After months of planning, I finally arrived in London! Well, the Heathrow airport at least. I got into the airport and got my SIM card right away. That was extremely easy, and then I headed to catch the tube. I got my Oyster card and topped it up, only to somehow lose it and or have it stolen later that day. Oh well, you win some you lose some, or ...you get some stolen. I got on the subway and followed my couch surfing host’s instructions and found the McDonald’s we were going to meet at. I was quite early so I sent him a message to let him know. I was happy when he came early to pick me up because I was exhausted and also surrounded by some strange customers. We walked a short distance to his flat, which was on a street lined with charming split level apartments. I took a nap from then until about 3 p.m., which I desperately needed and wasn’t too happy to be woken up from. I was glad he woke me up in the end because we got to cover a lot of ground that day. My host, Tanveer, was a really nice guy, originally from Bangladesh. He has been in London for a long time, previously attending Oxford University and now is working as a Pharmaceutical consultant. He travels a lot for work so he isn’t in his apartment very often, but when he is around he enjoys hosting travellers.
After I woke up and got ready, we headed out on the tube to get some late lunch at Nando’s, a chain that specializes in chicken dishes. He was kind to treat me to dinner and act as tour guide as we walked around the town starting at Oxford Circus, a big shopping district and crossing the pedestrian bridge over the Thames, seeing the Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar square along the way.
Later on, we met some other couch surfers to see the open-air concert in the square. The London Symphony Orchestra played to a huge audience. At one point, they even had the crowd join in with their keys. It was getting chilly, so we decided to head out. We were going to walk to a different area, but ended up going to a Korean restaurant for dinner all together. The other couch surfers were Korean and Slovakian. It was a nice night and the people were fun to spend time with. Once we were finished dinner, Tan and I were exhausted and wanted to head home, so we separated and went on our way. Tan had a last minute business trip for Paris in the morning, so I packed up my bag and went to sleep.
I did not sleep very well at all and would have loved to stay in bed all day. Unfortunately, that was not an option. Up and off we went to catch the tube together, and we separated at King’s cross, where Tan left to get his train to Paris and I continued on to Victoria station where I stored my big bag for 10 pounds for the day. From there I walked to Buckingham Palace, through Hyde Park and down to Oxford circus to get coffee and sit for a while to rest my foot which has been in pain for the last two days. I think it has something to do with the 10K race, hopefully it will go away soon and I don’t have to worry about it for the whole trip. It could be very unfortunate if it persists to be painful for the remainder of the trip.
After sitting in the café for a while I realized exactly how tired I was and decided to look up hotels with day-use rates. This is coming more and more common these days in big cities that have business people traveling in and out. I looked a bit on my phone and found a Holiday Inn nearby and decided to check it out. I walked there, slowly with my feet, especially one foot, lugging through the mud of sleep deprivation. I arrived to ask about the day use rates, which they do have, but the whole hotel had been booked! The receptionist suggested I walk up the street a bit further to another hotel. I figured I would give it a shot and headed out. There, I was greeted by a massive lounge filled with chandeliers and very nicely dressed people. Sticking out like a sore thumb with my backpack and disheveled appearance, I proceeded to ask for what I wanted. I’m not sure if the staff there is just kind, or they saw how worn out I was and took pity on me, but they were very helpful. The hotel was obviously way out of my price range and they gave me advice to go to another area near the train station I had stored my bag at.
I didn’t have much of a choice at this point and I knew I had no energy to salvage the day and find a tourist attraction to go to. I walked back the way I had come from that morning and saw a lot of people laying in the grass at Hyde Park. I thought this could be a good solution to my problem and decided to join the crowd. I didn’t actually fall asleep, since it was a bit chilly in the wind, but it was nice just to lie down and rest for a while. I remembered that I needed to print out my ferry ticket, annoying but had to be done, so I thought I would go back to the train station and see if there was somewhere to access a computer and printer. The handy-dandy information booth man led me to an internet café and I was in and out in a few minutes. I grabbed some McDonald’s because I hadn’t eaten for a while and sat down to check emails. I then thought about the station I was in and realized that I had only seen trains, not any buses… hmm.. is there another area I needed to go to? I better ask because if so, I needed to hustle. I was right; I wasn’t in the right station. I quickly headed to the luggage hold to grab my big pack and head on my way. The directions I was given seemed pretty easy and I followed the signs, only to be sitting in the parking lot of the buses. I asked a driver, who didn’t tell me where to go but that it wasn’t here. Great, so I followed the bus I knew I needed to get on and found myself up the street another block and in a completely different building. Thanks information man! Luckily, I was there early and didn’t have to stress about getting on the bus at all. I chose the megabus to get to Penzance because it was the much cheaper option than the train. Next time, I will definitely take the train! Next post, I’ll tell you what happened.