And thus begins the weekly London blog reports.
So, we have been here for several days now. Generally, things are going well. Our luggage arrived safe and sound, and so far we've navigated the city just fine, with only a few minor hiccups in transit. It took a while for it to sink in just where we were. In some ways, it still is, but more on that later.
There have been some things going on with work that have been quite frustrating, but I don't really want to go into them just now. Hopefully those things will be resolved soon and it will just be one of those stories you tell later and roll your eyes at. For now all of us (me, Mr. Graham and my coworker, Caity) are doing more face palming than eye rolling, but as I say, hopefully they will be resolved soon. The work itself (the card scanning) just started in earnest on Friday and it went fine. It's really cool to be working in such an old building with so much architectural character.
I don't really want this to be a detailed report of things we do every day, but here are some highlights, in chronological order:
On Wednesday, after finally settling in and brushing our teeth (huzzah) we had our first fish and chips (in a...Lebanese restaurant?), bought a map and then sat in our hotel for a long while looking at the map. Finally we went out and got Tube passes and immediately put them to use to visit this place:
It was basically deserted so there was no pressure to be hasty with pictures. At this point it began to feel a little more like we're in England. Ah, Harry Potter's homeland. Earlier that day I also saw a UK copy of Half-blood Prince with its hideous cover.
Thursday was another leisurely day, but in the early afternoon Caity and I took a wild cab ride over to the Society to meet with the staff and set up our equipment. When we were on our way out, who should we see but the Minister of Magic himself:
Can you tell it's Bill Nighy in the middle of that crowd? Celebrities of almost any caliber make me all fluttery inside, but he is definitely the most celebritous celebrity I have ever seen. I have been on an extra sharp lookout ever since for more.
The rest of that day we spent seeing some of the standard sights: Buckingham Palace (where the Queen was at home), Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, the houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey (we have to go back to go inside) and the Tower of London. A lot of buildings here have been covered for construction/cleaning/etc., including part of the houses of Parliament and the Tower. I suppose preparations for the Olympics are to blame there.
On Friday, Caity and I spent the day at work, then spent some time in a massive H&M store that even had a maternity and kids section. I just got some hair flowers, but I'm sure I'll be back there sometime. The rest of the night was pretty mellow. Mr. Graham and I traveled far and wide to get some delicious foods we'd seen in Victoria station, and then picked up a bunch of English candies at the nearby Tesco. We came home to find a new episode of The IT Crowd on tv and laughed and laughed and have been quoting it since ("super mah-rio"). We only have 7 channels, and two of them are the same so we got quite lucky.
Saturday we spent a lot of the day down at the Tower of London (which we only saw from the outside on Thursday). We thought it was kind of pricey to get in, but we didn't realize how much there was to see and I think we spent like 5 hours in there. There were so many old, old, old things that it blew my mind a bit. Am I secretly a history nerd? Mayhap. Sadly the main tower was half covered for construction. I say "main tower" because there were so many towers involved in the structure. Our favorite to talk about is the Bloody Tower because we can refer to it with such gusto.
Other things we have done are: eaten pasties from two different shops (my favorite has been the stilton and steak), wandered through the maze of Harrod's (meh), and eaten cheese on toast for breakfast in the hotel. And how could I forget the remnant of the Roman wall we saw? It's ROMAN (and so old and glorious).
I guess this is getting kind of long, but I am going to keep going a little longer anyway. A little while ago I started to get a little nervous about this trip because I was so afraid that England could never live up to the ideal in my head, but I so badly wanted to love it no matter what. That said, I was prepared to not love London because I know Dickens's London is not London now and I couldn't expect that. And it's true, I am not desperately in love with London, not as a whole anyway. I love lots of the sites we've seen, but it's really just reaffirming to me that I am not Live in the Big City person. I am a Visit the Big City and Live a Little Further Away person. I love the unique cultural opportunities in big cities, but I don't care for the constant bustle and shops hold only so much interest for me. Don't get me wrong, I am happy to be here, and there are still so many things in London that I'm eagerly anticipating, but I'm also very excited to get out of London in the following weekends to see the countryside and smaller towns.
On a similar note, all of us have been surprised by just how many non-English people we see every day. Some of that, surely, is due to it being tourist season, but also I guess London is just more international than any of us expected. A few nights ago on the news they had a story about how people are feeling that London is becoming a separate entity from the rest of England and that is now making more sense to me.
Anyway. It's a big, exciting city with so many things to see, and so much history to be seen firsthand at last. But for now, take a look at our first pasties in England: