Meeting old friends half way around the world

Trip Start May 14, 2010
Trip End Jun 02, 2010

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday was our last day in London. The plan was to get an early-ish start and try and see the changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Due to a couple of hitches (oh crap, we forgot to charge the camcorder battery and clear off the full memory card!!) we didn't get going as early as we would have liked... but it probably would not have mattered unless we had arrived several hours earlier. The crowds at the Palace were HUGE, and being the midget that I am (or so my kids keep telling me) I could not really see anything. I know things were going on, and I could see flashes of red here and there, but that's about it. I would imagine it was pretty cool...I can't say for sure. My camera got a better view than I did - I held it up in the air and snapped and hoped for the best. Then handed it to my nearly 6 foot son to see if he could get any better view. Eh, got a few pics. Oh well...except for seeing the crowds it ended up being kind of a non-event.

We hung around a little and listened to the band (still could not see it really), but also were were supposed to meet friends from home who were going to be in London at the same time. Austin Hernandez and Trystan went to Kindergarten and 1st grade together and have remained friends even after we moved to Waldo and then Falls (primarily through church), and Austin's dad, Peter, and I went to High School together. Austin is ending a semester of study abroad in London shortly, so Peter was there visiting him and we decided we definitely needed to get together for a drink or a bite to eat. Trystan and Austin arranged that we would meet up at Buckingham Palace at the changing of the guards - yeah right!!. When we got there and saw all of the people there, we thought there would be no way of finding them in the crowd, but as they say, timing is everything As we walked along the gate in front of the Palace, I looked back in the direction we had just come from and there was Peter! Unreal! Austin had left to go meet a friend who was just arriving in London, so he joined us later. And the story gets even more ironic after that. Here goes - Peter had read my blog early on when we were in Amsterdam and having issues with our Debit before he left for London, he went to his bank to be sure he would not have the same problems. He mentioned to the woman at the bank that he knew people who were in Amsterdam and were having problems with their Debit card and he wanted to be sure he didn't have those issues. O.K., cut to me in Amsterdam talking to Mickey at our bank when all this was going on -she asked me if I was blogging this (at the time I wasn't sure why she asked me that - probably a mixture of fatigue and stress was clouding my brain), and then also mentioned that she had someone in the bank today who knew people who where in Amsterdam...well, you get the picture, same bank, same person that both Peter and I were talking to. I sent Mickey an email to let her know the "rest of the story" as Paul Harvey would say. When Peter, Brian, and I figured this out in London, we got such a kick out of the coincidence. Wild!

While we were waiting for Austin, we started walking to find a place to eat. We wandered through Piccadilly Circus and into Leicester Square...and found a French restaurant that had great food, where Austin joined us, and spent some time visiting. It was all a bit surreal meeting up with friends from our hometown in London! Unfortunately since our time was very tight and we still had so much to do, we parted ways with Peter and Austin, but we sure did have a great time connecting with them and having a beer! :)

Trystan had wanted to see Camden Town, so we decided to stop off there before heading anywhere else to check things out. It was pretty cool, lots of street and sidewalk vendors and lots of people. We walked around for a bit and then decided to head back to the hotel to finish drying the laundry we started that morning. With the decision to not have any checked bags came the knowledge that we would need to do laundry at least once during our trip. That's o.k. - I would not have wanted to be maneuvering through the streets with bags any larger than the ones we had so it was worth it!!

We made one really unfortunate choice when we got to London. In any other situation, it would probably be a good choice, but given our situation (short on time, Trystan arriving, and meetng friends), not so much. We decided to buy the London Pass for 3 days. This pass included free admission into LOTS of sites that we wanted to see and that had separate coverage charge, including a Hop-on-hop-off River Thames cruise. Unbelievably we didn't do ANY of those things. We kept making plans but things just never seemed to work out. It was kind of a frustrating waste of money (61 pounds each, 2 passes - Arggghhh!!), but I'm hoping that since we didn't activate them, they will be good if we go back. Live and Learn.

Trystan really wanted to see Abbey Road Studios, and even though Brian and I saw it our first day here, it was definitely worth the visit again, especially since it was only a 10 minute walk from our hotel. Brian and Trystan walked across the "zebra walk", we looked around some and then headed off for Hyde Park.

Hyde Park is absolutely huge (over 350 acres) and has been around since the 1500's and then opened to the public in 1637 - a hundred years before our country was established! Lots of monuments scattered throughout the park and it's clearly where people go to just spend a relaxing afternoon or evening enjoying the greenery and quiet away from the hectic London life. The Princess Diana Memorial fountain closed shortly before we got there that day, so we could only see it from a distance, but it's a very different fountain...more like a concrete river that is meant to be played in and touched. Very appropriate tribute to her. Royal Albert Hall was on the other side of the park and well worth seeing. It's a beautiful hall and has housed many many famous concerts throughout the years - the main draw for Brian being that The Who has played there many times. Very cool to see it and the Albert Memorial across the street, which is incredibly elaborate and again, very beautiful.

The last thing we wanted to do before we left is see Tower Bridge at night, so we found our nearest Tube station and headed in that direction. In Europe, at least were we visited, having "open containers" is not against the law, but very commonly done. Pubs often spill out onto the streets in London and people sit all around the area with their drinks and then leave their glasses/bottles right out on the street for the Pub to pick up. The same was true in Paris and Amsterdam. I thought was interesting - I didn't see alot of broken glass and I imagine theft of glasses is not an issue. I liked it. We stopped in at a Pub along the Thames to get a beer and then continued walking down the Jubilee walkway toward the Tower Bridge. It was a beautiful night and the Tower Bridge is exceptionally beautiful at night. The combination of the two invited us to linger and enjoy our last evening in London. What a great time we had!

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