Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The End...?

My last post, folks. How sad! I have really, really enjoyed doing this blog, but alas the adventure is over and it's time to jump back into the somewhat more mundane adventure of everyday life in Australia...

So I left you after our first full day in London.

On Wednesday we did head in to the city of London, taking the tube to Blackfriar station before wandering over to Fleet Street to check out the Cheshire Cheese pub, a pub that is pretty much unchanged from how it was 200 years ago, and regularly played host to one of my favourite fellows, Charles Dickens (it was across the road from his publisher). It is very, very, very cool! It's pretty dark and dingy inside, and the tables are worn from people sitting and leaning on them for so many years. There isn't much room around the old-school bar, but you can go down some very narrow, steep steps into the basement where there is more seating - watch your head! Mads and I just had a coke and mused on the fact that we were in the place in which Dickens used to hang!

Cool building near Blackfriars Station

Dickens' old watering hole, the Cheshire Cheese. Very cool little place.

Heading back out and in to the light, we wandered along the standard route, over the Millennium Bridge, along the Thames on the Southwark side, then back across the Westminster Bridge before wandering up to Trafalgar Square. We stopped in to a Tesco Express to try and find some elusive Starbars for Mads (there weren't any), and when we were crossing the road to get to the Square Mads spotted Andy Lee, of Hamish and Andy fame (a very funny Aussie radio-to-TV duo). Oh my gosh. There was Andy. Ever since we heard they were in Europe filming for their show I have been thinking 'oh that would be so cool if we ran into them!' And there one was, in a Sherlock Holmes hat with a pipe out the front of Waterstones. Should we go up to him? Should we say hello? How does one do this, this is so awkward! I tend to be extremely shy, often finding it hard to even walk up to people I actually know in the street, and Mads is a bit too, so for a while we sort of stood behind a pillar stalker-style checking that he was still there and trying to make a plan. We decided to walk up, getting closer and closer before losing our nerve and ducking in to Waterstones, pretending to be very interested in the books on the bestsellers wall. So we walked out again, deciding that we didn't have the guts to talk to him, I took a stalker-style picture of him from behind before Mads finally got up her nerve, grabbed my camera and we went up and asked if we could have a picture with him. And he was so nice!!! I mean, really nice! He seemed really happy to see us and was conversing with us, where are we from, what are we doing in London, where's Mads living there, etc. He got his cameraman to take a pic of all three of us and that was that, we met Andy Lee! Talk about a rad dude. We also saw Hamish coming out of Waterstones, also wearing a deerstalker hat (hilariously being asked for directions by an old lady), so we said hello but he was carrying coffee and seemed to be in a bit of a rush. But we met Andy! We walked around in a bit of a daze after this, partly excited that we'd actually met him but also (for me at least) feeling a bit odd from the adrenaline racing around my body after walking up to a person cold to chat to them - completely out of my comfort zone! I'm really glad he's a really nice fellow.

Wandering around London.

The beach by the Thames - ebb tide.

Mads drooling over a book stall by the Thames.

Creepy stalker photo of Andy.

Yay! We love Andy! Nicest bloke ever...

Finally pulling ourselves together (ugh, what a couple of losers, honestly) we went to Cecil Court, another of our favourite spots in London, basically a whole street of gorgeous little antique book shops. Mind you it's a bit torturous being there when you are poor, because there are so many gorgeous first editions and vintage posters and antiques in the stores there. A quick look around and we decided to head back to Walthamstow for a very late lunch and ice cream for dinner (Ben and Jerry's - Cookie Dough for me and Phish Food for Mads). A bit of a theme for the trip, ice cream meals. I personally would like to eat nothing but ice cream for the rest of forever, but I'd probably get scurvy or something.

Cecil Court

Trafalgar Square

The National Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square

More wanderings...

On Thursday we went to Greenwich. We got the Tube to Westminster and then went to get a boat up the Thames. Unfortunately we only just missed the boat that was at the dock (they started pulling out just as we got there), and it was pretty much empty, so we sat and waited for the next one. Naturally we were soon swamped by about a gagillion American students, all crammed into the waiting room on the dock. Feeling somewhat claustrophobic I opted to stand outside. It was a really nice day! The boat finally came, and we decided to get on with the whole of America, sitting downstairs in the cabin - it was actually a really nice trip! It took about an hour or so to get to Greenwich, and when we arrived we headed to the Cutty Sark, an old tea ship that has recently been beautifully restored and re-opened to the public. The cool thing about it is that they've presented it as if it was floating in the sea, with a glass roof that comes up the sides of the hull so you can walk right underneath the ship. It was quite fun, I like old ships. There were some blokes there working on the rigging too, which was cool to see, and because it has only recently reopened the whole place smelled like new paint.

Cruising down the Thames

Cleopatra's Needle... I think that's what it's called at least. 

According to our 'not tour guide but waterman so don't blame me if I get something wrong', this place contains 3500 important old manuscripts and documents. I want in!!!!

A fish weathervane on top of the old fish market. Love it!

Thames entrance to Traitor's Gate at the Tower of London. 

An old pub on the Thames.

Arriving at Greenwich

The Cutty Sark

Inside the hull of the Cutty Sark

I love this - a wooden tea chest made by one of the crew on Cutty Sark

Yeah Australia... Cutty Sark used to bring wool from Sydney to England

There's someone up there! Not really... I mean, there were fellows working on the rigging but this is just a dummy...

Love a good storm hat...

Showing the way to Sydney...

We went to Nando's for lunch, which was tasty but a funny experience because they actually seated us at a table with a menu properly - in Australia Nando's is mostly your standard fast food place. It was a nice restaurant on the water. We headed to the Maritime Museum next, which was quite interesting although they seem to be doing some pretty major renovations so it was a bit hard to look around. But we saw a section on explorers which was quite interesting, and we saw the jacket Nelson was wearing when he was fatally shot.

The Navy college at Greenwich

Woot! Tudors!

When I can read Latin I'll be able to tell you what this is...

The maritime museum. The signpost in front of it points to the Maritime Museum. I figure if you haven't found it at this point, you're probably not going to find it...

Nelson's jacket, with bullethole in the shoulder. The missing braid and bit of the epaulet actually went inside him - apparently it was pulled out of his body and given to Queen Victoria. I believe it's in the Windsor Castle collection now. 

The flag from the Victory

A bit of a ship in the Maritime Museum

We had to head back to Walthamstow as Mads had to get her passport before going to meet her new landlord in her new flat. So after having a little look around Greenwich, which is very cute, we hopped back on the boat, back to Westminster to tube it back to Walthamstow. Mads flat is in Peckham, so we went to check it out: it's a really nice flat! Her new flatmate is also very nice, so I think Mads is excited to move in and will enjoy living there. Back in Walthamstow we had chicken again for dinner and that was that day.

Cute. Shop in Greenwich.

The Queen's Stairs. Apparently Elizabeth I descended these stairs to board the ship on which she knighted Sir Francis Drake.

Sparkly Thames.

It's the Queen!!

The view from Mads's flat in Peckham

Friday came, my last day in London and the last day of my trip, too soon really. Crazy considering how homesick I was in Austria, now I didn't want it to end! I want to live in Paris and have a holiday house in Italy and just spend the rest of my life between the two!! Hey, you never know what the future holds... We spent the day trying to move Mads into her new flat. We'd organised a removalist, but on Thursday he'd emailed to say he'd have to cancel. Naturally we couldn't get another mover, they were all booked up, and it seemed that every hire car in London also was also booked. So we went to the locker in Bermondsey, packed up a couple of huge suitcases and tried to roll them to the tube, to get to the National Rail station at London Bridge, and then to the flat in Peckham. What a nightmare. We only just missed the train at London Bridge to Peckham Rye - unfortunately this meant we were stuck on the platform and all the information about the next trains and what platforms they'd be leaving from was on the outside of the barrier. If we went out again we'd be charged for it! So we kept trying to ask people where to go and when the next train would be. First I was told 'there's one at 12.41 on platform 12.' So we waited at platform 12, no sign of any train. Mads went to ask, and she got told to move somewhere else. Once again no sign of any trains. Then I was told one would come in 3 minutes to platform 15. No train, but at least this time we were in the right spot because one came at 1.03 to platform 15. We finally got the stuff to her place, exhausted, then decided to go back to the Flask in Hampstead for lunch, and so Mads could go to her bank. I like the Flask. They have really nice food and it's a nice atmosphere. And I really like Hampstead. If I was going to live in London I would want to live around that area. Mads had to write some emails, so we agreed that she would go to the Walthamstow flat and I would go to Westminster to finally see the Abbey. I should have known that would not happen: after Mads got off the tube and I stayed on, I realised that I had the keys to the flat! And no phone to call her! So I jumped off one train and onto another to get to Walthamstow, praying that Mads wouldn't try and come to find me and that she would be at the flat. I managed to catch her there about a minute after she arrived, but by this time it was really too late to go sightseeing so I just got ready to go to the airport.

Dragging these through London - not the funnest thing to do I have to say...

The taxi came and off we went. It was a bit sad, actually, going through to security and leaving Mads behind... I probably won't see her until May next year! I managed to just hold it together though, and there were no dramas with the flight. On the way to Dubai I sat next to a really nice Aussie lady, who, in the last hour or so, decided she was feeling sick and needed a sick bag. 'Do you want to get out?' I asked her, as I was sitting in the middle seat and she was on the window. 'Oh no, that's okay, these bags actually can hold a lot'. Oh dear. I was praying very hard that she wouldn't start puking beside me because I don't think I could handle that... Otherwise the flight from Dubai to Sydney was a bit bumpy, but I was okay. I mostly slept extremely lightly and uncomfortably, but I managed to get about an hour at a time!

It was pretty good to see my family waiting for me at the airport. It's been a long time since I've seen them! I stayed awake most of the day, having a two hour nap in the afternoon then going to sleep from 6pm to 9am, and I'm not jetlagged at all now. I start studying for my Ancient History Masters soon, and hoping to find a job very soon so I can pay my very large credit card bill and save for the next trip! Paris, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Hungary and the Czech Republic I think. Or maybe America. Who knows? But this one's been a helluva journey, I've seen some incredible things and amazing places: it feels like it was all a dream now - I can't believe I've been to Rome, and Paris! I've crossed some things off my list, and added some more, and I can't wait for my next adventure.

Thanks for sharing it with me.

Check you later!!