London England 2010London proper was founded by the Romans in 100 A.D., built on top of the city that had previously been sacked and burned to the ground. Originally a prehistoric settlement from circa 4500 B.C., it has prospered for now 2000 years through various changes in ownership and tragedies.
The ArrivalBackground: Iceland was spewing ash and interrupting Europe's flights, flights in the USA were highly expensive, and my projects deployment in New Jersey was pushed out a week. All these factors combined led me to find a $402 ticket from JFK to London for the upcoming weekend. My insanely close friend Stewart (of Auckland trip fame) was living and working in London at the time, and we arranged to get drunk and wander about the entire weekend.
I drove into JFK starting at 3:00am from southern New Jersey, and parked at the long-term parking. I checked in, and was into the Flagship lounge at JFK (my first time there) around 5 AM. I enjoyed the food for a while and then went to the plane for my business class seat to London (I used special upgrades given to me by American for that international leg). It was a very nice flight and I might even write it up someday but I only have like 4 pictures from it, if that.
I landed in London around 8:00pm local time and proceeded to customs. The exchange went exactly like this, and I swear this is true.
Customs Agent (CA) "Length of your visit?"
Me "2 days".
He stops, laughs, the agent next to him laughs, the couple at the station next to me laughs.
CA, Incredulous and still laughing "All weekend?!".
Me "Apparently so".
Passport stamp applied, CA "Welcome to England".
LondonStewart met me at the tube station in Heathrow and we headed to the hotel he got me on Cromwell Road. It was a strange location, a check-in at front, get your key, shared shower/bathroom type location and leave your key when you exit the property. I was a little unaccustomed to such things.
We went to a pub a block away to discuss our plans for the weekend which apparently encompassed Stewart's goal of showing me what America lost by rebelling 200 years ago.
Day one would start at Vauxhall tube station. He headed off home, and I headed back to the room where I did not sleep...
Day OneSo I get to Vauxhall a little before the requested time and explored around a bit. It is a very pretty, residential Victorian area of London. I was surprised to find a beautifully landscaped garden in such a populous city, especially after seeing a swingers club embedded in the train viaduct (strange people).
We begin walking north across Vauxhall bridge and he says "turn around". And there it is... MI6 headquarters. It is an imposing structure, and of course I had to snap a couple of shots of the building, despite his worry about me taking pictures of it.
This is also where the most visible area of remaining Roman construction in the city.
Day TwoI did finally fall asleep that night after limping home. I woke and headed out to Oxford. Stewart was unusually on time and we went off to the storehouse of the British Empire gains for the last forever, the British Museum! At this point, I'd seen a lot of London attractions but had stopped at just a few. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see the British Museum, so we spent some time here.
I did visit Hamleys Toys, a store older than the United States. They were celebrating their 250th anniversary - that's pretty cool.
DepartureI woke up, got ready and my flight was so early that the tube was not running. So I took a cab which cost... 50 freaking pounds. That was a lotta money back then.
Anyway, I get checked in, and up to the newly opened (I mean like 2 days before) Flagship lounge to wind down and a pop back across to NYC and work that day.
SummaryLondon has so much to do, and just never really stops. Soho is going all night, Chelsea, Mayfair and St. James are fancy. Everywhere is history and you never feel like anything would ruffle a feather by daring to be out of place or dangerous to you.
Tips: It's expensive. Everything. Save for it. Staying out in zone 6 on the public transport system is much cheaper. Buses are free to any zone if you have a travel card, but the Tube is by zone. Take a bus to zone 4 and use a zone 4 tube card then.