Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Jet Lag and First Impressions

Whew!  Jumping across multiple time zones ain't easy, especially when your flight leaves at 1PM and arrives just after 7AM.  So the first thing was getting off the plane at Heathrow, jumping through all the hoops (hooray customs!), and getting situated for heading downtown.  Like SF International Heathrow is blessed with a lovely high-speed rail line that runs from the airport right into the heart of downtown London at Paddington Station.
 Heathrow Express
Unlike the BART, which shrieks like a thousand very angry cats in heat (don't believe me?  Ask ANY Bay Area resident), the Heathrow Express moves like a whisper and even faster getting from the airport to the heart of London in an easy 20 minutes.  From there it was a quick hop on the Underground to Lembath North, just up the street from the hostel to the lovely surprise of seeing California weather has followed me to the UK.

Just Outside Lambeth North Tube Station

After getting situated in the hostel (located conveniently right over a pub) I went out for a little walk to help wake up, get used to the time jump, and see the sights.  After all, what's the point of flying out to the UK if all you're going to do is sit in a pub all day?  Walking the streets of Lambeth & Southwark gave a good sense of the neighborhood: calm, quiet, and not terribly busy although one could say that about any neighborhood on a Wednesday afternoon outside of Hong Kong.  The area is definitely one of the nicer parts of town and probably has been for a while, judging by the Archbishop of Cantebury's pad at Lambeth Palace.

Lambeth Palace

From there it was a short hop over the Lambeth Bridge to Parliament Square and THE most iconic building in London: the Houses of Parliament.

 The Houses of Parliament

Just outside the grounds were the Victoria Gardens, one of many in the city.  Like San Francisco London has a LOT of parks, open spaces, and green belts.

Victoria Gardens

Waterloo Millenium Green

 Just next door to the famous Houses of Parliament was the equally famous Parliament Square, one of the oldest public spaces of its kind in Western Europe. 

Parliament Square

A vast, beautiful open space Parliament Square plays host to Londoners enjoying the day, high-powered suits looking very busy and important, tourists enjoying the sites, and as one would expect in any such public space concerned citizens expressing controversial opinions.

 British peace activists calling for the release of Shaker Aamer, a British citizen detained in Guantanamo Bay without charges

Just around the corner is the ancient and famous Westminster Abbey, the place where kings have been crowned since before the signing of the Magna Carta.  An impressive facade it had an even more impressive line which put something of a damper on seeing the place today; nothing more tiring than standing around waiting for something when your body is still convinced it's 1AM in spite of the sun's opinion to the contrary!

Westminster Abbey

And so it is time to head back to the hostel and catch up on the rest my body is urgently reminding me I'm supposed to be getting.  At least crashing through the flight then walking around the city should get me past the worst of it, making tomorrow and the rest of the trip more than worth the fuzzy-headedness of the flight.

Just this side of awake and ready to take on the city!

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