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.
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