London... I think that I love you!

Apr 8, 2010

I've just returned from London!! How exciting! Second only to Paris in terms of my list of "must fly to" destinations, I was thrilled to finally experience the city for myself.
The flight was great. I've heard terrible things about flights to the United Kingdom, but this was my second and so far, so good! The passengers were friendly and the crew was amazing. The 7 hours passed quickly and soon we were landing in London on the first sunny day in quite some time. Most of the crew planned shopping excursions as I prepared for a long day of sightseeing and taking many, many photos. I was a bit surprised when Eric, the flight purser asked if he could join me in heading to the city as he was meeting a friend for dinner later on. I explained that my sole mission was to be a tourist, and he agreed to tag along. The more the merrier! Generally I spend my layovers alone, as most of the crew have a "been there, done that" attitude when it comes to exploring the cities. We headed for the train station where I forked over a whooping 17 pounds for a day travel pass. 40 minutes later we arrived in central London. Our first stop was coffee. As Eric stood in line at Starbucks I whipped out my camera and began going snap happy.... double decker buses, super old buildings... everything seemed worthy of a photo! With our lattes in hand we headed back into the station and tried to make sense of the crazy rail network more famously known as "The Tube". Once we thought that we had it figured out we hopped onboard and headed for tourist central... the London Eye. Despite 20 years of flying and many trips to London, Eric had never seen the giant ferris wheel. I wanted to ride it, but it was quite expensive and I thought that I should save some of my meal allowance for dinner. Maybe another time. We walked across the Millennium Bridge, took photos inside phone booths, and found Big Ben! Tourists swarmed the area as Eric and I fought for a spot to take photos of the giant clock tower. The gold painted details are amazing. I was shocked when Eric admitted that it was his first time seeing Big Ben as well. "What the heck have you done on your layovers?", I asked. Apparently sleeping takes priority, but not in my life. After getting in our hundreds of mandatory tourist photos, we headed back to the station and once again stared at the map with great confusion as we tried to figure out which train to catch. Once we were confident in our decision we rushed downstairs to catch it and headed to London Bridge station. Once we arrived we were a bit lost. Generally I follow the direction that the tourists are going, but there were people everywhere. After 5 minutes of walking we determined that we were probably going the wrong way and began backtracking. After a bit of confusion we found our way and I was super excited to see the London Bridge, which is actually known as the Tower Bridge these days. I took several photos before Eric and I were both overcome by our need to find a toilet after downing our giant lattes. It seemed to take forever to find a public washroom... we wandered the streets, asking everyone with no luck. I was growing quite concerned with the situation until we finally spotted the golden arches of a McDonald's and rushed inside. The day had seemed to pass by fast and it was nearly time for Eric to meet his boyfriend's sister for dinner. I was reluctant to join, but he insisted that I should. We caught the train to yet another station and met up with Andy, his sister-in-law (basically) from Austria. As the three of us headed to the restaurant she pointed out certain buildings and explained what they were. We found a great little restaurant and dined on multiple appetizers shared amongst us. Once dinner was over, it was getting late so we decided that we should head back to the hotel to get some much needed sleep. First, however, Andy took us to Trafalgar Square where I spotted the Canadian Embassy and showed my patriotism by standing taking many photos of the Canadian flag. It was such a beautiful sight in a world so far from home. We said goodbye to Andy as we hopped onto a double decker bus (the top level, obviously) and headed for the Victoria Station to catch a train back to Gatwick. We marvelled at the sights of the city at night before coming to the realization that we'd somehow missed our stop. We decided to get off the bus and found ourselves completely lost somewhere in London. We began walking until we found locals and asked them to point us in the right direction. Apparently we'd been walking the opposite way for the past 10 minutes. We turned around and kept walking, hoping that the station would magically appear. It was quite the walk, but eventually we found the station and breathed a sigh of relief. On the train we struggled to stay awake after a long day of exploring London. We both fell asleep a few times and we were quite lucky that we didn't miss our stop. It seemed to take forever, but we finally arrived back to the safety of our hotel. It was approaching midnight and we were both extremely tired. I headed to my room and collapsed into my bed. The next morning I woke up, grabbed a coffee, and got ready for my flight home. I'd be lying if I said that it was as easy and relaxed as the flight a day earlier. Chaos ensued in the cabin as the inflight entertainment system repeatedly stopped working. Passengers had ordered special meals that were not onboard, children were running up and down the aisles while their irresponsible parents continued watching their movies, and babies screamed, keeping our normally sleeping passengers awake and demanding more drinks and food. Passengers complained, the crew grew irritated, and landing in Dubai had never been such a relief. I put on my best smile despite the exhaustion as I said goodbye to each passenger. This job is not easy, and it's not always fun... but who can complain about waking up in London and going to bed in Dubai? Life is pretty great.


Amber Cavers said...

Tower Bridge and London bridge are different, it is not a matter of AKA. London Bridge looks like your everyday overpass kinda bridge and is located one next to Tower Bridge. This is how they tricked the Americans into buying the old London Bridge... they thought they were getting Tower Bridge. Ha ha ha, silly Americans.

I wish I remember the name of the restaurant we ate at in London. It was so good (or were we just hungry?). I'm pretty sure it was on Fleet Street, not that it matters now I guess.

I think I should have sent you with all my touristy maps, they have everything "to see" circled on them.

Didn't you love the way the buses talked? At every stop "94 to Action Green" or wherever you where headed. We would sit and giggle at the fact that even the bus had an accent.

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