Thursday, September 20, 2012

Europe Trip - Day 5 - Changing of the Guard

So, we got through the douane (the "Dwayne") and were onboard Ryan Air headed toward London.  I don't want to whine about Ryan Air...because seriously, folks, you get what you pay for...but we are talking no frills, load 'em up-move 'em out logistical movement from point A to point B.  Of course, it was a little interesting to watch the Chinese fire drill when they opened up the gate to Dublin where the people lining up to board for London were and everybody had to scatter from one part of the large room to the other.  See, on Ryan Air...there are no assigned seats...unless, of course, you want to pay something like $30 for that privilege.  Seeing as we paid $80 for the flight including a checked bag...I thought that this was probably a wee bit excessive.

The most disturbing part of the flight was watching the lady in the aisle seat beside me go though all of the stages of denial when it came to buckling her seat belt.  She held in, dragged the belt across her lap numerous times, and then started this odd exhaling exercise in the vain hope that she wouldn't have to ask for a seat extender.  Seriously.  I took one look at the seat and knew I'd be sitting in Mom's lap for part of the flight (what I referred to as "encroachment" because it sounds better than "just shy of needing to purchase a second seat" - don't you think?) and went ahead and asked for one.  Fortunately, I didn't have to pay for that.

But heaven knows, they were hawking everything else you can imagine in the aisles - for a nominal fee, of course.

We landed in London, and I figured we'd take a bus into the city from Stansted Airport.  We made it past the Dwayne in London by telling him that we were in town for four days - or at least part of four days - to see the sights.  After looking at us as if we might be potential suicide bombers and figuring that we probably weren't...we got on the bus.

Along with at least 14 people wearing burkas.  That was a little disconcerting...I won't lie.  Bonnie struck up a conversation with a lady from Italy who was also a schoolteacher...and who was anxious to practice her English.  The rest of the trip wasn't bad...and the bus deposited us at Victoria Station after touring us about London a bit so that we could see a little of the "sights" and remind Bonnie which country we were in.

Of course, the majority of people speaking English was helpful.

While we were in London, the Paralympic Games were going on, and a lot of people were there from various countries...many of them in wheelchairs and wearing various jackets with the name of the country that they were representing.  There were a lot of volunteers all over helping guide people from point A to point B...which was nice.  We took a cab for the few blocks to the hotel...because my new rule of travel is...if you have luggage, you do not take public transportation...and we were pretty worn out from traveling.

Okay, okay, I also didn't know which direction to walk in to get to the hotel.  But whatever.

We found the hotel - the Luna and Simone - which is located off of Belgrave Road...a fact that I learned when we had to find it a few times and was clearly lost - and was just as wonderful this time as it was six years ago when we stayed there.  It is run by twins - Peter and Bernard (pronounced BURN-urd). They offer a comfortable room at a fair price, and they give a discounted room rate for paying in cash.

We paid in cash.

Instead of staying at the top of a ridiculous number of stairs like we did in 2006, we stayed downstairs so - at worst - we had to go up and down one flight of stairs.  We also had an extra bathroom because the "lobby" bathroom outside of the dining area (the hotel serves breakfast that totally rocks) right outside our door.  You have to believe me when I tell you that this was the most ridiculously small bathroom I have ever seen in my life, but somehow it contained a toilet and a small sink.  The bathroom in our room was a nice size, spotless, and extremely comfortable.

But enough about all of that.  But, seriously, if you want a good place to stay...

We got up early the next morning with our London bus passes in our hot little hands and we were ready to hop on a tour bus at Victoria Station and ride around London all day.  The weather was crisp and perfect...and the sky was that blue that you love to see when you are on vacation because you know that you can punt the umbrella.  We loaded up on the bus and drove around for a little while...and then we realized...oh...Changing of the Guard.  If we don't get off...we won't find our way back.

Because collectively, we were the most directionally impaired threesome you can possibly imagine.

So, we exited the bus and wandered around for an hour or so before the guard change.  The crowds were was the rudeness of people in general.  Somehow, we squeezed through and saw bits and pieces of this and that...and were surprised when there was a band and a mini-concert featuring Elton John songs.

So not kidding.

"Can You Feel the Love Tonight," "Your Song," and a couple of others.

Yes, I took this photo through the round hole in the fence.  I was inspired by a girl who was near me trying to take a shot who did it by accident.  Still, cool, yes?

I know you are thinking...what?  No better pictures?  The answer is no and yes.  No, I don't have any better photos because of the Italian family that set up camp right in my way, and yes, we do have better pictures but Bonnie has them.  Plus, I'm not sophisticated enough to figure out how to get the up and down pictures to post normally on I am basically limited to those that are taken side to side.

Yeah, I know...bummer.

We left there, found the bus and moved on through to Parliament.  We got off there to take the free cruise of the Thames River that came with our ticket...and we walked right by the London Eye.  I'll pick up there tonight...

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