Europe Day 1

Europe Day 1

My first day as a European was very long. I guess the day really started when I got on my flight at around midnight London time (6pm UVa time). The flight was above expectations. LCDs in the back of the headrests with about 20 channels of stuff to choose from. I watched “Shrek” for the first time and the end of “I am Sam” again. Dinner was good along with my beer. I was hoping the beer act as a sedative and put me to sleep through the rest of the plane ride. To some extent that worked and I slept on and off for about three hours. Then breakfast was served; nothing fancy but met my expectations. Finally, I landed in Hethrow a little after 7 AM London time. I made it through customs and eventually found my baggage. Apparently somebody takes your baggage off the baggage claim and puts it with the rest of the baggage for this Virgin flight. That took me a while to figure out.
Upstairs I found “Hotelink” which would give me a ride to my hostel and waited for the next bus to pick me up. While waiting I thought it would be wise to exchange some money. The money exchange people don’t seem to want to take Credit Cards and constantly point me to the ATMs. This seems somewhat stupid to me, but this is how it works in London. Rather than take any money out, I took the $25 I had in my wallet and exchanged it without commission for a little over 13 pounds. That was somewhat disheartening – almost 1:2 conversion rate.
My ride came and I was on my way to my hostel. After almost an hour of shuttling everybody else to their hotels, I was last to get off at St. Christopher’s Inn. I went in and was told that I couldn’t check in until 2pm. So I went into the “Chill Out” room and read/napped until then. After checking in, I immediately shaved, showered, brushed my teeth, and changed into some long pants and shirt.
Now it was time to explore London. I wanted to first be sure to find where I had to meet on Saturday at 6pm. So that is where I headed; to Russell Square. After a confusing start, I began to figure out the roads of London. Everybody drives on the left side of the road, and on top of that one way streets confuse me. Road signs are up high on the buildings, not on posts on the corner. Not all streets have street signs. Road names change even if you are on the same road. Cars will not slow for pedestrians. Motorcycles and scooters can ride between cars or pass anywhere they can find room. But the one nice thing was that at each cross walk the road was labeled with which way to look as to not get run over by traffic.
After walking briskly for about an hour I made it to my destination. I was tired and looking for some rest. But none was to be found. I asked the Contiki lady for a map of London and some ideas of things to do the following day. She said I should do the sightseeing bus and check into my hotel and meet the Contiki crew at 6pm the following day. After this I was back out on the street looking for some dinner. Around 4pm now and I finally decided I would give in and eat at a Subway. A BMT with a small drink was about 5 pounds. Insane I thought, that was probably $9 right there on a crappy sandwich. Well, I guess I should get used to everything being expensive. Now I was on quest to find a jacket. It seems that short bursts of rain here is common and temperatures around 50 F were the norm. Combine a little wind a rain and it isn’t too pleasant. So I need to find a jacket. After walking and checking out some more stores, I found nothing suitable and headed back home.
I finally made it home after 6pm and thought I would take a nap. I napped for about 2 hours, then another 2 hours. Then I thought I would get up but I was still pretty tired. So I changed and slept some more. I slept until 7am. Now I think I am on schedule with London time. I walked to the nearest train station and checked out how to buy a subway ticket then had a traditional English breakfast. The food was alright and cost me 3 pounds. A bit expensive for the small breakfast. Nevertheless, it was about the cheapest breakfast I found and would have to do.
After heading back to my hostel, I packed up my things and am now ready to explore London again. Today, I plan to do the sightseeing tour bus, find a coat, do the whole English tea thing (even though I hate tea), and check into my hotel after riding the subway. Looks like a fun filled day.

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Jason Lund

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