A Day In London

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I have not talked a lot about, even though I have wanted to, the trips I have taken. With the recent realization that I really want to become a writer, I figured it was time I started writing about my trips I have taken so far. So here we go.

First Trip I am going to talk about is A day in :

London 2006.

This was supposed to be the beginning of an amazing around the world… Or so I thought. Having sold all my belongings (save a small few), liquidating my computer and getting a laptop to on the go. It was going to be the of a lifetime… Emphasis on was.There was a level of excitement, and discomfort during this whole process. Leaving the known behind for the unknown was not something I had really done before, though it was something I had always wanted to do. I had gotten used to the safety and comfort of my ‘rut’ and though I was thrilled about the idea of the travel, there was an element of fear at the process..

Which turns out not to be unfounded.

So, everything was sold, bags were packed, camera & laptop were at the ready. It was time. I said goodbye to my family and friends – some of who were amazing enough to offer to look after my beautiful cat Gina – and was off on my trip. I was lucky enough to be traveling with my best friend Jo, who was a well seasoned traveler, and did her best to set my mind at ease and stoke my enthusiasm.

So it was time to go.

Our plan was simple, we had a friend with a flat we could stay at while we took in the city of London, then we would move throughout the UK, Ireland, then off to the mainland, France, Germany, Greece, then through Asia, all taking about 6 months. The next 6 months was going to be in Australia – my dream destination. We were going to travel around all of this amazing country, and see everything there is to see…

Again, were.

You see its an amazing 8-12 hour flight to London, and this was my first big flight, so I was quite excited and didn’t sleep a lot. We laughed, and watched , and talked about the great adventure. When I got to customs, things went… Sideways.

See it was just days after the bombing of Heathrow airport everyone was quite jumpy. What I didn’t know at the time was that London customs felt that was a gateway to terrorism, and had been arbitrarily refusing entry to Canadian citizens (despite us being a Commonwealth of the UK). This practice actually continued for at least a year after, and every time I saw the news reports on people being refused entry I laughed…

Cause it happened to me.

The customs official locked me up (though did not tell me that was happening until the big metal door behind me locked shut and I saw I was in with 10 other people – quite a few of whom looked like they belonged there. Not only was I locked up, but I was finger printed, mug shot, searched, and interrogated. A great start to my adventure of a time. So after a long flight, I was locked up for 8 hours and put through – hell. I had never been through an experience even remotely like that, and my poor friend Jo had no idea what had happened to me. It was as hard on her as it was on me – poor thing.

It was a horrific ordeal.

When it was all said and done, they decided (as you probably already gathered by now) refuse me entry on ‘reasonable doubt’. What this means, the Canadian embassy told me, is that they are using their right to refuse anyone they want. And I wasn’t the only one. The Embassy rep I spoke with said she a stack of 150+ cases like mine on her desk, and she was just one person, and it was just for this day. Crazy.

The plan is, to send me out on the very next plan back to Vancouver (they send you back where you came from… And if you had stop overs, it was the last stop over stop… Good thing I didn’t connect via Ireland or Toronto – or thats where I would have been sent to, luckily I connected from to Vancouver, and Vancouver is close Enough. THe problem was that there was no plane that night, or the next day, not till 10am the day after. What normally happens is they would lock me up in their long term lockup for that time…

However, as I was no threat (then WHY can’t I come in?) they released me to my friends. So we got to the flat, very late, after an exhausted re-union, and told the tale… Both to people in London, and back home (cause it looks like now I will need to find a place to stay). Once the story had been told, the reaction was unanimous… You have on day in London – lets go see it. We knew we couldn’t go into places, there just wasn’t time… But if we hoofed it, we could see everything there was to see.

And thats what we did…

We got up first thing in the morning and headed out. There was a lot to see, and for me, only a day to see it. On the Underground we went, and through the amazing subway system of London, cameras in hand, we headed to the Tower of London.

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The Tower of London was an amazing first site, the history of the building and the beauty was enough to knock you back. It is hard to believe that with all its sorted history, the white tower of London – despite wars and bombs – still stands tall today. This formidable looking tower stands out even in a city with so much ancient as much as modern architecture. The idea that so many Royals lived, and died there, the prisoners, the crown jewels. It was almost to much. Had I had more time, I could have easily spent a good day wandering (as m can anyway) outside its historic walls, but as things played out the way they did, I could only walk around the outside. One thing I found so odd was the statue of Caesar, why there is a statue of Caesar at the Tower of London still befuddles me.

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Next, we wandered to the Tower Bridge. To be to walk across such a historic bridge is just amazing, to think of all the people – historic and modern – who use the bridge, and to be crossing the famous River Thames… It was surreal. I was one of the many people who have spent their lives confusing this bridge with the London Bridge, but they are two very different things. Of course I quickly learned the difference, but it does not diminish the effect of walking across this London landmark. From the bridge we could see the Gherkin… A architectural marvel. We could also see the monument of the great fire of London, that marks the starting place of the great fre of London. Walking across this iconic bridge is something I will never forget.

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We then walked down around by the River Thames to see the river and some sites. We walked past the HMS Belfast, an old WWII cruiser. Then stopped for fish and chips and mushy peas at a local pub, because if your in London you need to have authentic fish and chips right… Wrong. Did not like. The Canadians have the edge for sure. We continued walking, past Southwark cathedral, through back alleys with lights on the ground, and to the Golden Hind.

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This classic English Galleon circled the globe between 1577 and 1580… Not a small feat for that time in history. With the blessings of Queen Elizabeth I, this ship (originally called Pelican) must have some stories to tell. Granted this was only a replica, but I could almost imagine the difficulties sailors would have had in the 1500’s taking on such a voyage.We continued our walk, skeletons of old bombed buildings, history just oozing from them. Then we went down Clink street, and saw the Clink, and I couldn’t stop laughing.

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Growing up I always hear the joke about people being locked up in the Clink, and after so much time in lockup the day before, the irony was not on me. From the 1151 to 1780 this was the most notorious medieval prison in the world, and it was also the first prison where women were regularly confined… It looked intense. Again, this was something I wish I had more time to investigate, but I do have a funny picture where it looks like I am being dragged into the clink.See, the irony was not on me. By this time, we had talked to the Canadian and Australian embassy (while walking), and had friends in Canada and Australia also calling for us – to try and get this ruling on me overturned… It didn’t work, seems their ruling is final (and the fact they were holding my passport hostage didn’t help) and I was being removed the next day. I had to laugh about the whole thing to keep from crying in devastation… So, when I saw the Clink… I had to laugh.

Shakespeare Globe Theater…

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The highlight for me, and my biggest disappointment for not getting to go in. As a huge Shakespeare fan, I wanted to see one of his plays there, sadly, that was not going to happen, but it was everything I had imagined it would be. Granted this was a replica / rebuilt theater… But it still took my breath away. Across the river, we saw St. Paul’s Cathedral, which we wanted to go see and we walked to it…

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So we crossed the famous Millenium Bridge, and I see why they call it the Wobbly bridge. It just was to while to walk across… I loved it… But on to St. Peter’s… Now, this was when I literally had 2 phones to my ears talking to 2 embassies… So I didn’t get any pictures, and we know by now I wasn’t going it, but it was amazing.

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From there we went to Hyde Park, one of the larges parks in London. It was really amazing, and we stopped to a bottle of water and to take it all in. You could see the London Eye over the trees, and castles in the distance. Thinking about all the history there, it really was something. Through the park we walked, to Buckingham Palace.

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I love the Royal family, and the history of the Crown… And seeing the castle where the family lives, was for me the high point of the day, even if Betty wasn’t there to greet me (Queen Elizabeth II). It was magnificent. Everything I had hoped and dreamed of. Again, I was sad I could not go in, but just getting to see it was an experience in itself.

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Down to Parliament (Palace of Westminster – which is amazing) we went. To see Big Ben… And its huge. The pictures do nothing to portray the scope of this amazing clock tower. And hearing it chime was just incredible. It really is hard to believe how old, and how much history this clock has seen.

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On to Westminster Abby, another of my heartbreaks! I have dreamed for years of going in the Abby, of seeing and being enveloped by the history of this place. The architecture is just breathtaking, with so much detail, I was completely taken aback.

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Now we went to the London Eye (sore). Granted, had I been able to stay there is no guarantee I could ride the eye… But I really wanted to. The eye really is out of place in a city full of such history and diversity, and though there are times when the old and new work togeather… I don’t think the eye is a good example of that.

To Baker Street!

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I really enjoy the stories of Sherlock Holmes, but Jo down right is enthralled by them. By far her favorite books, we know since day one that we had to goto Baker street and see the ‘site’ of the home of the fictional character of Sherlock Holmes. Of course for the tourists, they have build Sherlocks ‘home’, 22b Baker street… WHich houses a museum and gift shop. Still, its kinda cool to say we have been to Sherlocks flat.

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By the time we left Baker Street, exhaustion had set in… And it was time to head back. I literally passed out while waiting for a train on the underground because I was beyond mentally and physically exhausted. It is amazing though, I really did pretty much get to see London in a day.

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One thing I found shocking was how dirty the city was, there is so much dust and old soot kicked up from the underground that you breathe in, that when I blew my nose, I honestly had black in my nose. It was crazy. And when I coughed, same thing. The air was thick, it really was quite dirty… But I guess in a city this old, it was bound to happen. It actually took days for my system to clear all the crap out.

The next day, I went back to the airport and back home… Thinking the ordeal was over of course was foolish, because when I got off in Vancouver, the customs agents there had to check with the agents in London, see why, and then check me out, search etc. I was assured (cause they see this all the time) that I wont be refused entry, because Canada is my country, but the need to do their due diligence. WHich made me miss the last ferry home. This meant, another night in the airport.

Once I got home, I swear I slept for a week (and by home I mean crashing at a friends house, for whom I am eternally grateful), but I learned some things from my almost adventure…

You can see London in a day.
I want to do it again (the trip not the entry refusal).
And expect the unexpected.

It was an adventure regardless of how it turned out…

And it has given me an epic story that I will have for the rest of my life!

If you want to see more pictures from my Day in London, check out my London Flickr feed.

6 Replies to “A Day In London”

  1. What an amazing adventure! Bravo to you and Jo for turning such a disappointment into the adventure of a life-time. I too hope you get to return. Here’s to many more travel posts to come.

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