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20090426 Sunday in London - Part 1

Testing, testing, 1-2-3.

sunny 58 °F
View Western Europe - Spring 2009 on icufoundme's travel map.

[Sorry about any spelling and grammar issues. I don't have time to edit as much as I'd like. I need my own personal editor. Wouldn't that be nice? ;)]

I didn't want to get out of bed this morning. The sleep aid worked great and I didn't feel groggy. I just felt like I needed one of those "I'm on vacation and I want to lay in bed all day and read and doze and not feel guilty, dammit" sort of feelings.
The hotel was quiet so I figured it's early enough that breakfast hasn't started. I decided to doze until I heard rustling.
I woke with doors opening and closing in the hotel corridor and gave myself a get-up pep-talk bed based on the facts that; breakfast is free and i better get down there before the good stuff is gone; i could just be dealing with jet lag; it's my last day in London and I should go take the bus tour so I can see all the Important sites (After all - I turned down an opportunity to see the Hayden castle for this).

I do a shortened morning ritual and scamper down the 4 flights of stairs (no elevator). I swing open the door to the dining room and the staff is cleaning up. I'm 20 minutes late for breakfast. Gah! I fight the cranky feeling and tell myself it's OK ... that's just an excuse to try a traditional English breakfast after I get my bus ticket. I return to the room to get ready to go out. I watch the London marathon (The aver age age is 36 for women in the marathon. Go girls!) and realize that it runs along part of the bus tour route, so I start to wonder if the tours will even be running today. it's slow-going with a toothache and various other aches. I want to take Advil, but not on an empty stomach. I also don't want to get headachy from lack of food, so I eat some trail mix and cookies and take Advil with tap water. I finally get out the door and head straight to the bus kiosk. They are running alternate routes and returning to regular schedule in the afternoon.
The modified tour is still going by most of the major sites. It takes about 2 hours for the full circuit. I know I want to do postcards and blog stuff in the afternoon or evening, so I
decide to get a snack and coffee and take the modified tour without hopping off. That will give me an idea of what I want to see in more depth. So, I can do internet stuff mid-day after this tour, then take the tour again in the afternoon - hopping off at the sites I want to see more closely.
I cringe at the $30 ticket, but pay it anyway. I realize I only have about 15 pounds left, and I step into one of the many currency exchange kiosks between the ticket stand and the bus stop. I left my US cash in my bag at the hotel (not much), and the tax for using credit is 8% so I walk right back out again. Most places take Visa anyway. I'll get more cash later if I need it, but its not likely since I'm leaving in the morning.

From there, I wander into a "Pasty" shop to grab coffee and food for the bus tour. A young Indian man walks in right after me and as I'm pointing to the slice of Margarita Pizza I want, he says "you hungry? I buy for you" in a thick accent with a huge smile. I say "no, thank you, no" firmly but politely, and he proceeds to insist repeatedly until the other people and the clerk are getting upset waiting. i can see he will not back down so i make the mistake of showing my acquiescing nature by backing down for the sake of those waiting. [Thereby passing the "sucker" test.]

I take the slice, thank him and walk out the door suspecting it's not going to be that easy. i also didn't fail to notice that i just walked out of the cash exchange next door and didn't see him - he seemed to appear out of thin air. but i'm trying not to be too jaded. although... the food tactic would be a classic maneuver to establish that he has his own money to lower my guard, and make me feel indebted so i'll be more open to talking with him.
Sure enough, he is on my heels chatting me up. all outward signs say 'nice enough' but my instincts say to keep my guard up, so i do.

the bus stop is right across the street, so I'll be rid of him soon enough.
I give the tour operator my ticket and bid my farewell. he stands there and says "i go too?" when i say no, he just looks dejected. i climb to the top open level of the bus and wait for the tour to begin. The engine starts and I've got the headset plugged in. Its nice and sunny but cool, and I'm happy to finally be here - and about to finally eat. When... guess who comes galloping toward me waving and smiling. You guessed it. In my mind... "oh, crap. here we go.". he plops down next to me and and the bus takes off.


He was fine the first few stops. i ignored him pointing to my headphones when he spoke and looking through my camera taking pictures - not responding when he tried to catch my eye. i kept a close watch on my things. as i suspected, his behavior devolved over the course of the tour.
[For those who don't know me as well, I should give a bit of background here. I make an effort to be "open" when meeting someone new. This often triggers the "sucker alert" in predators when they do an initial boundary test. So, I have to deal with their silly games often. The lighter side of this same coin is that I meet a lot of amazing, kind and wonderful people I would not know otherwise. So, it's worth the trouble to me.]

I've dealt with enough manipulative and/or predatory types to hold my own in most cases. the wildcards are the sociopathic types. they decide they want something and go after it with no sense of boundaries, values, morals, guilt, or conscience. all you can do is hope they are less intelligent so you can find a way to manipulate their view of what they wanted. if they are smart - you're pretty much screwed. the best you can do is control the timing of when they find out they are not really getting what they wanted so you can be in a position to protect yourself from their wide range of potential reactions.

Unfortunately that is exactly what I found myself dealing with here. I kept a watchful and wary eye, ignored, evaded, distracted him. A quiet war was going on with me protecting my boundaries. I was mentally/emotionally exhausting but I was not in any real danger thanks to the environment.
On top of this, my camera battery died after about 20 minutes. After I switched to the spare, the camera complained that it was a non-Sony battery and shut off. I was livid! So, I resigned to get back to the area i am familiar with if I could tolerate him that long. i knew he would follow me off the bus wherever we stopped - and at least there, i know the area well. so, if he reacts badly when i tell him to piss off, or if he tries to follow me, i know right where to find the cops. i don't think he would do anything that dramatic, but you can't be too careful with a sociopath. if he bugs me too much in the mean time i'll have the tour guide kick him off the bus.

I won't go into details here - it would take too long, but we arrive at my stop without any incident beyond extreme annoyance. Although, I have a feeling he will act up when he realizes it's really the end of the line for him. (I can't quite tell if he's just unstable emotionally or mentally, or if he's on drugs.) After getting off the bus, i told him goodbye firmly and walked away and he did the expected "no, no, you stay - we have dinner" "i buy". and i wasn't surprised when it devolved to the scene he has been waiting to make: "i love you, no leave" "you beautiful" "please - one kiss", etc. and getting in my personal space so i have to push him away or back up. Instead of backing away, i push him away, then he acts like i'm hurting him to see if i will become apologetic.
when i didn't play into his act, and i just turned and walked away, he became angry and lurched at me, grabbing my arm. i'm sure i had murder in my eyes when i snarled "if you touch me, if you follow me - i'm calling the police! you understand me?!" and yanked my wrist out of his grip. he froze and i could see the conflict. the anger instinct fighting with reason. Trying to weigh the options. I was NOT bluffing and he was thankfully smart enough to see that. So, he chose the self-preservation route and his demeanor shifted instantly. he giggled sheepishly, "i only play" "i like you" " why you no like me?" "its ok - no problem, no problem". Then, he disappeared as quickly as he appeared.
His name was Asshat. (OK, not really - but it's fitting. And the name he told me sounded made-up so I didn't bother to remember it. But I took a picture of him as soon as he showed up on the bus originally - for a bit of added insurance.)

I was exhausted and pissed off and I needed to get my camera battery charged as much as possible so I could come back and take the afternoon tour and actually get some pictures this time. It was no longer something I just wanted - it was a mission. Things have been wonky all day and I'm not staying down, dammit! I watched my back the whole way home. Stuck to populated routes and zig-zagged to make sure I was not being followed.

Once home (aka hotel), I was so darn tired I decided that a nap was in order while the battery charged. I knew I should be doing postcards or blogging, but they will have to wait until tonight or tomorrow.

I get comfy clothes on and rinse my face. I go to the shared bathroom and before I leave, I blow my nose. Luck of luck, that starts one of my marathon nose bleeds. Can this day get better? Geez. It's bleeding so bad I'm not sure how to get back to the room without making a huge mess. I eventually make my way back and sit with my head over the little sink in my room for about 20 minutes before it slows down. I try to move to the desk chair, and it starts up again unexpectedly, staining my jeans, and it's about another 10 minutes before it slows and stops. I lay down - grateful that at least I'm in the hotel instead of on a tour bus dealing with this. And I fall into fitful sleep. Its afternoon when i wake. The battery is still charging. It takes me a while to get out of bed. I don't want another nose bleed so I'm being extra cautious. I'm hungry, but I'm determined to get that second bus tour before i leave for Dublin tomorrow. I pack up and head out.

When I arrive, the bus tour operator says that line has stopped for the day. Wow, I slept a lot more than I thought! (Earlier, he told me the buses run until 8:30). Apparently they are ending earlier today due to the marathon. He says i can walk a few blocks to the other station and take the sister tour which goes to most of the same sights. it won't come back to this stop though - it will stop in Piccadilly Circus. i resolve to go anyway and find my way back to Victoria station by tube.

I am hungry, cold, and tired, but determined. There are many different buses with different stops, so I pass the spot i need to be by a city block, then have to go back. i wait. and i wait. many buses come and go. one driver that came by for the second time asked what I was waiting for, and when i told him, he said, "oh, the last of those left at 5:21". So, I basically just missed it when I overshot the station by a block. Nice.

Now, I'm really fighting the urge to give in. But I decide to get myself a nice meal - maybe fish 'n' chips or meat pie. I wander into "The Shakespeare" and they put me at a table in the center of the dining room. There is only one other table in the center. 4 French tourists are there talking about me, i can only assume by their sideways glances. I'm sure they are saying how much they love my scarf. ahem.


It was about 20 minutes before they took my order. A pint and a meat pie dinner. Mmm, I cant wait. Thankfully, in the time i was waiting to order - I remembered I had the book "Eat, Pray, Love" in my backpack. As I'm reading it - the author is talking about her depression and her failed marriage and confusion and its just waaay too close to home. And my eyes keep welling up and I'm praying not to cry. Not here - not now. Thankfully the author is tactful at placing sarcastic jokes right in the places I'm about to lose my composure. *whew*.

My food finally arrives and its delicious. I'm so grateful. Then, as i'm about 2/3 into the meat pie I just happen to look more closely at a forkful of meat pie I was about to shove in my face... and there is a long thick black hair hanging there and I close my eyes for a moment and reopen them to make sure I'm not dreaming, it just seems so ridiculous at this point. Sure enough. I set the fork on the plate and push it away. I wasn't really hungry any more anyway. *sigh*. I go back to reading for a bit. I think to myself that i'm grateful that I have a book and a pint, so I pull my glass toward me and as I'm about to take a swig, I see a tiny fly there swimming his little heart out... drowning in ale. and i can't help but laugh at how ridiculous this is getting. I use my butter knife to fish him out and give him a second lease on life.


It's another 20 minutes or so until they come to my table to see If i'm done. I just want to leave at this point. I pay and walk out. Smiling at the cliche of "i should have just stayed in bed". I'm actually looking forward to getting to McDonald's and connecting with the world I'm familiar with for a little bit. I've absolutely HAD IT with London at this point and I'm looking forward to leaving for Dublin tomorrow.


Posted by icufoundme 12:05 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

20090423/4 First Day in Europe - London (Part 2)

The first Pint is the deepest.

View Western Europe - Spring 2009 on icufoundme's travel map.

After I sent my last post, my computer died before I could get the pictures uploaded. So, I packed up my laptop and walked down to the spot where Victoria station lets out. I was hoping to get a bus tour booked for tomorrow at the tour kiosk. They were just closing up, and gave me a brochure. As far as I can tell, I could walk the same route, and the difference would be the walking time, and the tour guide giving a bit of history. If I decide to go ahead with it - I can come back in the morning. The buses leave every 15 minutes. Its hop-on / hop-off.

[Update: The full size images are now posted at http://icufoundme.shutterfly.com/]

By the station, there is a little corridor shopping center with booths selling tourist collectors items. I bought some post cards and postage and eyeballed an army green silk paisley scarf for 2.99. Maybe I'll pick it up tomorrow.

The temperature is dropping and the breeze is cool. It reminds me very much of Santa Cruz weather. It's all about the layers. I put on my first of 2 sweaters tied around my waist.
It's about 5pm and the workers are filling the pubs. Time for my first pint in London.

I walk to the end of the block where I see what I assumed to be a pub. It turns out to be the Balls Brothers wine bar. I took a picture and walked back the direction of my hotel resolved that my first drink will be a pint of ale ;)


I come across "The Duke of York" and ask the barkeep to recommend a pale ale. He says "light or dark"? I choose dark, and he gives me IPA. I wander the pub and there are no seats. A nice gentleman named Jason offers me his stool, so I take a seat. I talk with him and his friend Tom for about 45 minutes as I finish my pint. I can't believe I forgot to get pictures. Well, I have Jason's email, so hopefully he will post a picture.


After that Pint, I continue down the street - stopping in a couple of ladies clothing stores that were very reasonable. Beautiful things, but nothing I need, obviously.

I really enjoy the small day-to-day differences between cultures. One of my favorite things to do is browse around grocery stores. I stopped in Sainsbury's to pick up snacks for later at the hotel, and took a bunch of pictures of things that amused me. Those who worked with me at SurfControl will recognize the Yorkie bars I used to have at my desk sometimes; "Not for girls!". Hahaha! Gin and Tonic in a can - nice!


After leaving the store, I come across "The and decide to have another pint. This barkeep picks up on my accent right away, and when I ask for a pint of ale - he tells me that they call lager "beer", and ale "bitters". So, I ask him to recommend a bitter, and he asks me "large or small". I say "pint", baffled. Then , I notice that lots of people are drinking beers from tiny glasses like ones I'm used to seeing at restaurants serving orange juice or milk with breakfast. A half pint, I assume.
He pours me a lovely pint of "London Pride". Nobody speaks to me the whole time I'm there except some tourists from Louisiana who agree to take a picture for me. I took a short video of the pub scene for anyone interested.


Overall, it seems that Londoners aren't particularly friendly unless you press yourself on them, then they open up. I suppose it's the same most places. The few friendlies I met were from outside London proper, and emphatically agreed that they had the same conclusion.

London actually reminds me of New York a bit. During the day - the city is all business. People racing around in expensive trendy clothing, pushing and shoving to get to the important places they are headed. Its very multinational. And there are obvious divides - and in some cases animosities - between the cultures. But for the most part... people are just people like they are anywhere.

After that last pint, it was my favorite time of day for photos - the golden hour and evening. I had a second wind and walked down Victoria Street toward the River Thames. I spent the time until dark taking photos of Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Methodist Central Hall, and a bit of The Houses of Parliament and The Eye of London.


In my photos, I keep cutting the very top off of my subjects. Dang. I try to get as far away as I can, and zoom out as far as I can, but It seems like I just can't seem to get a little space at the top of the building images. I'm the ultimate tourist here - climbing up on fences, standing in streets, crouching under trees with my camera to get the pictures. Heh.

Well, its getting chilly and I'm Hungry, so I head back to the Hotel.
There's a subway in an alley by the hotel so I get a warm Italian Sandwich to go.

After I'm safe and warm back in my room, I eat and take half of one of the sleep aid pills my doctor gave me for the trip (Zolpidem). Dessert is dark Choco Liebniz abd whole milk - mmmm!
I charge my laptop grateful that I bought that $5 universal plug converter from Amazon.com.


I was already exhausted today. Now I can't keep my eyes open a minute longer.

Good night world!

Posted by icufoundme 06:05 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

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