London Diary: Day One (#130)

T-12 hours: I check the forecast for London:LondonForecast

So much for, “Oh, to be in England now that April’s there…” But as the Vacation Rain Goddess, I am unsurprised.

[22 hours later]

Our 777 approaches Heathrow. Then passes Heathrow, circling London and heading back east to the runway. It’s sweet that the pilots like to give incoming tourists a view…of the RAIN CLOUDS. Almost like they’re saying, “Here’s a preview! Next time, when you think British vacation, think British Virgin Islands, you bloody fool.”

On plus side, have puffed up husband’s ego by pointing out that we only need to fill out one Landing Form if the “head of household” does it. Can finish Toy Story 3 while husband gets writing cramp. Snicker.

[Five minutes later]

Goddamn you, Pixar. There are not enough tissues in the world.

[20 minutes later]

We just deplaned at Terminal 2. Can’t get over how empty this airport seems. We’ve walked two minutes and seen no one other than our fellow passengers. Weird.

[5 minutes later]

Still walking. Still no signs of other humans. Express concern to husband about Pandemic/ Zombie Apocalypse.

Husband: “You know London was the setting for the first awesome zombie film, right? 28 Days Later?

Suspect he figured out Landing Form trickery.

[10 minutes later]

Pass signs saying Terminal 2 is “Queen’s Terminal.” Decide Queen was a little chintzy on Terminal 2 budget. Suggestion: maybe pawn a tiara or two and build an underground train if you’re going to put your special terminal halfway back to London, Your Majesty.

[5 minutes later]

Arrive at Passport Control. Line seems short. Find self suspiciously eyeing fellow passengers for signs of illness or disjointed shambling.

Get quizzed by British Passport Agent:

Passport Agent: “Where are you staying?”

Me: “In London for 4 days, then we’re going to Thornbury.”

Passport Agent: “Where’s that?”

Me: “Uh, north of Bristol, I think?”

Passport Agent (shrugs): “I don’t know. You tell me.”

She stamps passports. Find it comforting to know that the Brits display the same shocking ignorance of their own country’s geography as Americans. (Worse, really, if you think about it. Their country is much smaller. Far less to memorize.)

[5 minutes later]

Stand in line at the elevators – excuse me, LIFTS – leading to the Underground.

[5 minutes later]

Still standing in line at lifts. Probably because each person averages two baggage carts, and we keep guessing wrong about which lift is going to arrive first. It’s like endlessly picking the wrong line at Costco.

[10 minutes later]

Have made it to Underground level and realized that since we did not have baggage carts, we could have taken the escalator down three levels.

Suspect that this is only the first of many such realizations.

[1 hour later]

Made it through 1 train change, swimming upstream around Victoria’s Station, and five name changes of the same damned street while walking to hotel.

Check in. Discover that dining room renovations went on longer than expected and the “complimentary full English breakfast,” that was included in exorbitant price of hotel is not available. Clerk assures us that a “lovely take away breakfast” will be delievered to our room the following morning, free of charge.

Discover room is on 5th floor.

[20 minutes later]

Reach room, having discovered that “5th floor” means 6 flights of stairs in England and also that my knees can make audible sounds of protest.

[30 minutes later]

Set out to find suitable place for dinner. Realize that the UK is way behind California on non-smoking regulations. Haven’t inhaled this much secondhand smoke since getting fast food in Virginia when I was 5. Finally locate pub with non-smoking restaurant above bar. Husband orders fish and chips. Fish arrives with whole head. Suspect chortling wait staff is playing joke on Americans.

Joke is on staff. Andy demolishes that sucker down to the bones, ostentatiously eating and savoring the eyeballs.

The bill is enough to make MY eyeballs pop.

[20 minutes later]

Back at hotel. Facing stairs.

[20 minutes later]

Back in room.

[5 minutes later]


[3 hours later]


[3 hours later]

Still awake.

[4 hours later]

Finally asleep.

[10 minutes later]

Knock on the door. Cheery voice calls out, “Breakfast! Good morning!”

I think, NO, IT IS NOT. I hold onto this thought through granola, crappy instant coffee, and down six flights of stairs.

Until we’re outside. Walking. And we see:

The Thames
The Eye
Victoria Tower & Westminster Palace
The gardens across from Buckingham Palace.

“Oh, to be in England, now that April’s there
Whoever wakes in England sees, some morning, unaware…”
— Robert Browning

And not a zombie anywhere.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

23 thoughts on “London Diary: Day One (#130)”

  1. You travel a lot like I do — pick all the wrong lines, pick a hotel with construction, wonder why you came at this time of year. Then you have a good day and it’s all worthwhile. I stayed at a hotel once that offered wake up calls done by a backhoe at 7 a.m. Good times.

  2. I’m totally doing a travel journal like this on my next trip. So funny. Also, I can’t believe smoking indoors still isn’t banned in the UK.

    1. Laughter is the best compliment, imitation a close second!! Thank you, and I look forward to reading your diary. I hope your brain spits equally outrageous visions of catastrophe at you.

  3. Man, I am so relieved about the zombie apocalypse thing. I mean I guess it’s a spoiler alert that you survived and are blogging about your trip but you never know. Zombies and time machines and whatnot. Also, umm, fish head. Ewww. I never order fish or shrimp in Europe because of the head still being attached. I’m glad your husband went all in though, proving not all Americans are squeamish. Some Americans are Chinese and accustomed to this sort of thing.

  4. No full English breakfast as promised? That deserves a nasty review, uhm.
    Hotels in Europe are ridiculously expensive, right?

  5. Why was the airport so empty? Did you ever figure that out?

    Actually your arrival wasn’t all that bad, and yet I found myself sinking into a dark cloud of travel blues as I read along. Travel involves so many little annoyances. But then you step out into the sunshine. I thought the weather report said no sun until Thursday. Fantastic photos. You must have felt overwhelmed by all the beauty and history.

    1. I think it’s partly just the way Terminal 2 is arranged, to shuttle everyone toward Passport Control. It might also be that no one else lands at 2 PM on Saturday, I guess. But it’s supposed to have the most international travelers in the world, and Houston, LAX, and Washington Dulles seemed so much more crowded.

      It felt much more crowded when we left, though.

      Yes, travel has many annoyances. But so, so worth it!

      It did rain every day, but it wasn’t ONLY rainy every day. We got lots of unexpected sunshine. Oh, yeah, and hail, of course. Which apparently is rarely experienced in England.

  6. *pretentous English accent* You queued up at the lift, love. There are no lines.

    Bloody hell. I swear I know more English English than I ever wanted to or could imagine is possible. Truly. The differences are astounding. All because I work with Brits and have to teach British English. Gah!

    Did you have a hard time understanding them? 😛

      1. Hahaha. I hear ya. My favorite movie is Gosford Park and the first time I watched it, I played it again so that I could understand what they were saying.

        Some of my colleagues, I understand 70% of what they are saying 😛 I often just nod and smile.

        The b/f asks me often, “What are they saying?” perhaps this is an indication that women are better listeners 😉

          1. Well, I had to go back and watch it again. There are some beautiful zingers for sure. (I have a folder labled BBC dramas even though not all of these shows were from BBC). And now I want to watch the movie again – so brilliant. Love Alan Rickman as Col. Brandon. LOVE!

  7. I loved the flow of this post, very unique!

    One reason I haven’t watched Toy Story 3 yet is because everyone says it’s a tear fest watching it (I have grown men friends that told me many tears were shed at the end). Is it depressing? Is it sad? Kyahhh Pixar, why do you do this to me!? I can never keep it together during the first 10 minutes of “Up,” either.

    Anyway, despite all the problems I’m glad there was light at the end of the tunnel. Having a sunny day in London (from what I hear) is a true blessing.

    As for empty airports, it’s like that a lot in Asia as well. You walk out of the gate and it seems like your flight is the only one around… I kind of liked it, actually, haha. I prefer almost anything to LAX, ugh, talk about a headache.

    1. Oh, LAX is terrible. So is Houston. Dulles is not so bad, though their buses are kind of annoying.

      Yes, everyone in London kept commenting on these partly sunny days as “Lovely!” “Just gorgeous!” “perfect day!” and Andy and I were all Southern California snotty. “What? You can’t see half the sky!”

  8. Well, that was a breakfast to write home about [all for the WRONG reasons!]

    And the weather seemed to be nice after all. Such gorgeous blue skies in your pics.

    Oh, and my husband would have complained non-stop about the smoke. Smoking is even banned in restaurants here in Taiwan.

    1. Smoking is banned in almost all public places in the Beach Cities around Los Angeles. So it was quite a shock. And not a nice one!

      But it was surprisingly pretty. 🙂

  9. Oh, how I missed reading your posts! I laughed so hard from beginning to end.

    All that talk about fish and chips made me wanna eat some too. But no fish, and no chips. Sigh.
    HOW, just HOW can Andy eat the eyeballs? I always throw them away.

    The zombie line at the end of the post was priceless.

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