|I spent 8 hours on the airplane crossing the pond from Canada to England ... strangely, that seemed like such a short flight after my recent trips to/from Southeast Asia.
I arrived in London Heathrow at 1:30pm local time, that's 6:30am Calgary time, feeling somewhat less than perky after having spent a mostly sleepless night on the plane but also excited about reaching my destination. It's probably a good thing I didn't know at the time that it would still be hours until I actually arrived at my "final" destination of Epping, a small village just outside of London proper. Epping is home to my friend Lisa (who I recently met in Tobago), and where I'd be spending my first few nights.
Like a lot of tourists, I thought that taking the London Underground would be a fun and economical way of getting through the city. So after clearing through customs, I threw on the backpack and navigated my way through Heathrow to the Underground station. I'm always amazed at the labyrinth of rail lines and the volume of people transported in the bowels of this old city. I can't imagine Calgary's city engineers accomplishing the same!
In actual fact I had to travel from Heathrow, one of the most southwest stations, to Epping, the most northeast station. After 2 line changes, signaling problems/delays, and 3 hours of sitting on various trains, I was less than enthused about my decision to take the train. But I finally arrived in Epping, was soon sipping wine with Lisa, and the weariness of the Underground experience was forgotten.
I've been to London many times before, so was able to take it at a much more leisurely pace than most visitors. After getting some much needed rest, we started the next day off with a nice long walk through Epping Forest accompanied by Monty, Lisa's dog. We then drove into London for the afternoon, and spent time touring around a few things that are new since my last visit.
For those who are interested in art, the Tate Modern Art Gallery is a must-see. Even if you're not an art afficionado (which is probably the category I fall into, especially where modern art is concerned), it's still worth a visit as the building itself, a converted power generation station along the Thames, is amazing.
We also toured through the Shakespeare Globe Theatre which is an open-air, thatched roof, theatre-in-the-round, and an exact replica of the original Globe theatre (2 previous theatres actually: one burned down, and the other was ripped down by those nasty puritans). Of course if we were really organized we would have taken in a theatre performance ... oh well, there's always next time.
And of course no visit to London would be complete without stopping at a pub along the way and sampling some good old English beer.
The next morning I was back on the train again, headed to Victoria station to catch the bus to Plymouth. Unfortunately I underestimated the amount of time needed to get from Epping to Victoria train station, and then to Victoria bus station. Strangely enough the bus station is not right next door as expected, and is in fact quite a few blocks away. Nevertheless, I eventually made it to the bus with, oh, maybe 15 seconds to spare (I'm not kidding!). They loaded my backpack, I got on the bus, the doors closed, and off we went. Whew, that was cutting it a little TOO close for comfort.
I've never been to Plymouth before, and after checking into Plymouth's Backpackers Hostel (my first hostel experience by the way, which was both better and worse than expected!), I spent the afternoon wandering around this lovely seaside town. For those of you who don't know, Plymouth is where the Pilgrim Fathers set off onboard the Mayflower in 1620 and eventually discovered that little country just south of my hometown.
And so the next morning, 66 hours after I arrived in England, I was on my way by ferry to Roscoff ... Brittany ... France.
Cheers for now, Connie
(Hope this finds everyone happy and healthy, and remember that it's always nice to get news from all of you, so as always ... keep those emails coming)