I traveled to the U.K. in June 2008 on a combination work/vacation trip. I posted about it on my old group blog Population Five. Now that I am writing more about traveling at Goth Panda, I am reposting these here for thematic unity, and also because reading them reminds me of the trip. I want to go back! Anyway, that explains some of the dated references.
So one of the best things I think we did on this trip was buy BritRail passes for the week. We had planned a bunch of day trips, so it was cheaper to buy the passes than to buy the individual tickets, for one thing. It was also more convenient; once you had the tickets validated at a station the first day, you could just hop on and off the train for the rest of the week. It also came in very handy when your plans change suddenly, as happened on this day.
The night before, over dinner, I had proposed that we go to Edinburgh the next day, since it was one of our less touristy destinations, and therefore I thought was likely to be less crowded. Unfortunately, I did not reckon with the National Rail system’s propensity to schedule track repairs and other delays for the weekend. We got to the train station early, before realizing that the first train didn’t leave until 9 a.m. Then, we were actually on the train before we realized that with all of the delays, we wouldn’t be at Edinburgh until after 3, and we would have to catch a 5 o’clock train to be back in time. So we made the split second decision to get out at the next stop – lovely Stevenage – and catch a return train back to London, where we arrived by 10 a.m.
Once back in London we were faced with another dilemma. What to do for the day that didn’t involve travel outside the city? We decided to take an open-air bus tour around the city. But first we decided to sit outdoors at a little cafe near the train station, and that’s when we found out that sitting outside in a touristy district is a mistake. Because we got hit up twice by beggars. The first was an old gypsy woman, who targeted me when I had my purse out to pay the check. I couldn’t understand her because she wasn’t speaking English, but it was pretty clear by the end of the conversation that I was actually being cursed by a gypsy, for the first time in my fairly short life. The second guy was British, and he didn’t bother cursing me, although he did berate the table of French guys next to us.
Then we caught our tour bus, and I learned, to my surprise, that it is possible to get sunburned in London.
Marble Arch in Hyde Park
I thought they were getting rid of them, but there still are double-decker buses in London
On the tour, we found out where the necessities of life were located in London — including the Apple Store
The London Eye sees all
Some of London’s modern buildings
On the Tower Bridge
We had lunch at one of the corporate pubs – Mike and I both had falafel burgers, which were pretty good. Then we decided to go back to the Thames and take advantage of the free river cruise that was part of our bus ticket. The sun was so bright during the bus tour that our photos were getting blown out. When we got back in the early evening, the light was much better and we got photos of Big Ben and Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, and Tower Bridge, although it was too late to go inside any of them.