Round trip tickets from LAX to London Heathrow for $430. No, I will not stop bragging about it. :)
Flight to London was direct, which was pretty sweet, but I still insisted on taking my backpack as carry-on because I'm used to short Southwest airlines flights where I carry everything with me, and I'm paranoid about losing my luggage. I mean, I was going to be gone for 2 months, losing everything on day zero would not have been pleasant.
The flight was oh-so-incredibly long. Made worse by the fact that it was a full flight, and I had the window seat, which meant I had to bother the old lady sitting next to me every time I had to go to the bathroom, which was quite often because I'd been drinking too much water on account of dry airplane air. I wasn't able to sleep much on the plane, probably 'cause of the excitement. I never really felt like the trip was really happening until we were driving to the airport, and then it was just kinda cool and scary and bubbly. Mind kept running around thinking of things and wondering and imagining. I arrived in London an hour and half late (Thank you American Airlines!), so it was probably around 3 or 4pm when I arrived at Heathrow.
I knew I was in England when I went to buy an Oyster Card (touch-and-go card for the metro, or 'tube', as they call it) and the guy at the ticket window called me 'love'. I don't know why, but being on the 'tube' was one of those fantastic moments when every part of you knows it's somewhere else. A lot of the times when you're travelling, you can forget that you're in a completely foreign place, but when I was on the 'tube' I *knew* I was in London. It was pretty cool.
The London metro's one of the better transportation systems I came across, but it's also really frickin' expensive. 1.50 pounds ($3) per ride (in the city center - zones 1-2) using the Oyster Card. And I think it caps off at around 6 pounds? 12 bucks for one day's worth of transportation. And it was 4 pounds to get from the airport. Still, it's really well connected and easy-to-use, easy-to-understand. I finally understand those 'Mind the Gap' tube logos now. ;)
I wandered into Covent Garden looking for dinner and wound up eating a sandwich (see left). I think I commented on it on flickr. I stuck around for a few minutes to watch some of the street performers. Saw one dude walking on a tightrope while juggling knives. Pretty cool. Took a video, but had to delete it to save space. If you're dying to see, I'm sure you can find it on YouTube.
The hostel I stayed for my very first night in Europe was Journey's Waterloo
, which wasn't really that great, but I won't complain as it was only ~10 pounds per night. They were very big on security - had three different code locks, including one for the room. Lockers were available outside. The bathrooms were really nice and clean, but the blankets they gave were pathetic. I couldn't sleep at all that night half because of jet lag, and half because I was freezing. I left my pants on to sleep, but I had left my jacket at home and hadn't bought a new one yet, so I had nothing with sleeves. Plus, it was London in early spring... Even I'll admit that's cold.
Next morning I went to see the Maritime Museum (The best thing about London is that all the museums are free); I want to learn more about sailing, but am to lazy to learn on my own. Field trips are always fun, though. ;) The poor Maritime Museum was pretty deserted when I went. It did pick up a little business from a school trip, but it really was kind of sad. They had some pretty cool stuff in there, though. Mostly models, but they did have one or two whole ships and lots of navigational instruments. Don't think I really learned much, though. Except for that anecdote about the Portuguese and the Chinese and the rhubarb.
I wanted to go see the Cutty Sark
, a preserved ship from way back when, but it's been closed due to renovation. On the upside, I had the BEST sausage roll ever while I was over there. I saw a small store that was pretty busy, and the people didn't look too touristy, so I thought maybe I'd try a hot cross bun 'cause they were advertised in the window, but the lady said they were out, so I had a sausage roll instead. Boy, was that thing delicious. Wish I had remembered the name of the store, it looked like it could have been a chain... Oh well.
After that, I picked up a salad and a sandwich from Pret A Manger
(I really love this picture.) and headed off to Paddington station. You can tell I've been well-trained by the airlines because I went there probably 2 hours early in a fit of neurosis. I don't know why, or even what I expected, but I just felt like I should be super duper extra careful about not missing my train. So I sat around the train station and ate and waited and waited and watched the myriad of pigeons flutter about and peck at things. It was a bit odd to see so many pigeons wandering around so freely in a train station, but that's just the American in me. We're not used to wildlife in buildings - we freak out almost as badly as the bird when one of them loses its way into a building.
The train to St. Austell was pretty long - 4 or 5 hours if I recall correctly (too lazy to look it up). Portrait - funny old guy, wispy white hair, thin, wrinkled, large thick glasses, perpetually cross-eyed. Pulled out a pipe despite the no smoking signs, but nobody bothered him about it. If I was a photographer, I would have asked him if I could take a picture of him. Also - saw a Pepto-Bismol pink limousine from the train window. Wish I could have taken a picture, but it went by so fast.
I was fine until about an hour or so before we were supposed to arrive, then the exhaustion hit. Oh man, I've rarely been so sleepy in my life, but I'd gone almost 2 days with only few hours of fitful sleep, so when it hit, it hit hard. This big old dude - looked like John Goodman if he were angry and British - kept looking at me funny 'cause I was fidgeting around and banging my head and stuff trying to keep awake. He probably thought I was on drugs.
Arrived at St. Austell in the evening. Was proud of myself for finding my way to the motel all by myself (and by that I mean, with the assurances of one or two natives that I was indeed going the right way).