UK Trip 2012, Day 1: Arriving in London

Whenever Andrew and I go on an international trip we try to keep a travelogue of our journey. So, here is a travelogue on our trip to the UK (primarily London and Edinburgh). We’ve both been to Europe several times (and we’ve gone to Japan), but have never been to the UK before, so we thought it was about time. We were also able to drag my parents along, which was great since they’d never been on a trip to Europe together before. This first post is on the first day of our trip, which was basically just getting to London (future posts should be more exciting 🙂 ) For all the pictures from this day, see the gallery here, but you can read on for all the juicy details!

We were able to take a direct flight to London from Denver. It was about 8.5 hours long and landed us in London about 12:30PM London time, on Sunday, May 13. We were able to get some sleep, luckily, which was much-needed since our flight had left Denver about 9PM Saturday night.

Jet-lagged and tired, we disembarked the plane — it was amazingly painless at the London Heathrow Airport, and we quickly got our bags and bought train and subway tickets to get into the city of London. We bought a 7-day pass to use the London subway system (the “tube” or the “Underground”), which has been very useful. We then hopped on to an express train to get us to the subway system. We had to make a few transfers in the subway system because the main subway line to our hotel was not running (as the British announcer explained, our subway line was “not indicated” on their schedule) – we think this was due to necessary repairs for the upcoming Olympic games. But the subway system here is great – cars come every 2-5 minutes and you can get to most places in the central city with one transfer at most, usually taking 20-30 minutes total at most. Figuring out which direction you want to catch the line going and making transfers may be confusing for someone not used to navigating a subway system, but we’ve dealt with subway systems in Tokyo and Paris before, so it made sense to us (the systems are all pretty similar). As a side note, while from what we’ve seen the British subway is not as dirty as the Paris subway, it’s also not as super clean as the Tokyo subway – it’s somewhere in between.

Our hotel is about 4 blocks from the Victoria Station, a pretty big station that is one of the (several) stations that is an intersection point for the subway, rail, and bus systems. We found our hotel fairly easily (the B&B [bed and breakfast] Belgravia) and checked in. We picked the bed and breakfast mainly because it was the only place available, was close to a big station, and wasn’t extremely expensive! (Although it was still relatively expensive for us.) So many places were already completely booked by time we tried to make reservations, which was two months in advance — it was pretty crazy. It was about 4PM by time we checked in so we decided to explore the area a little bit and then find some dinner.

The hotel is in an area with a lot of other hotels — there is a cafe 1/2 a block away, which we got a snack at, but most of the restaurants/shops are at least 1 block away. It’s a nice, quiet area, even though it’s very close to the Victoria station. We walked back past Victoria station and stumbled upon the back end of Buckingham Palace, called the Buckingham Mews, which we later discovered meant it was basically the royal stables (although today it is mostly a museum). We didn’t see any horses from where we were. We also stumbled upon Westminster Church (NOT Westminster Abbey), which is about a block from the station. Apparently it’s the largest Catholic church in England and opened in 1903, so it’s relatively new. However, right across from the church are some very new office buildings with walls made of glass. This kind of contrast, between old-style buildings made of stone and bricks right next to new buildings made with glass walls, came up a lot as we explored London. It’s definitely a city with lots and lots of history that is still growing, changing, and trying to incorporate new technologies. We ended up getting dinner a few blocks from the hotel at a restaurant that was not very traditional British cuisine – we got some coq au vin chicken (chicken soaked in wine) that was pretty good. (We actually meant to go to a different restaurant but got confused and were tired/hungry.)

Back at the hotel we discovered a little “backyard” behind the hotel that had a couple tables and benches. We enjoyed some hot chocolate there (there’s a wonderful hot chocolate/tea/coffee machine in the hotel lobby! With biscuits!). A lot of the houses seem to have tiny, very walled-off yards (with stone/brick walls). Because it’s so humid and rains all the time there’s moss all over the place – I took some pictures of moss in this area. Exhausted and jet-lagged, we headed to bed around 8:30PM. (Of course, we woke up around 3AM since our biological clocks are off, but were able to get a little more sleep after that before getting up.)

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Paradoxdruid’s Rants » Blog Archive » UK Trip 2012, Trip Summary! - August 6th, 2012 at 9:50 pm

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