Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Chelsea in London Part I

Friday, October 18

Eurolines has been a ridiculous company to deal with. Finally, though, on the bus from Amsterdam to London, there was actually WiFi on board!!!! I tried to control my impulse to surf the web, email, Facebook, etc for the entire 10 hour trip. It was nice, though, to have the option to use the internet, especially for maps to our hostel, etc.

Anyway, the coach went back through to Brussels then over to Calais to take a train under the English Channel. We had to go through customs and passport control on both the French side and the UK side. The French side simply looked at our passports, but the English side made us take our baggage out of the coach, take it through a check point (we were threatened with drug sniffing dogs, but I never saw any), then passport check.

Baggage checking was smooth and quick, but the passport counter was a bit of a hassle. Our coach driver, who was very informative to the passengers, had told us to take our landing cards, but never gave us any and we were a little confused. As we waited in line, we didn't see any one else with a landing card, so we just went to the desk like everyone else. However, we were both turned away and told to do a landing card at a separate desk. We had to get out of line and complete them. As we finished, a big group of elementary school kids came in; I slipped by them, but Romeo got stuck in the middle of them.

When we once again got to the counter, the woman asked me if I was traveling with someone. I pointed to Romeo, still in line, but she didn't tell me to have him join me. She asked me a lot of questions; had I been to England before? Yes. What did you do? Study. Where? Richmond International Uni. Where do you study now? I teach English now. Wow good for you! Thanks. What are you doing on this trip? Sightseeing. What are you hoping to see? The usual stuff in London. What in particular? Um, Big Ben, Parliament, Tower of London, etc. Ah, I see.

Finally she stamped my passport (my first stamp of the trip and it was one I already had!! Dang it!!), and I waited just past her for Romeo. His passport checker was much more interrogative. He asked him all about Korea, where we were staying in England, about return trip tickets, etc. It took a good 4 or 5 minutes more for Romeo to get through than me. I guess it's on account of how much of a trouble-maker he looks like. ;)

Finally we walked back to the coach. About 4 passengers were turned around looking out the window where we were walking over, and I waved at them cheekily. We finally continued to the train where we drove onto a train car and road that through the English Channel. It was quick, about 30 minutes. On the other side, we began driving on the left (of course!) and we were really in England! I think my whole countenance brightened up just being there.

About two hours later we rolled into London Victoria Coach Station. Finally getting the hang of the Eurolines Pass, we immediately went to bookings and reserved a seat for Monday morning to Brussels. Once that was complete, we got some money from the ATM (and subsequently died at the exchange rate. 100 British Pounds Sterling was 162 USD!!! Ack!!

We walked over to the Victoria train station and proceeded to attempt to get an Oyster (metro) card. We finally found the line and had to wait about 30 minutes to get our cards and load them with some money on them. At last, we were ready to head to the hostel. We took a bus, since it went directly, and we had all of our things. The Tube seemed too much of a hassle.

We arrived literally across the street from our hostel and checked in. It was quite stylish and modern, but they were fiends and we paid 2pounds plus a 5pound deposit for a towel, as well as 5 pounds for an adaptor. We got to our room and got showers and freshened up.

Around 8pm, we headed out to meet my ZTA friend Misty. We had become friends two summers ago when I studied in London. We were to meet around Warwick Station, as per her email. We found the Tube station easily, but once we arrived at Warwick, I realized I didn't exactly know where we were going.

We walked out and looked around. It was a very residential area, and no sign of the pub we were trying to find. Romeo suggested we go back into the Tube and look at a map of the vicinity. I had the address, so we were able to find the street we needed easily. We ventured out and did eventually find the place.

We met Misty upstairs in the restaurant area. It was nice to see a friendly and familiar face after so long with only Romeo's mug to stare at. (hehe) Two of her coworkers had joined her. After the introductions and such, Romeo and I took a seat and looked at a menu. Seeing the options and prices, I mentally had a heart attack (while of course maintaining outward composure). I glanced at Romeo and I could read the same thought in his eyes: What the hell!!!

We both decided to order an appetizer as our meal. We chose the same thing: tortellini. I chose it because it was the only thing I actually recognized. I'm guessing maybe that was Romeo's thought as well. We abstained from drinks (wouldn't even want to guess how much that would have set us back).

Through much of the evening, we listened to stories between the three coworkers and occasionally spoke up. We were both exhausted and had little brain power to participate too much. I did, however, find out that Mike, one of Misty's coworkers there, knows my ZTA Big Sister (Kristen). He is friends with her roommate in NYC, or something. Anyway, continuing proof that the world is SMALL.

The food came, and I couldn't stop myself from commenting, "There are three tortellini on my plate. Three..." Mentally resigning myself to going to bed hungry, we finished the evening and said our goodbyes around 10:30 or so. The Tube ride back to our area, Elephant and Castle, was simple but once we arrived, we were pretty turned around. We walked in the wrong direction about 5 different times (damn roundabouts!) before we found our hostel.

There were a bunch of Spanish guys in our room (which held 8 beds), so I slept with the curtains around my bed firmly shut (well, as firm as curtains can get). I slept like a rock and enjoyed every second of it.

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