It's about noon Wednesday. Yesterday was a long day in London. I was beat when I finally got back to the hostel, so I didn't write in my journal until today. Yesterday I got up at about 5:00am to shave my head and by 6:00am I was out the door heading towards Gloucester square to get on the Oxford Tube. I bought an £8 day return ticket and found myself in London at about 7:30am. The Oxford Tube is a very nice bus line. A double-decker with a rest room on board. I got to sit on the upper deck in the front row next to the forward windows! The rising sun was right in my face most of the time. As we traveled towards London I decided to get off the Oxford Tube at the Marble Arch. The Marble Arch is a Roman style arch sitting in the square where it was once used as a gallows. I spent about 15 minutes in the square.
I spent about an hour or so walking towards Trafalgar square. Walking around London is an adventure itself. On some streets, like getting over to the Marble Arch, you take a subway. A London subway is an underground pedestrian path to safely traverse busy streets. Subways, as well as Underground's have nice, detailed maps of the surrounding streets to help verify course and direction.
I got down to Trafalgar Square at about 9:00am or so. When I showed up a group of official looking people were systematically feeding the pigeons and spraying down the square. There were very few people in the square so I took the opportunity to take several pictures. Nelson's column dominates the square, he is guarded by four lions. Down the street you can see Big Ben, but for my camera, it's not a clear shot. I hung out in Trafalgar for about half an hour.
Right off the square is the National Gallery and St. Martin-In-The-Fields. As more and more people were filling the square I headed over to St. Martin-In-The-Fields. It was only 9:30am, but they left me in to wander around. As I walked around there were still people cleaning up some areas from the 9:00am service. I didn't take any pictures while I walked around because I knew I early and didn't want to look like an absolute tourist.
After wandering around St. Martin-In-The-Fields I headed over to the National Gallery. It was a few minutes before they opened so I snapped a few pictures of Trafalgar from the elevated position from the gallery. When I entered into the National gallery I made a £2 donation to get a CD-ROM and player of detailed information of nearly every painting. I'm glad I used the player, it helped immensely. I immediately headed towards the Sainsbury Wing. There are 17 rooms displaying mostly secular artwork from 1260 - 1510, from Leonardo da Vinci, Uccello, van Eyck, Botticelli, Raphael, Bellini and Piero della Francesca. I could easily spent another half day in the National Gallery, and given enough time tomorrow I will likely revisit. Sometime in the afternoon I was really hungry. Walking the National Gallery is mentally exhausting and it was becoming more difficult to concentrate. I left the Gallery in search of a small deli for a quick lunch. London is great for food. You can probably count 50 deli's and restaurants within a click of any particular spot in London, well at least in Westminster!
I walked into a shop/deli and bought some chicken curry and rice. It was major cheap, only a couple of pounds. I still had a bottle of water so I took my food down to Trafalgar Square where there were many people now hanging out, feeding pigeons... I ate quickly. There were quite a few tourists nearby feeding the pigeons and getting them agitated and flying around.
I decided to head down to Victoria station to figure out where to pick up the Oxford Tube. I walked by a nice little park off Trafalgar Square towards Victoria. On the way I happened to be wondering where I could locate an Internet cafe when I happened to notice I was practically standing in front of one! I spent about 3 hours there checking e-mail and getting the new pictures off my camera. Their main technical person was a guy from Texas. He was very helpful and we figured out that my disk with the 95/98/ME drivers is bad. Fortunately we located the drivers on the internet, thanks Olympus!
Apollo Hosting is still having some issues. I still cannot create directories and upload files via FTP. Hopefully Apollo Hosting will step up to the plate and fix the problem. After opening another ticket and updating the information my 3 hours were over, I hope to head back tomorrow to see if they have fixed the problem. Juniper has not sent the PIN yet either. My estimates are my US $ cash will run out sometime in late May or early June. I hope Charley gets the PIN in the mail this week.
After leaving the cafe I continued my walk towards Victoria station. I had thought I had found the stop where I needed to pick up the Oxford Tube. It was still pretty early and I had some good light so I decided to walk towards Big Ben and Westminster. Westminster was closed, the abbey is remarkable with great flying buttresses, tall stained glass windows and incredible spires. The sight can make a weak man consider becoming religious. I took a few pictures of Westminster and then noticed Big Ben and Parliament was well backlit for a few pictures, which I managed to take.
I then made my way across Westminster bridge, across the Thames. I tried to take another picture of Big Ben and Parliament but it was getting too dark for my little camera. I definitely want to visit the great abbey tomorrow. After crossing the bridge I passed the London Eye and hung a left.. walking next to the river for a few kilometers. Then I took another bridge across the Thames.
It was getting a little late so I decided to try to pick up an Oxford bus. I thought I was at the correct bus stop, but discovered later that I wasn't. I must have spent an hour or so waiting.. and no bus. I decided to make my way back down to Victoria Station and after asking a few people I finally located the bus stop. I got back to the hostel at about 11:00pm. I ate a few snickers and had a few cokes before I headed to bed. This morning I have a few things to do so I'm signing off for now.
OK, back here in the hostel after doing some errands. I first had to do some currency exchange since I spent all the money I exchanged at Heathrow. I walked around downtown checking exchange rates for an hour or so. Banks, post offices and travel agencies including American Express and the like have a shitty exchange rate. Most are very close to the rates out at the airport, over 1.5! I found a travel place in town, right next to Gloucester Square that was under 1.5, so I used them. Tomorrow I'll be checking out the exchange rates while I walk around London.
I'm also planning to stay three nights in Stratford-upon-avon before I head out to Wales, the town of Bangor. I also plan to call Virgin Atlantic Express as well, to book my flight to Berlin, Germany on my way to Praha. One of the guys I met here gave Praha a big thumbs up and told me I'd live like a king! I also ran over to the Internet cafe to check e-mail, no news from Charley concerning Juniper. No real information from Apollo Hosting except they have escalated my ticket so maybe someone will figure out why I can't create directories and FTP upload. I then walked back to the hostel where I've been hanging out.