London July and October 2002

Travel diary (non-fiction).

Thursday 18 July 2002

The flight BA783 was scheduled 20.55 (SE time)-22.30 (UK time). Already 2 h before take off a ten minutes delay was announced. That's not a good sign, but ten minutes is ok. However, we were further delayed at Arlanda, seated quite a long time, for a reason that was impossible to hear in the loudspeakers (loudspeakers hmmm...). The time was actually 21.55 at take off. I read Evening standard on the flight, about the 24 h strike in the underground which started on Wednesday 20.00, talking about how people managed or not to go to work. 24 h, that meant it should be over when I come to London. I enjoyed the cheese- and ham sandwich, the coffee and cake, it is relaxing to eat 10 000 m above earth!

The flight was comfortable and we landed 2:10 later, ie 23.05 UK time. When we left the plane heading for Baggage reclaim, following the signs both for claim for Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. After a bit of walking, most of the light was turned off and it was semi darkness. Suddenly, there were two ways, one for Baggage reclaim terminal 2 and one for Flight connections. The ordinary should be 1 for us, but who really knows where you landed? People in front of me, some turned left to Baggage reclaim terminal 2 and some straight forward... after a bit of consideration I turned left as it was more light that way. After a few stair I and a few other were concerned and turned around. It appeared to be the right decision. This late, there wasn't any staff to ask. The rest was straight forward.

Heading for the Underground, coming there it was closed due to strike! Obviously it didn't work after 24 hours. I had seen an ad-sign for Heathrow Express that last train was bound at 23.32 and the time was now 23.35... anyway, together with some other I headed for the Express, but coming closer there was a a lady who had just turned around because the last train had already left. Turning around again in company with some other swedes... the options were a taxi or find a bus to city... well well...

I went for the latter option. The good things: it was a warm summer night. It was not raining. I was on vacation. The night bus was cheap, only £1.00, less than a third of the Underground.

There wasn't many to ask at the bus station, but there was one or another bus driver and someone here and there who had heard something, and the conclusion was that we should take the night bus N9 to city, leaving a few minutes before midnight. We (me and other in the same situation...) checked around and got the same message, looking at the stops for N9 while waiting. An Englishman told me the best was to change to another bus at Hammersmith, it appeared to be a big bus station. But while waiting, I found it should stop at Kensington High street U-station and there I would have walking distance, not too bad considering the situation! While waiting... the bus didn't show up until about 00.30, for unknown reason. I asked the driver if he would call out the stop, yes..., but I didn't ever hear any call out. It wasn't easy for any to know where we were. And the bus was crowded. I understood I was pretty close and it was a bit less crowded and I managed to make my way to the driver, and stayed there, and he told me when it was my stop. About 01.30 I left the bus and walked to the hotel, about ten minutes walk in the London night on quite empty streets, to be sure I was right I checked on the map. So, about 01.50 I was finally in my room!

This year I got room 44, first time on the highest floor. In fact, this year when I decided to only stay one night I got a good room to be this hotel. Quiet to the back yard, a wide bed and a toilet seat where it was possible for me to sit, not very relaxed but possible which is better than some other rooms. The night went quickly dreaming about the experiences and soon it was morning and time for the breakfast!

Friday 19 July 2002

So, after breakfast at Oliver's and a lazy morning, I took the underground (now working) to next hotel, St Giles, even more central. The rest of the day was walking, long time in bookstores and also a long visit to National Portrait Museum at Trafalgar, and a short visit to National gallery, both are free. Huge museums! And impressing buildings, hasn't thought that much of them when I have walked outside many times. I had also lunch at the same square, in the crypts of St Martin's in the field- potato soap and apple crunch with vanilla sauce. I had an evening walk as well round Covent garden and Leichester square, but I was really tired.

Saturday 20 July 2002

Around 8 O'clock I went to the food store for juice, yoghurt etc to prepare breakfast in the hotel room. I rested a bit more before I headed for Camden town. I joined a guided walk with Judith (she guessed I was a swede) for two hours. Dickens has lived in the area, so has Dylan Thomas shortly. And Bob Dylan likes to shop there. very much to look at in the market, so later I had a good lunch at Montmatre, a french restaurant. Cyberdog was an interesting clothes store. I took the underground to the south side of London, to Brixton, to this multiculti area, maybe dominated by Caribbean&African. Much market and small shops. Strange to see the shopping of raw meet or fish, next door to a clothes store. And very much music. There was a 24 h funeral service. There were many clothes I could have bought but maybe never used, and a bit expensive for me (maybe not for the design). The hotel has a fitness centre and I tried it for the first time, swam 500 m and relaxed in the sauna. In the evening I took the train to Blackfriar's, walked the bridge, passed Tate Modern and Shakespeare's Globe, sat down for the salad I had brought with me. I continued the walk on the south bank before I took the Millenium bridge over the river Thames. This was the first time I saw the bridge open, wondering what they have done to stabilise it to make it safe for the public? I came up at St Paul's took the train and walked around in the Leichester square area before I returned home, very tired.

Sunday 21 July 2002

I started with buying an yoghurt, having breakfast in the room, having a slow morning before I went to Museum of London. It didn't open in another 30 min, it was a bit cold but happily had their café already opened, so I sat down there. I walked the museum for two hours, continued to St Paul's cathedral nearby where I walked to the crypts to buy postcards and had a soup lunch. To my surprise, the cathedral was also open without fee, maybe because there was an service. I stayed and listened for a while. I walked the Millenium bridge the opposite direction to yesterday, and walked into Tate modern. I didn't walk all the museum, too much time for museums for a single day! I continued to London bridge trying to find a nice pub for fish & chips, but failed. So I went to Burger King close to the hotel instead... In the evening I walked in the area around the hotel, and had a coffee with a fig-and banana muffin, late, which probably was a reason for the problems to sleep the last night.

Monday 22 July 2002

I slept a little longer than I intended. But around 7.30 I bought food in the shop nearby, than I took the elevator don to the fitness centre for 1 km swimming. Fine start of a day! Breakfast in my room, packing etc and I was prepared for walking around 11.00. I walked to Borders bookstore and bought a magazine, a quick look into Foyle's an almost to my disappointment they were refurbishing the store, this old traditional store. I continued to Piccadilly and bought some more books, all three from authors I have read earlier. I walked Regent St and took Oxford all the way to Hyde Park, the back via some shops. But I also turned a few quarters north to less busy streets, and stopped at the pub Cambridge for fish and chips lunch. I strolled back to the Starbuck's close to my hotel before I got my luggage and set my way to Heathrow. While waiting for departure I met Paul from the job. I was back at my home around 1.00 in the morning!

Tuesday 1 Oct 2002

So! Now I'm sitting here again at Hotel Oliver! Well, I've been back home for two and a half month since last time. Today I took flight FR53 from Skavsta to Standsted, a really low budget ticket! Everything went well with only a minor delay. The time is 21.30, and the night portier smokes and talks to a buddy in a foreign language. No, I don't meant English, it is an even less understandable language (less by me). Feels as home in Norsan! I just had meal of pineapple yoghurt while reading Korsvägar (Cross roads), the chapter by Tomas Wennström about the close connection between the countryside/small town/villages and the big city suburbs- interesting.

In Camden wasn't all shops open, it was Tuesday and quite late. Anyhow, I bought another leather belt from David Bristow, it was really bargain price. Maybe the last one I buy from him as he close down his shop. Oh, what many strange things there are in Camden! And people with different more and less strange looks and outfits. But it feels friendly. Felt as I was the only one in ordinary clothes. I looked at really fun trousers for 900 kr, tempted to buy. Afterwards, after some Asian food, I went to Aldgate and Whitechapel, but almost everything was closed and it was dark outside.

When I checked in, Katherine recognized me directly, nice, and I also got room 44 as I had asked for, even if it was for two persons. At a price even lower than last time!

Wednesday 2nd October 2002

My only full day in London this time! To make it more complicated, it was time for another 24 h underground strike in all London (actually started yesterday evening). Therefore I walked more than usual. And explored some of the bus routes.

I started by walking northwards to High Street Kensington, Notting Hill and Portobello Road. I had a coffee in Coffee republic (I think it was there), the coffee shop where you get the newspaper for free. I sat a long time reading and watching people, not at least some girls sitting for a very long time, they appeared to be either mothers or any children care. I had lunch in a pub, but it was a low mark, especially the mashed potatoes.

Later on I took bus 74 to Marble Arch, I walked Oxford St eastward, down on Regent St (you see, the classic tourist route!) down to Waterstone's bookstore at Piccadilly. Tired in my legs from all walking, bear in mind I had run Lidingöloppet 30 km cross-country at the weekend! I walked in the Leichester square area and coffee at Starbuck's before I took bus 14 and 74 back to the hotel. This trip was really slow! Oh yes, I jumped of the bus at Sainsbury's 24 h store to buy some cookies and other good things for the stomach.

Thursday 3rd October 2002

As soon as the traditional breakfast, egg(s), cornflakes, juice, coffee and toast was eaten, I walked to the Science museum this sunny day. This museum is one of all with no fee, so it was possible to do a quick visit for an hour. I concentrated on air crafts and telecom/electronics. But the latter was a disappointment, I remember it as very much more comprehensive. Now, when the underground was working again. I took it to Leichester square, after I had bought a book in the museum book store. I went to the National gallery at Trafalgar square, no entrance fee. I started at the museum last time, but it was so much I hadn't time to explore, now I had another hour to see relatively much. Then, I crossed the road to the crypts of the church St Martin's for a soup lunch. Heading back to the hotel to collect my baggage and a final instant cup of coffee before I went to Stansted to catch FR56 for my return to Svedala.

Henrik Hemrin

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Updated 27th of February 2003.