Wednesday, August 04, 2010

We were in London

Even though getting through all the formalities at Heathrow airport took much longer than expected, we still had just enough time to go into London, see the Tower, and catch our flight to Newark. I confess that near the end of the tube ride into the city I was wondering if it was going to be worth it, if perhaps we had made a mistake dragging our already travel-weary selves and kids into a big city.

Then I saw this:

and without even going inside it was already worth it to me. I just love me some good ruins and interesting history. I can't help it.

Of course we did go inside, but only after grabbing some food from a street vendor. You know how when you're traveling and you're hungry and you pass some food for sale and it doesn't look terribly appetizing and you're not sure if the prices are good but at the same time you have no idea when you'll pass food again so you decide to buckle down and go for it? Well, that's what we did at this street stand. And let me tell you, I've never tasted a more disgusting hot dog in my life, certainly never one that cost SIX DOLLARS. Jeremy will say the same about his hamburger. The really sad part was that as we walked closer to the Tower, we saw about six other food places that looked cheaper and better than the one we'd just eaten at. A casualty of traveling in an unfamiliar city, I suppose.

The same thing seems to happen with bathrooms, too: "Here is a bathroom. I kind of need to go. Should I go in this one? We're by it right now so it's convenient. But what if it's gross? What if there is a better, cleaner bathroom waiting for me later on, when I will need to go to the bathroom more? But maybe there won't be, so I better go now." I ran into that situation as we were about to enter the Tower. I decided to go, only to discover that the bathroom charged 50 pence. You would think that after paying 17 pounds for a ticket to the Tower, they could throw in a single bathroom visit for free, or something, no? I dug through my purse and couldn't find the exact change they wanted so I gave up.

(Later on, inside the Tower, I found free bathrooms, so it all worked out.)

The Tower was great. We had just enough time for a good visit, except for the Crown Jewels. The line was a mile long so we didn't even try. Then it was back on the tube, back to the airport, back through security (and those Heathrow dudes are sticklers) (but maybe that was because I was trying to take little milk boxes with Arabic on them), and onward to Newark.

It was around that point that I decided they need to have a placard system at airports. All travelers - especially those going through the elaborate security dance where you take off your shoes, take off your kids' shoes, take out your laptop, take out your liquids, fold your stroller, take away special blankies from your crying child to put on the belt, and generally hold up the line for 20 minutes - should be wearing some kind of sign that identifies a few things for the benefit of others. For example, it should clearly state how many flights you've already been on, as well as their duration, whether the time zone is different now, how long your layovers were, and how many flights you have to go.

The reason I want to see this instituted is because I feel like sometimes we got the stink-eye from people who maybe thought we were a little cranky, or our kids were a little wild, or we weren't quite with it. I think a placard that said kindly, "This is our second international flight, across too many time zones to count, and we've had 6 hours of layover already, and we're still about 22 hours away from home" would have gone a long way with these people.

Anyway, thanks again for all the London tips! We had a pleasant jaunt into the city, notwithstanding the six-dollar nasty hot dog.


Suzanne Bubnash said...

London is full of treasures though it isn't the most user-friendly city. AM glad you got to do one thing though instead of hanging around the airport trying to corral the girls.

In the summer of '76 we were in London for a week; I was 6 months pregnant & it was the hottest summer in history (an historical fact). European countries didn't have drinking fountains & there were few places to get ice & water bottles were not invented yet I guess. So I was always dying of thirst. In London enterprising people had carts or wheelbarrows filled w/ pop cans in ice, but they were charging 50p for them which seemed sky high back then. We didn't buy any but later saw some for 75p, then wished I had indulged myself in the previous "bargain."

Susanne said...

If I ever make it to London, I'll have to remember to avoid the meat. I'm more of a carb person anyway. Thanks for the update. I'm glad you got to see something of interest...and use a free bathroom! :)

Jennifer said...

I'm glad you felt like London was worth it, even if the food wasn't great. I say Amen to your categorization of passengers! :)


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