England swings like a pendulum do. Bobbies on bicycles two by two. Westminster Abbey, the Tower of Big Ben and the rosey red cheeks of the little children.
Crossing the English channel a little earlier, we both had to pinch ourselves to know this was really happening. We were finally, after nearly 50 years of yearning, really going to get to Ireland . I’m sure others on the flight thought we were lunatics who had close family ties to the Chesire Cat. We were ecstatic. 25 hours on a plane hadn’t dampened our enthusiasm one iota. The sky was the palest milky pink color, a sunrise like we in Australia don’t see. It was like someone had painted a water color, smudging slight wisps of grey into the pale pink background. I can’t really do it a justice to describe it in words but the color of the sky is exquisite… so delicate. I almost expected Bert and Mary Poppins to be dancing on the silhouetted rooftops.
We landed at Heathrow airport just after 6.30. We were there before that but we had to circle in a holding pattern before we were given clearance to land. Not that we minded.. We perused the skyline trying to see if we could recognise any familiar landmarks to no avail. Not that it mattered. We were here. We cleared customs with no queues or problems. It was so easy. We told the customs officer that we had some biscuits, lollies and stuff from home but she said not to worry about declaring it and so we went straight through. We found our way through to the train station easily after picking up our luggage and headed to Paddington where we were staying.
The interesting thing when you travel to another country is that you realise that a city is a city is a city. We could have been in Sydney or Melbourne as we travelled through the more industrial areas. The landscape was identical. Paddington station was so much bigger than we expected and being so early in the morning, was packed with work commuters. We found a McDonalds and sat down to have a quick breakfast before we found our way to the hotel.
Of course it was way too early to book into the Norfolk Towers hotel in Paddington but they were great with letting us leave our bags there while we went sightseeing. We had a quick tidy up, got dressed in clean clothes and hit the ground running. With such a small time in London we wanted to soak up every second of it. Not far from Hyde Park, we walked through there hoping to find our way to Buckingham Palace. We asked for directions along the way and everyone was so friendly and helpful. We’ve found this everywhere so far. Walking along Park Lane was a surreal experience, and I was feeling a bit like the top hat off the Monopoly Board.
My sister in law phoned as we were on our way to say that my niece Sheree who lives in London, couldn’t phone me as I have an Australian phone, so Julie passed on the message to meet Sheree at Ripley’s Believe it or Not. We abandoned our Buckingham Palace mission and went on to meet Sheree instead. Past the Hard Rock Café, seeing signs to Piccadilly Circus and other familiar names was helping it to sink in that we were actually in London. We even came across Mr Bean busking. It was fantastic catching up with Sheree albeit for a fairly short time. Quick cuppa andwe went our separate ways as she hadto work and we had London to explore.
We found our way to a hop on hop off bus and bought a ticket for the day. Weaving our way through the streets of London on an open backed, double decker bus was fantastic. This was London.. My parents were die hard English television fans.. A lot of our viewing as kids was English shows so this all looked so familiar to us and so exciting. We decided to do a round trip and just relax a bit as we’d already walked a fair way through Hyde Park and into the city already, on feet that were swollen and puffy from the long flight. Around 2pm we thought it would be best to go get some lunch, book into our hotel, have a shower and then head back out again but as we waited to get to our stop, the cold and the tiredness started to sink in and we were suddenly freezing cold and starting to get grumpy. We had hit the wall and needed some rest but we didn’t want to go straight to sleep as we needed to get used to the time over here. We found our way back to Marble Arch and after a bit of trial and error found our way to the hotel where we booked in and got that hot shower we were both longing for. Resisting the urge to get straight into pyjamas and go to bed, we got dressed again and went out and explored a bit of the neighbourhood. We found a small café and decided to have a late lunch/early dinner (by this time it was around 4.30pm). Nothing we saw was jumping off the menu saying “eat me” so we went into a take away shop and both ordered a quarter chicken and chips. The guy wrapped it for us (without my gravy that I asked for grrrrr ) and then said very rudely, “if you eat it here I charge you extra” … Okay, so we left and we took our food back to the hotel , kicked off the shoes, put our tired, puffy feet up and ate dinner and watched a bit of tv. We decided that because we hadn’t seen as much of London as we wanted to, we would not go to Bath/Stonehenge next day but would wait until our other cousin Deb, joins us next week. That gave us another day of exploring London and relaxing a bit more. Thankfully we’d already decided not to book till we were in London, so we didn’t have to cancel tickets. By about 6pm we were in bed and I don’t think either of us saw 6.30pm.. We were out like lights. Still it had been a fantastic day and we were in London.. We knew we were two of the luckiest (and tiredest) girls around..