Friday, July 04, 2008

Scandinavia 2008 - London Again

We arrived in London at around 10:30 in the morning. Luckily our hotel was right next to the train station in Charing Cross. The let us check in early so we could put our bags in our room then we had lunch and went across the street to enjoy the British Portrait Gallery. Since it was the 4th of July we felt a little guilty “fraternizing with the enemy” so we took our picture with the George Washington statue to quiet our guilt. We had enjoyed riding our bikes in all the cities so much we decided to add London to the list so we unfolded our bikes and rode where ever we wanted to. We started by riding to Buckingham Palace. It still was not late enough in the year to tour the place so we continued riding through the extensive network of parks set up for the royal family to previously hunt in I’m guessing, but now it was for horses, bikes, and people walking. It was really sad that the people that were inevitably walking in the bike lane always seemed to be tourists. They really didn't recognize bikes using bike lanes.
We stopped by Harrod’s because I had to show L. just how over the top they really were with their grocery department and the size of everything. From there we wanted to ride along the river so we just took side streets enjoying riding bikes on the left side of the road. (Yes, it kept messing with my brain even though I have previously driven here.) We never did end up riding along the river. We ended up being forced to ride on really busy roads. We noticed something odd though, cars were not crowding the bike riders. So we tried riding and it felt so weird to have polite drivers go around you. Even the bus waited for us when it was trying to pull over to make a stop. It really thew me off to feel safe riding on one of the most busy roads in London. By the time there was a path to ride on we were at the Parliament building, Big Ben, and Westminster Cathedral so there was just to many tourists to crash into. Instead we just walked our bikes along the river then put them back in the hotel room.
In the evening we were glad to find the TKTS booth in Leicester square and bought tickets for the show “Avenue Q”. It was weird being in London watching a show about Brooklyn but the show was hilarious and we both had songs stuck in our head when leaving. We had Indian food for dinner and realized that since we had not eaten at any of the specialty restaurants on the ship this was the first time we were eating food out of the ordinary.
The next morning we put our luggage in the storage room, checked out and headed off to Portobello Road for the Saturday market. We came here last time we were in London and I still get the song from Bed Knobs and Broomsticks stuck in my head. There were tons of antiques and we finally had to call it quits because we could have spent all day there. From there we headed to 221b Baker Road to see the Sherlock Holmes museum. (In all actuality I only felt the need to see the gift shop since it was all made up anyway and the address is really 232 Baker Road. We headed back to our hotel, collected our luggage, and found ourselves in the middle of a gay pride parade there at Trafalgar Square.
Going through the airport security L.’s bag got stopped and there was soon a crowd of security around the screen with them calling more over. I heard someone say the word “Grenade” so I thought it was one of those false positive tests but they were clicking on the screen and every time they did they looked more worried. Soon security asked who’s it was and then asked L. if she had packed anything dense. After searching a little through her mind she realized that the Faberge egg she bought was probably triggering the image recognition in the x-ray machine. The security guy pulled L.’s backpack out of the machine with it blaring sirens and flashing lights. After pulling everything out of the backpack they realized the Faberge egg made up the body of the grenade and handle from a small glass stein made the pull pin and handle when they were stacked vertically in the x-ray. After telling us firmly (with a straight face until he turned around) it probably wasn’t wise to bring that through security. The alarms in my head kept going off every time I said the words grenade and explosives while at the airport. The rest of the flight went off without a hitch.
It was so convenient to be able to take the subway to the airport in London, New York City really needs to stop bowing to the taxi cab union and extend the subway to JFK and LaGuardia airports. Instead we had to take a bus to Grand Central Train Station that cost an extra $15 per person. We got home without any trouble and collapsed into bed almost immediately.

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