September 20, 2004.
Long day on the bus today. Back to London. Got there at 5pm. Went shopping with Sue and Joe. Found loose-leaf tea. Yay tea! Then dinner at Pub. Beer and fish and chips! Yay beer! Stayed out late talking about weddings and honeymoons and travel! Fun night with people our age. Back to hotel. Sleep now. Sleep.
September 21, 2004
Yesterday was our last day together in London. We moved to our hotel in Piccadilly Circus. Marc was supposed to go back today, but I goofed when I bought his ticket. So he stayed an extra day with me in London. To stay at the hotel that was affiliated with the tour would have cost 160 pounds (about $300). The place that I found cost 40 pounds. And it was worth 40 pounds! The room was fairly clean, and that’s the only nice thing that I can say about it. A bunk bed with soft mattresses, and a sink in the room with some shelves and a dresser. A small area rug covering what is probably a very threadbare carpet. The reason I chose this place was because I was planning on staying in the hostel section after Marc left. And it would have been fine if it had been quiet. But there are hostel rooms on the same floor and people opened and closed doors all night long. Then at about 1am, a fire alarm went off. After 5 min. it was still on, and Marc and I decided we’d better evacuate. We got dressed and trudged down 6 flights of stairs. As soon as we got to the bottom, the alarm went off. Back up we went. And then we listened to a bunch of idiots imitating the sound of the alarm for the next half hour. In the morning, breakfast consisted of a piece of toast. There was jam, but it was a huge tin of jam filled not only with jam, but with bread crumbs, chunks of margarine, and assorted plastic knives. It was GROSS. Marc asked me to please find another place to stay. I told him I would. We took the tube to Victoria station, where he caught the Gatwick express. There is an inevitable feeling of sadness and frightfulness at the prospect of being left alone in a foreign country. This feeling lasted about an hour. Later in the day, I was down in the Underground and as I rounded a corner, a huge gust of warm air surged over me and everything just felt right. I guess it was my second wind of the trip.
Upon returning to the hostel, I had to wait in line 10 min. to pay for internet access. Then I looked up hostels. I found a couple and decided to go check them out. The first one I went to was fine. It was St. Christopher’s in Shepherd’s Bush. The guy was extremely helpful and said they have availability for the next six nights. I got checked in and paid then went back to Piccadilly to get my bag. I ended up losing about 30 pounds because I didn’t stay there, but it was worth it. I brought my bag back to the new place. THEN I went out to get some sight-seeing done. I bought a sandwich and juice at one of the Underground mini-marts, then headed out for the National Gallery. By then it was about 1pm. Although I still missed Marc a little, in a lot of ways, traveling alone can be a lot less stressful than traveling with someone. I took as much time as I wanted, wherever I wanted. I spent a lot of time browsing through shops in Leicester Square. Then I ate my sandwich in the square and reveled in my ability to take it easy. And so, I didn’t get to the National Gallery until 3pm. I stayed until closing (6pm) and it wasn’t nearly enough time. The audio-guide is EXCELLENT. There is information on just about every painting in the Gallery, even the lesser known works of art. I spent too much time doing just that, so at the end I was rushing through rooms with all these masterpieces and it was really too bad that I dilly-dallied. Hopefully I will have time to go back and spend more time there.
The good thing about the hostel is that there is a mall next door, with a Safeway grocery store. I got some chicken pasta salad and ate that for dinner. Tomorrow I’m going to Bath. I didn’t mention what Marc and I did on our last day. We went to the British Museum and Marc had a hot dog from a vendor across from the museum! I’m so proud of him. It was more like a polish sausage and came with grilled onions. But when we were in LA, he wouldn’t try a hot dog from the vendors by the Convention Center even though they looked delicious. I’ve always given him a hard time about that. So when we came out of the British Museum he was like, “Hey look, hot dogs! Let’s get one.” He is silly.
Then we bought tickets to see Phantom of the Opera. Went back to the hotel before the show and Marc took a nap. Then at 6:30 we went to dinner. We had Indian food at a restaurant right by the hotel. It was the best Indian food I’ve ever had. Boneless tandoori chicken, beef curry, pulao and stuffed naan. Oh man was it good. Then we saw Phantom. The theater was a lot smaller than I thought it would be! It was downright tiny. The staff was very adamant about people not taking pictures. Someone took one (you could tell because they used their flash) and one of the staff yelled, “THERE ARE NO PHOTOS ALLOWED IN THE THEATRE! DO NOT TAKE PHOTOS INSIDE THE THEATRE!!!” And before the show they asked people to please sit back in their seats because if you lean forward, the people behind you won’t be able to see. Our seats were pretty good, about ten rows back in the balcony section. Marc thought the play was over at the intermission. But it was good of him to sit through it for me. The show was okay. It felt to me like the actors were rushing through it.