Tour de Butt
I spent today with a fun group of fellow hostelers staking out a place on the Champs Elysées, waiting (sometimes patiently) for the start of the race, and watching all the action. Unfortunately for my butt, some of the action was in the form of the dirty European men copping a feel in the crowded street. Seriously? That gets old after a while.

On to Amsterdam next!


Quick Recap
Here's bit of a run-down of things I keep meaning to write about:

Once my parents arrived in London for my dad's choir tour, I got a bit more into sight-seeing mode. We did a scrumptious chocolate walking tour, hosted by Jon's cousin, Jen. I've never eaten so much absolutely fantastic chocolate in my life. The mint chocolates from La Maison du Chocolat (the "Tiffany's of chocolate" according to Jen) were earthy, divine and simply out of this world.

Later that day, after meeting Laura and Gino for tapas, my mom, dad and I attended Wicked. I've never seen an audience so into a musical like this one was. It was almost like being at a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening, complete with audience members dressed in costumes like the characters. No throwing toast or rice on stage, but the most enthusiastic cheers every time a major character entered the stage for the first time. After the wonderful show (better than the book, in my opinion), we were surprised to learn that half of the cast were members of the original London cast and had just performed their final show. Ahhh...so that's why the audience was so enthusiastic!

After my dad's choir's participation at Sunday services at Hinde Street Methodist Church (link to pics below), the three of us headed to Greenwich to straddle the Prime Meridian. A boat tour along the Thames followed.

New in London this Visit
+ PM Gordon Brown (duh!)
+ The design of the £20 notes
+ No smoking in pubs (yay! that means less laundry to do!)
+ Lots of work being done on the Victoria line
+ A bumper crop of recyling bins have appeared
+ The Cadbury Egg dispensers on the Tube platforms are all out of service

Same in London this Visit
+ The "eau de London," best described as a melding of scents including congestion, dampness and newsprint
+ My annoyance with people who can't read the "Stand on the Right" signs on the Tube escalators
+ The thrill of jumping through closing Tube doors just in time.

Á là Mode
The overwhelming new style trend here is leggings beneath everything. This is quite handy when you're from Phoenix and just can't accept wearing long pants every day. Leggings make skirts, dresses and shorts possible in this dreary weather. (see pictures for examples)


London 2007

Dayspring Chorale - London

Chocolate Ecstasy Walking Tour of London


Dayspring Chorale - Edinburgh



Sticking Around
For various reasons, I've decided to stay in Edinburgh for an extra day. The hostel was booked solid for tonight, so I have a new plan (inspiration brought to me by Dan). The new Harry Potter book comes out at midnight tonight, meaning that I probably won't even get a copy until 12:30 or 1 a.m. The first train back to London King's Cross leaves at 6:15 a.m. (boarding around 5:45). By the time I make it back to the hostel to collect my luggage, that leaves me about 5 to 5 and a half hours to chill in the train station, which should get me at least a third of the way into the book, depending on my supply of caffeine. Suh-weet.

This is Why I'm Out Here
My adventure in Edinburgh has confirmed why I'm doing this trip. I've had 5 days here on my first solo adventure, my first hostel adventure (in 4 years at least), my first new city adventure, my first figure-things-out / make-new-friends / try-new-foods adventure. The first day or so was uneventful, but then I got up my courage to actually talk to people in my 14-girl dorm room. And -- surprise, surprise -- I found them all to be delightful! It's utterly fantastic to enter a city knowing not a single soul, only to be pubbing a day later with what feels like a contingent from the U.N. My nights have been filled with conversations, drinks and stories shared amongst Canadians, Australians, Kiwis, Germans, Scots, Hong Kong(ers?), South Africans, Spaniards, Italians and the odd American here and there. This, my friends, is worth it.


Literary Lushes
Went on a Literary Pub Crawl last night. We saw the places where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired to create the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, where Robert Louis Stevenson visited the man who inspired the character of Long John Silver, and the cafe where JK Rowling spent hours composing the start of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. The cafe is actually a Chinese cafe, and because of the Chinese culture's attitude toward witchcraft, they don't really make it known. There's a man who stands along the Royal Mile (the tourist drag of Edinburgh) a few blocks away, holding a sign with the name of the cafe/restaurant and an arrow pointing the way. If only he'd hold a sign saying "Birthplace of Harry Potter This Way," the cafe would easily double their clientele. Pictures TK when I don't have to pay for the time to upload them.


Hiya from Scotland!
I could only find a bloody Easy Internet cafe, which is way over-priced and won't allow me to access my pictures. My time is running low, so I'm just posting to say I'm here in Edinburgh. More TK.


Greetings from the London Mac store on Oxford Street! That's all. Oh, and I almost got run down by a pigeon out on the sidewalk a few minutes ago. Eek!


Taking it Easy
I don't know if jet lag is still affecting me, of if I've just taken full advantage of the vacation mindset, but I've been sleeping in laaaaate the past few days. Usually I wake up on my own sometime around 8:30 a.m., but recently I've been sleeping in past 10:30 or 11 a.m. Hopefully I start waking up at a decent hour so I can spend the days exploring good ol' Londontown.

Last night I had a dream I had quit my job but hadn't left for my trip yet. But I kept waking up early and going in to work. It wasn't until I'd been working for at least an hour that I'd realize that I was no longer on payroll. But then I couldn't leave. I kept opening drawers and filing cabinets and seeing things I had forgotten to bring home with me. Important things, like boxes of Kleenex and a squishy worry ball thing in the shape of a silly face, things that I just couldn't do without, of course.

Yesterday I went to my old haunts on Hogarth Road near Earls Court. I rang the flat where I used to live and a nice Mizzou broadcast student let me poke my head in my old rooms. Things have really fallen apart since I lived there. The carpet's ripping up and the furniture is tearing and breaking. They do have Internet access on the one computer. I don't know if that's the best idea, honestly. The whole point of being in a foreign country is to get out and explore. I'm afraid that if we'd had Internet access in our flat, we would have spent a lot more time chatting with friends and family back home and a lot less time exploring the neighborhood. Not to mention that our impromptu Michael Jackson dance parties would have been fewer and farther in between since there would probably have been at least one of us glued to the computer screen at all times.


Delayed and Detained
My trip got off to an adventurous start. First, our flight was delayed by at least an hour, giving us plenty of time to watch Anderson Cooper's extensive coverage on the recent terrorism in London and where he thinks the "next" attack will be. Just what hundreds of British Airways passengers want to see as they board the flight to Heathrow.

Once we landed and I had waited in the queue at Customs for nearly 45 minutes (longest I've ever waited to get through Customs anywhere), I must have sneezed incorrectly, because the official confiscated my passport and detained me for more than an hour and a half. I had honestly listed on the entry card that my occupation was "unemployed," which apparently raised a red flag for the Customs official. She asked for proof of my return to the States, which I had packed in my checked luggage, thinking there'd be no need for it for nearly three months. When I told her this, she then asked how much money I had for my stay. Not being one to carry much cash, I said that I had £100, but had access to plenty in my bank account, a statement for which, of course, I was not carrying on my person. After confiscating my passport for 45 minutes, another official came to take me to collect my luggage, one of three bags still circling the carousel. He took me to the side and proceeded to unpack everything, including my unmentionables, in my "rucksack" and two small carry-on bags, all the while asking me a barrage of questions about my former job, my parents' jobs, my education, my sister's education, my love life, my contacts and friends in the UK, etc. Once he had satisfied himself that I was neither a terrorist, a drug dealer or a mooch wanting to live off the system, he took me back up to get my passport stamped, a process that took not just my passport, but also all my tickets for my future flights out of my possession for another 20-30 minutes. And then I was free.

I can't be mad or even too frustrated at them for doing their jobs. But it's ironic that they spent all this time and personnel investigating harmless me while the doctors who were British citizens who carried out the recent car bomb attacks would probably have breezed through security with nary a red flag raised. From now on, I know to carry everything that documents my travel plans when passing through Customs. I'm just thankful that I learned this when entering a country I'm familiar with, and not, say, Vietnam.

Allez, Londres!
I headed into central London to watch the Prologue time trials for the Tour de France this afternoon. I've never been to such a major sporting event, so it was pretty cool to witness it. I got there soon enough to squeeze a place at the railing along the route right beneath Big Ben. Unfortunately my camera battery ran out halfway through the event, which was before any of the big names started their time trials. I don't know any of the names of the cyclists in my pictures, but I'm pretty sure that most of the people watching and cheering them on didn't know their names either. Once my camera died, I left the rail to claim a spot on the grass in the park between the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, where they had set up one of several gargantuan screens showing the trials and broadcasting commentary. Right about then jet lag caught up with me and I passed out on the lawn in the midst of thousands of cycling fans. If only I could have recharged my camera battery at the same time I was recharging my internal battery.

Pictures will be updated as time allows
London 2007