Sunday, August 23, 2009

First coupla days in London

By the time our plane arrives at the London Heathrow Airport, It's 7:05AM London time. If you count time at the aiports and flight time, we're talking17 hours of travel time. Both of us are exhausted, and rather than take public transportation (The Tube) into London, we hire a cap which is hella expensive. ($110 total for a 30 minute ride). We get to our hotel, and we weren't able to check in yet. Yet, we were able to use their bathroom to freshen up and check back in a couple of hours

Julie and I laughed at the politeness of the sign "Mind Your Head" in the narrow stairwell

In our exhausted state, we decided to walk around the 'hood and see where we were at. We were staying in the Brompton Quarters, down the road from Harrod's, and apparently a very posh neighborhood considering the lowest end cars that we saw were BMW's and Mercedes.

Across the street from us, the Brompton Oratory:

We find some convenience stores nearby with cheap sodas and crisps (potato chips). Also, all the cadbury I can fantasize about. I immediately discovered Steak and Onion crisps, as well as worcestersire crisps and tomato ketchup crisps. Delicious! Don't forget about Cadbury Flake and Twirl bars- I couldn't eat enough of either and they were a staple for my breakfast for the days ahead.

We walked around where we were at, and slummed around Harrod's. Both of us were too tired and trashy feeling to take pics at this point. We're finally able to check in to our hotel, where we have twin beds right next to each other:

We were cool with this, because at least we weren't in the same bed. So after a nice long nap and shower, decide to go out and hit a pub. We find one around the corner from Harrods, and can't figure out how it works. Do we wait to be seated? Do we wait for a waiter to approach our table or do we head to the bar? Do we pay at the table? How much do we tip? How seriously do we take the sign that says "There are known thieves in this area. Take Care of your Belongings."??

We muddle our ways through, and crawl into bed that night, with the intention of waking up early in the morning and hitting the pavement. We were shocked to find out everything in London City shut down by 11pm on a saturday night.... who can make fun of Salt Lake City??

Sunday Morning:
"Christy, It's after 11:30!" I hear Julie say. Sure enough, it's 11:48 AM London time, which is 2:46 AM Utah time. Both of us are pissed that we overslept, and get up and get ready.

While Julie is finishing her hair and makeup, I pull out the London City Street map and talk about what we want to do that day. Since it was later than we wanted that day, we decided to go to Notting Hill (for the sake of the chick flick), and then to the Portabello Road market which was right next to it. We'd take the day from there. We asked the hotel concierge where the nearest tube stop was. "South Kensington Station. Go down this road, and take a left at the light. The station will be immediate to your left. Bear in mind, only the Picadelly line is open today." It was sunday, the rest of the lines were down for renovation.

Okay, scratch the plans for Sunday, fast forward to the plans for Monday.

Crap. We were going to take the Picadelly line the next day. Fast forward, switch around. Okay, it's cool. Let's see where our adventures lead us today!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Christy + London = Love

(Yes, this is two blog posts in one day. Deal with it.)

I've had a long time love affair with England. The first time I ever step foot in the country it was dark, I had been on a ferry boat all day, I had the flu, and had a skin treatment on my face for some kind of rash. I was almost 12 years old, and it was 1987. That moment, I couldn't be happier. For the first time in 2 years, I felt like I belonged somewhere. The connection I had with the United Kingdom was unexpected, and it was instant. It was as if I was home... good golly, this is sounding like a traditional affair, isn't it?

I visited the country again when I was 13, and the chemistry was still there. Sadly, I moved away from the European continent soon after, and haven't returned in 21 years. To be precise... because I can be... it was exactly 21 years, 1 month, and 14 days since I had been in Europe.

As explained in my previous post, I was given an incredible opportunity to visit London this summer, made possible by some very kind and generous friends, of whom I feel unworthy. There was months of anticipation and planning. The primary reason for going was to see U2 at Wembley Stadium, but I also wanted to catch as many sites as I could, as well as spend some time visiting colleagues and making connections.

Unfortunately, the only way to get to London that won't take several weeks if not months, is to fly. I'm terrified of flying, and was filled with dread. I had a flight from SLC to JFK, a very brief layover, and then on to London Heathrow (famous airport in various scenes of Love Actually, Bend it Like Beckam, the video for "Beautiful Day" by U2, among others). I was delighted to discover that my fear of flying has mostly vanished, though I still had a little trouble remembering to breathe during turbulence. I confess to self medicating a bit with a glass of wine to calm my nerves, which seemed to help.

On the flight between JFK and LHR, two business men sat across the isle from Julie and me. When almost everyone else on the plane was sound asleep, they started with the alcohol. The flight attendant kept bringing them alcohol and didn't charge them for it, and they kept drinking and laughing. Eventually I fell asleep, but when I woke up, I noticed Julie's face looking over at them and smiling big. One of them had completely passed out, and the other was taking all of his garbage which included wrappers, used tissues, banana peels, etc., and was placing them all over his friends body, who was too drunk and passed out to notice. Then he borrowed Julie's eyeliner and started drawing on his neck and bald head. Then he took his phone out, and took some video. It was getting close to landing time, so the flight attendant had to wake the sleeping guy up. He woke up to see Julie and I smiling at him and thought we were hitting on him. It took him 5 long mintues to realize he was covered in crap. His friend took pity and didn't want him to have to go through customs with writing all over his head, so he helped him wipe it off. When we were waiting in the very long customs line, Julie and the perpetrator had to go to the bathroom, while I stayed behind in line with the victim, who promised me revenge would be sweet. If only I could see the outcome of that!

No lost luggage, no delayed flights, nothing scary. So far, so good... and here I am, making my triumphant return to London. As I sat at the airport waiting for the cute little black taxi to pick me up, I was exhausted, worn out, and unaware of the week that's to come. What if Julie and I don't get along? What if I run out of money? What if I get robbed, or worse? What if I get lost? what if things fall apart at home... either with the kids or with work? What if the hotel loses our reservation?

Luckily all of these fears were unfounded. Stay tuned for future installments that will answer the following questions, and more!

What is it like to be mistaken for a prostitute by men from Kuwait? What did I do when I got lost? How did I get suckered in to doing work? Why did a woman bark at me (like a dog) on the tube? At what point did I find out I was staying right around the block from the mormon temple? Did I really meet a guy with eyes as dreamy as Jude Law's?

I'm Back! (I think?)

I stepped away from blogging nearly a year ago. I really miss having this as an outlet, although at this point I'm not sure how long or how often I'll keep it up. At the time that I stopped, I couldn't continue to blog while I felt so un-authentic.

In the days ahead, I plan on blogging about my trip to London. To give you an idea of how this all happened:

One day, a former co-worker who knows how much I love U2 sent me an email with U2's announcement of tour dates. No announcement was made for Salt Lake City... although I looked at the list longingly when I noticed that they were going to be in Wembley Stadium on August 14th.

Wembley Stadium is special to me. When I was 13, I stayed at a house across the street for a week. My dad had business to do in England, and had a colleague who lived across the street from the Stadium, and offered to let us stay in his house. (Picture the houses that Harry Potter's aunt and uncle lived in... very similar!) During the days, my dad would go take care of his work stuff while my mom, sister and I explored London. We would hop on the tube at Wembley Park Station, and just go and go and go and see as much as we could until our feet and legs couldn't take it anymore. One night as we were returning home and exiting the tube, there were people standing out there asking us if we had any AC/DC tickets to buy or sell. Apparently, AC/DC was in town. My sister and I could hear the concert, as well as some of the rif raff on the streets after the show, and we thought that it would be SO COOL to see a concert there one day.

At the same time I received the email with the tour dates, I was reading the book "The Secret". While I don't buy into the concept of The Secret entirely, some of it made sense. The Secret is that you have to ask for what you want. Put it out into the universe, and trust that it will be returned. So, in the spirit of "The Secret", I posted on my Facebook status update that I was accepting contributions, donations, or sponsorships to go see U2 at Wembley Stadium on August 14th. I did it half-joking. I didn't really think anything would come from it, but I wouldn't have turned the opportunity down.

Well, a friend of mine (we dated briefly in 2007. I refer to him as #3 in my past relationship series) responded saying "If you can get the concert tickets, I'll give you the skymiles to get there". Then another friend (and a Royal friend at that) said that he had a pre-sale passcode for me to use so that I could buy tickets before they went on sale to the general public. Also, my friend Equality essentially told me that I have to do this, because U2 made history at Wembley Stadium when they almost broke up after their Live-Aid performance.

All of this is going in my favor... the last thing to figure out was if I was going to do this alone, or if I could get someone to go with me. Who would be willing to go all the way to London with me to see U2? Unfortunately, none of my friends are die-hard U2 fans to the point of traveling across the globe with me, at their own expense....

....except... I work with this gal named Julie. She's close to my age, and also single. She makes good money, her car is paid off, she lives with her parents and she doesn't have kids, so very little in the way of financial responsibility. She loves to travel and in the past 4 years that I've known her, has been to England at least 3 times, on top of other global and local travel. All I had to do was ask, and she readily agreed.

So, I had a plane ticket, concert tickets, a travel mate, and a booked hotel room. Our adventures will follow shortly.