Trip Start Oct 03, 2005
Trip End Oct 03, 2006

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

London Take 1.

Back to the cold. And the grey. We stayed in a Hostel in Pimlico. We had three days with Al and Will and set about doing as much free stuff as we could - mostly museums and galleries. Everything seems much more expensive when you haven't had to pay for much for awhile. First-time impressions of London were that it has lots of old stuff and there isn't nearly as much dog shit as in SA.
Alison met up with a friend from school. Will discovered that he didn't have any friends in London.
Our party was reduced to three as Will and Alison left us for a few quick stops through Europe, before heading off to South Africa, where Alison has more friends and Will only thinks he does.
This was the perfect opportunity to do that which we came to London for. So almost straight away, we hopped on the tube and headed off to visit Highbury. Instead of going to Arsenal station, we took a different line to Highbury and Islington, got off and started walking away from the station. Ten minutes later Kate asked some kindly but doddering old ladies the way to the soccer stadium (will she ever learn) and they pointed us in a direction. A minute later she asked some kids coming home from school, who pointed us in another, better direction. One of them actually lived near the stadium and walked with us almost all the way there.
And I'd love to say what a stadium it was. But it wasn't much to look at from the outside. Interesting only because of what it represented and the fact that I'd never seen a stadium of that size in such a densely populated, residential area. Anyway we took some photos, went to the shop and found out when to come to buy tickets from the ticket office. Then we went home via the Arsenal tube station which was right next to the stadium.
While we were here, Kate being the organised one, had arranged a couple of job interviews. The first one being in the Canberra like but worse, city of Milton Keynes. It just so happened that it was on the day that we needed to go back to Highbury to get the all-important tickets (there was only one possible game that Pete and I could get tickets for at Highbury, ever, and they were on sale to the general public that morning). But it was okay, because we could get the tickets and be back in time for the bus. Which Pete and I managed. Just. Unfortunately we didn't know exactly where 'back' was and by the time we had asked at the ticket office and found where we needed to be it was too late.
For the record, we got the next bus up. Walked for about an hour from where the bus dropped us off to get to the city and met up with Kate after her interview. Oh, and Kate got offered a job in York.
Probably the most amazing thing that happened in London was that Pete actually suggested that we go to the theatre. What a girl. I'm sure he blames NF, but really. We saw 'The Producers' and it was good. Apart from all the singing.
We also visited more parks and museums and free stuff.
And lastly, despite our best efforts, we made contact with Chris, or rather he forced contact with us through a series of whiney emails. For those who don't know, Chris went through High School with Kate and I as did his brother Marcus with Pete. Chris had been out of Australia for two and a half years and still we weren't ready to see him. So anyway, we arranged a weekend with him up at his place in Catterick Garrison where he works as a physio.

London Take 2.

This time we stayed a little bit further out of London in Forest Gate (northeast of the city). It was only a 10-15min train ride to the city. However, London transport prices being what they are, the money we saved by staying further out was spent on getting to and from the city. We did have our own room though. And the local (I wanna be American) fried chicken joints, complete with local (I wanna be American) thugs.
Undoubtedly the highlight of this week-long stay in London was the trip back to Highbury to watch the Carling Cup semi-final 2nd leg between Arsenal and Wigan. Well, the trip itself wasn't the highlight. Up 'til now I had liked the tube, after this evening I haven't. It started with us purposely walking to a tube station on the Picadilly line so that we could go to Arsenal station. Due to overcrowding on the platform, they closed all the turnstiles to get in but one. Unsurprisingly, this led to overcrowding in front of the turnstiles. When we got down to the overcrowded platform we were advised to catch another line and walk a short distance to the stadium. Hardly anyone was getting on each of the full trains as they came past, so we took the advice. Unfortunately, the other line was almost equally as crowded and many trains went past before we were able to get on.
We made it to our seats about 5min before kickoff. The Carling Cup is by far the least prestigious trophy that premiership clubs vie for, and better teams such as Arsenal usually put out weak lineups. This time they didn't though and most of the stars (apart from those injured/suspended) played.
The inside of the stadium was far more impressive than the outside. And the atmosphere was amazing. Arsenal needed to win by 2 goals to progress and were leading 2-0 with about a minute left in extra time. They had played well without taking their chances, although defensively they had been shaky. And sure enough, with a minute to go Wigan pounced on a defensive error and scored to go through to the final. Bastards. But it was fantastic to see Arsenal play in the flesh, the flowing passing moves that Liverpool can only dream about (please write me an email Mark). And as every league game is a sellout at Highbury and tickets never make it to general sale this was the only chance for us to visit the ground for a game (they are moving next season). It's also amazing how much better viewing is at stadiums custom built for football, rather than monstrosities such as Telstra (the Olympic) Stadium in Sydney.
Anyway, there I go with the sport again. Time was also spent doing less important things such as sleeping, walking around the capital (in a not-so-direct direct way), a side trip to Canterbury and Dover, the Notting Hill Markets, a fruitless search for Shoe Express on Oxford Street, and Pete and I finally looking in to getting work and preparing to go to York.
Monday morning came and Kate was off early to Milton Keynes for a week of training. While somewhat later that morning Pete and I were off to York for a week of house-hunting and job organising.
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