We got on a plane. It was 5:45 pm. Then for six hours we sat. It. Ever got dark. Then we got off the plane (in the middle of the airfield) and it was 6:45 the next morning.
Flying to Iceland is weird.
Iceland Air has many, many planes. Reykjavik has about 6 gates. Their solution is to offload you in the middle of the tarmac and load you on a bus and drive you, dodging planes and ground crew the entire way, to the terminal.
Then, if you are catching a connecting flight like we were, you line up at a gate, they load you back on a bus and then drive you all the way back to the middle of the tarmac and load you on the plane right beside the one you just got off of. Presumably you luggage just took the more efficient route of transiting the 100 feet between cargo holds.
Then it was 3 hours to Gatwick and the end of any peace and quiet. London is a loud place. With all the go, go, go you don’t notice it until you head down a quiet university lane and the sudden cessation of the constant cacophony wraps around you like a comforting blanket.
Arriving at Gatwick, you are processed in a classic hurry-up-and-wait system that rushers you through the airport and spits you out in the terminal lobby. We wandered over to the airport concierge and bought Oyster passes for the transit system and 2 tickets for the Gatwick express to Victoria Station. Then a quick transfer to the Undergoumd and we were crossing the street in Kensington to our hotel.
It’s a small room on the 3rd floor of an old Edwardian row house. There are a lot of old Edwardian row houses. Or at least what I think are old Edwardian row houses. But what do I know about row houses? They could be Georgian row houses for all I know…but I like the ring of Edwardian row houses so there you go.
We dumped our stuff, grabbed a quick shower and went for pizza and prosecco. At this point it was 3 pm local time and I hadn’t slept so we decided one of those hop-on,hop-off bus tours would be just the ticket for staying awake until evening.
So for four hours we looped around London listening to a travelogue, seeing all the main sites and picking up tidbits like Mews were old back alleys for the carriage houses and most of what I think of London is actually Westminster.
Breakfast in the basement and we walked down to the Imperial College to check out L’s conference site. Then it was the tube to Westminster and we hopped on a one-way river tour which had been included with yesterday’s bus tickets.
We saw the river side and disembarked at the Tower of London. It’s way bigger than I imagined. Somehow it’s never really represented as a fortress but it really is. We decided against the 20 pound tickets and just walked around. It certainly makes more sense now that I’ve seen it. Especially the riverside…
Then we ducked into All Hallows Church. Standing their gazing at the ceiling we were approached by an older gentleman that invited us to stay for a pipe organ concert in about 15 minutes. We had a chat about the history of the place. Apparently it was bombed out in the war and when it was rebuilt the ceiling and supports were cast from concrete due to all the shortages in lumber etc after the war. Apparently houses cont first priority on building materials. Makes sense but it’s one of those “aftermath” things we rarely think about.
It had a small crypt with some Roman artifacts and the obligatory diorama. I love dioramas. This one looked remarkable similar to the one in Trier but I suppose that’s not surprising as the Romans were distinctly unimaginative when it came to designing new towns.
Upstairs the organ recital had started so we sat in the pews for a bit and took in the Schumann and Bach and enjoyed the cool air and free wifi.
Christopher Wren’ St Paul’s was on my list so we decided to walk there next. Unlike every other church we have explored this one had a 20 pound admission. But it was on the list so we coughed up the cash and wandered in.
It was unlike any other cathedral I’d seen. The closest in feel was St Andrews in Bordeaux, but it had much cleaner lines and little of the gothic left. There was a concert scheduled for that evening so we were treated to some strings and pipe organ as the musicians practiced. No photos allowed in the cathedral so I sneaked a few.
Exiting the cathedral we wandered down Fleet Street and decided to grab a meal. I spotted a small pub and we popped in. As far as I could tell we were the only tourists in the place.
Apparently English pub etiquette is to line up at the bar and order your drink and food. When it’s time for a refill you queue up again with your empty and exchange it for a new pint. The beer is mostly warm which was a fact I had forgot about the English. L had two ciders and I tried a couple of local ales. Pretty good stuff.
It was much different than I expected. At first it seemed little more than a giant Bay with endless cosmetics but after we headed up a few floors it started to regain a bit of its mystique. Eventually they kicked us out and we walked home and zonked out for the night.