My first surprise was waking up at 3:00 am Toronto time high above the coast of England in the bright morning sun. The billowy white clouds outside my window stretch far off to the horizon of the deep blue sky. I had fallen asleep for a few hours with my headphones on listening to a little jazz while I read a book.
My second shock was stepping out of Heathrow Airport and opening the drivers side of the cab where the passenger seat should be. Does this guy not know his steering wheel is on the wrong side? Is it really safe to ride in his cab?!? He seems to think I'm trying to steal it. Maybe I'm actually still in bed back home and this is all a dream? I'm so tired I feel like it could be. But no, we are here in London England. It's 9am.
Yes it was up and away. We handed over our condo keys to family members eager for a cheap [read free] place to stay in Toronto while we are away. Janet and I are off on a whirlwind trip to London and Paris, to celebrate my retirement and our anniversary.
It's only 9am here at the Hotel Ibis Earls Court. Check in time isn't until 2pm. I ask the porter to please lock up our luggage until then. An older gentleman, he shuffles over. I remember we need to get a few things out. "I'm busy. Couldn't you have done that before?", he snaps. "No, my regrets."
Yum! Airplane Food! [Artists Conception]
Afterwards the porter returns to his chair across the lobby where he sits giving me the evil eye. Absurd. I'm too tired for this. Reminder: must give him a good tip later if he gets our luggage up okay to our room. God knows I can't move it up to the 9th floor with my bad back.
My niece Katrina arrives from across town with her English boyfriend Rob, to greet us. They will be our tour guides for the next six days taking us around on a personal family visit to the city! Nice! Katrina is teaching here now. She's all ready got a long term occasional position. There are lots of jobs unlike back in Ontario where most of her graduating class is unemployed. Welcome to the new millennium.
We had lunch at an English burger joint on a crowded London street not far from the Earls Court Stadium. Talked for hours. Laughing. Catching up on stories. Life. Outside bobbies walk by sporting their distinct helmets and clubs. Heavy police vests. There's a big soccer [football] game today. The lads are spilling out of the pubs onto the sidewalk. Everyone walking up and down the street, beers in hand singing, cheering slapping each other on the back. Later with long faces. Packed two deck buses drive by.
Relaxing high above the Atlantic! [Artists Interpretation]
Katrina and Rob take us to the tube station [subway] to get a pass which allows us to travel freely over the city of London with them for the rest of the week. We stop in a corner store for some beverages. There's all sorts of snack bars I don't recognize, have never seen before. Also liquor + beer. We join a lineup of pretty rough looking skinheads with tattoos, a cauliflower ear or two, broken noses and full regalia. Ha ha ... er. We make plans back at our room to head downtown tomorrow to meet Katrina and Rob late morning, after we have slept in.
The t.v.'s on. We are unpacked. My back aches, I haven't slept more than 3 or 4 hours in the last 36 hours. Janet's all ready asleep in bed. I'm typing my blog. We are here!
PS: Day one is over. All's worked out surprisingly well. Even the porter's our buddy now. Stay tuned! Much more to come ....