England, Europe, Travel Tips

One week over

I’m terribly sorry for not posting throughout the last week. I’ve been getting caught up in the British propensity to head to the bar after work and have done it every evening. I know it’s terrible. It’s the standard thing to do out here though. The whole office picks up and moves to the bar at about 6:15 every evening, unless there’s breaking news going on.

In contrast though, the bars in London all close at 11 p.m. (Well most of them do.) So when people go out, they go out after work and then head home and get to bead by midnight. There actually was a law until 2003 that all bars had to close at 11 p.m., it’s been relaxed a bit, so some will stay open until 12 p.m. I found one last night that stayed open until 2 p.m. Anyways, the point of all this was I had a good reason for not writing.

I’m working at the CBC full-time during the day, so I haven’t had much time to see more of the city, but  do have some tips for walking around alone without looking like a tourist.  In my purse, I have two maps that are each the size of a regular piece of paper. One is of downtown London and has all the landmarks and bus routes on it and the other is a tube map. I also have my BlackBerry. When I get lost, I just do a GPS search of where I am and then I find the place on the map. (I typically try to move to a side street before taking out the map, so that I don’t attract too much attention). Once I find where I am, I continue on my way, keeping the GPS on my BlackBerry, for when I get lost again.


Exploring northern London

So today, I woke up at the crack of noon… well actually it was 1 p.m. and figured I should probably continue with my exploring. By the time, I showered and ate, I didn’t leave until about 2:30 p.m. I had looked up sights on the web and I decided to head to the British Library today.

It is the national library that houses many manuscripts and original editions of books and it’s completely free…. added bonus you have to go by King’s Cross Station to get there.

So I walked to the nearest tube stop (subway station), and took the underground (subway) to King’s Cross. I have to say they seem to fit a lot more people in each car, and the seats are plushier… you can also walk in between cars if you want. Anyways, so once I got to King’s Cross, I headed up to the train station part. (For those of you who haven’t figured it out yet, King’s Cross is the station they leave from in Harry Potter to get to Hogwarts. Of course, I was on the search for platform 9 and 3/4.) Anyways, when I eventually found the train platforms I realized that you need a ticket to make it to the actual area, which I didn’t have. So I tried to crane my neck to see if I could catch a glimpse of the divider, but no luck. I’ll have to try to schedule a trip that leaves from there.

Now the library was very cool. They had several of Shakespeare’s manuscript, the manuscript for Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, which I just read, The original documents of several Beatles pieces, i.e. the scraps of paper they scribbled and doodled on, originals of some of Mozart’s, Bach’s and Beethoven’s music, and their main attraction The Magna Carta. Yes, I have now seen the real Magna Carta. (Apparently there were actually several copies of it in 1215, and four still survive. Two were at the British Library, one was in Liverpool and I don’t remember where the last one is, still in Britain somewhere.)

Now, this is kind of unrelated, but I thought I’d share it anyways because it’s something that has been kind of annoying me. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was staying in a 150-year-old house. Well the one main downside, or I suppose peculiarity about the house are the bathrooms…..  or I guess I should say toilet rooms or loo, as none of them have baths in them and there are separate rooms for the showers. (one of the toilet rooms in particular only has a toilet and you have to walk into the shower room beside it to wash your hands.)

There are 13 of them in total and I have used maybe 6 of them in my stay so far….. Each one has a different way to lock the door, a different way to turn on the light and a different way to flush the toilet! It’s ridiculous. It’s almost like a game. Sometimes I have to stand in the dark for a few minutes, before I realize the string hanging beside the window is not for the blinds but for the lightbulb… or the toilet flush is actually above me. (Yes, one is actually the old style toilet with the back part near the ceiling and a hanging, wooden handle that you pull on.) Also, if you don’t pull with enough force, or if someone else happened to flush the toilet a few minutes before, nothing happens…. that can be embarrassing.

England, Europe

London – First day in a new city

Today I figured it was time to sling my dSLR around my neck and go act like a tourist. I even decided to wear running shoes so my feet didn’t get sore… well my feet still ended up being sore so I looked like an idiot for nothing.

My first stop was to figure out exactly where I’m going to be working. I knew it was near Oxford Circus, so I hopped on a double-decker heading that way. Only my family would know this, but I’ve always wanted to go on a double-decker. I’m sure this is true for a lot of people, but I’ve actually been to London before with my family. All the way through the trip I kept saying that I wanted to take the bus and sit up top. My parents didn’t want to spend the money, so we ended up walking everywhere and taking the tube to the airport. By the end of the trip, I never got to go on. Sad, right? So this was my first stop this time. It was very cool being so high up.

When I got off at Oxford Circus, I realized that Oxford Street is the shopping district of London. That’s a big problem because I LOVE to shop and I’m going to have to walk past the shops every day on my way to work…. I’m going to end up spending so much money while I’m here and the CBC is not paying me.

After I found my office, I began strolling aimlessly through the streets. I eventually came upon Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. London is awesome and all their museums are free. so I took a walk around.

From there I kept walking a little way until I got to Leicester Square (It’s pronounced Lester… Londoners seem to pronounce words in ways that don’t make sense. Clerkenwell is apparently pronounced CLARKenwell).


Anyways, Leicester Square is the area where all the theatres are.

From there, I walked to the Thames (pronounces tems), passing the houses of Parliament and 10 Downing St. on my way. I grabbed a sandwich at the grocery store across from Big Ben and then sat in a park next to the Thames and ate it.

I finished my day at the Tate Britain, another free art gallery, that I have to say I liked better than the National Gallery.

England, Europe

The start of my London adventure

I’m just going to keep this short, because I haven’t actually seen anything today.

I arrived at Heathrow at 8:35 a.m. after circling around in the sky for about 45 minutes. As soon as I got off the plane, I raced through the airport to beat the line at customs and was fourth in line. I then grabbed my luggage and took the express train to Paddington station. I’ve never seen such a long line-up for a cab. I started beside the sign that read Queue is 8 minutes from this point. It wasn’t actually a long wait, because they were very organized with a conductor sending you to a one of six taxi stops.

I’m staying at the Victoria League Student House in Bayswater. It’s this residential neighbourhood where all the buildings are from the 1850s and all the streets look exactly the same. I’m sharing a room with a girl from Malaysia. The room is tiny. It’s about four metres square, with two single beds (not twins), two desks and two closets. The entire house is tiny. I barely made it through the hallway (corridors) with my suitcase. I used an elevator (lift) that was built into on a dumb-waiter shaft. It was honestly one metre, by half a metre. Three people could not have fit in. The house also has many random stair cases. To get to one of the bathrooms on my floor, I have to walk down six steps and then back up six steps.

Other than that, I spent the rest of my day unpacking and sleeping. I also sorted out my cell phone. The adventure truly begins tomorrow!