to clear a bit.

We decide to head home and go to the train station and after buying a muffin and a bag of chips - I've eaten one every day I've been here so far - we get on the train. Mike has the first book in the fantasy series Wheel of Time on his iPod and he shares with me as we head back into London.

I don't think we had dinner this night. I think we went home and went to sleep.. I believe I had a shower before bed, because I was so cold from all the walking in the rain.

Excerpt From Amanda's Blog

After our long day the day before, Mike and I sleep and sleep. We get up about 11 and it's pouring rain. Today is the day we've planned to spend standing in the pit at the Globe watching Love's Labour's Lost . It is miserable.

We head out and I go write several entries in my blog before getting a sandwich, catching the tube at the Glouchester station and heading to the Globe. It's pouring the whole time. Mike and I head across the Millennium bridge and to the theatre. We wait inside and I buy a button for me and a pin for my dad until the show started.

We go in and it's amazing, even in the rain. Mike, the monkey, runs around taking pictures, while I stand against a bit of the stage they have jutting out. The play starts and is fantastic: I'm enthralled the whole time. The jokes are well timed, the costumes are stunning and, even though it's pouring on them, the actors are doing a marvelous job. A plane flies overhead and it's perfect.

One of the actors had broken his foot and had some crutches. They played that up quite a bit, with the actors laughing as much as the audience at his capering. The bits of stage where I was leaning was deep with water and the women's dresses would drag through it and pick it up, and splash some into my face. During the play some pigeons would fly down and caper about the stage. The whole thing was great and clearly staged for the enjoyment of the soaking, sniveling audience.

After the play, one sniveling, shivering Michael wanted to do something. I wanted to go home and get warm, and so I did. I sat in my bed and Mike, after changing his clothes, headed off to the British museum and saw the Rosetta stone. He came back, we called our parents and then had dinner at a wonderful Indian place. Mike discovered cardamom and I had green curried egg noodles that were lovely.

We were much happier after our time apart that afternoon. (Read: Amanda got out of the funk she was in and even went so far as to tell Mike the joke she made about snapping his arm off and beating him with it.)

>> Dublin

Cost

Oct. 15, 2007  METROPOLITAN PHARMACY FREISING               $14.78   munich medicine
Oct. 15, 2007  HAUPTBANHOF APOTHEKE MUENCHEN                $29.10   munich medicine
Oct. 15, 2007  SAUSALITOS HOLDING MUENCHEN                  $42.51   munich bar
Oct. 10, 2007  RESIDENZ MUENCHEN MUENCHEN                   $25.60   munich palace
Oct. 10, 2007  ROLAND KUFFLER GMBH HAXNBMUENCHEN            $88.62   munich dinner
Oct. 10, 2007  EURO YOUTH HOTEL MUENCHEN                   $200.00   munich hostel
Oct. 09, 2007  BOOTS 6088 EDINBURGH                         $19.72   edinburgh groceries
Oct. 09, 2007  THE OUTSIDE RESTAURANT EDINBURGH EH          $97.26   edinburgh dinner
Oct. 09, 2007  ALWAYS SUNDAY LTD EDINBURGH                  $18.92   edinburgh breakfast
Oct. 09, 2007  RABBIES TRAIL BURNERS LTDEDINBURGH.         $121.66   edinburgh day trip
Oct. 09, 2007  LA FAVORITA EDINBURGH                       $118.43   edinburgh dinner
Oct. 09, 2007  VUE ENTERTAINMENT EDINBURGH                  $40.10   edinburgh movie
Oct. 05, 2007  SAINSBURY'S SMKT ST ANDREWS SQ               $42.89   edinburgh groceries
Oct. 05, 2007  JENNERS EDINBURGH                            $16.70   edinburgh towel
Oct. 05, 2007  GUINNESS STOREHOUSE Dublin City              $40.93   dublin guinness storehouse
Oct. 05, 2007  SPAR LEESON STREET DUBLIN                    $17.17   dublin groceries
Oct. 05, 2007  MUSSEL INN LTD E'BURGH EH2                   $39.44   edinburgh dinner
Oct. 04, 2007  SAINSBURY'S SMKT ST ANDREWS SQ               $20.53   edinburgh groceries
Oct. 02, 2007  IARNROD EIREANN PEARSE STDUBLIN              $11.88   dublin train
Oct. 01, 2007  GATWICK EXPRESS LONDON                       $66.27   london train
Oct. 01, 2007  MASALA ZONE LONDON                           $58.78   london dinner
Oct. 01, 2007  THE FOUNDERS ARMS LONDON                     $38.24   london lunch
Sep. 27, 2007  THE SHAKESPEARE GLOBE LONDON                 $20.79   london globe
Sep. 27, 2007  SAINSBURYS SMKT EARLS COURT                  $12.27   london groceries
Sep. 27, 2007  BA LONDON EYE LONDON SE1                     $62.37   london "london eye"
Sep. 27, 2007  TFL TOM OXFORD CIRCUS                        $37.42   london underground
Sep. 27, 2007  TFL TOM OXFORD CIRCUS                        $37.42   london underground
Sep. 26, 2007  TOPSHOP OXFORD CIRCUS                        $24.89   london gift
Sep. 26, 2007  HOST-TOR AIRPRT TERM1 RESTORONTO ON          $19.92   toronto dinner
Sep. 25, 2007  EARLS COURT TAVERN LONDON                    $35.35   london dinner
Sep. 25, 2007  SAINSBURYS SMKT EARLS COURT                  $23.35   london groceries
Aug. 29, 2007  EASY HOTEL $238.71 GB POUND @ 2.186418      $521.92   london hotel
Aug. 28, 2007  RYANAIR INT 0000000GJ7NCSDUBLIN              $39.23   flight to dublin
Aug. 28, 2007  AIR CANADA 0142149225324aircanada.ca MB   $1,016.87   flight to london
Aug. 28, 2007  RYANAIR INT 0000000GLRPBSDUBLIN             $123.68   flight to munich
Aug. 28, 2007  AIR CANADA 0142149225322aircanada.ca MB   $1,016.87   flight to ottawa
Aug. 27, 2007  HOSTELWORLD.COM $8.40 EUR @ 1.475000         $12.39   munich hostel
Aug. 27, 2007  HOSTELWORLD.COM $13.00 EUR @ 1.475384        $19.18   munich hostel
Aug. 27, 2007  EASYJET $62.93 GB POUND @ 2.172413          $136.71   flight to edinbourgh
                                                          +$500?     cash
Total: ~$4,830 = ~$285/day