Tuesday, June 4, 2013

London: A Decade Ago

Digging through some of my long lost pictures a few months ago I came across my untouched photos from London circa 2003.  It had been years since I had seen them, and I quickly realized that we took that trip 10 years ago.  Since the 10 year mark seems to be such a milestone in life, I decided to fix up them up and try to find my old journal that I kept while we were there.  Well I found it, and it's not half bad.

This was my first trip to London (or anywhere in Europe) and it was my dad's gift for my high school graduation.  (Speaking of 10 year high school reunions, I know a lot of people who say, "man, that feels like yesterday..."  To me it feels like it was another lifetime ago.  I enjoyed high school, but quickly kind of forgot about it.  Oh well, life moves on.)   Anyway, if you read my journal you'll see that I had no idea what to expect from London or Scotland, but it quickly became one of my favorite places on earth.  It was this trip that the importance of travel really hit me.  A decade later, London is still one of my favorite places on earth.  (And I have got to get back to Edinburgh!) 

A quick note on the photography.  I had absolutely zero interest in photography then, other than taking "good" pictures (in full auto mode).  My dad gave me this Olympus camera right before the trip, a 3-megapixel beast.  "Can you believe it?!  This thing has 3 megapixels?!?!?!"  It was a revolution.  You have to remember, this was when digital was in its infancy.  I remember the memory card it came with could only hold like 70 pictures or something, so just like the days of film you had to be very selective of what pictures you actually kept.  (This was still the case 3 years later when I returned to Europe.)  I remember running out of memory in London and contemplating whether or not I should spend £60 on a new memory card and 30 more pictures.  It was a major dilemma, I kid you not.  In stark contrast, I just bought a new 32GB card for less than $25.    

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised at how well these files held up with the editing.  Now, being a whopping 3 megapixels I doubt I could print something up larger than a 5x7, but still, they're really sharp and actually had quite a bit of range to them.  Way to go Olympus! 

Anyway, enjoy the photos and the commentary of a fresh-out-of-high-school-very-sarcastic-18-year-old.  The journal is there in it's entirety, and I didn't change a word.  It kind of cuts off at the end, but I decided to just keep it as is.  Enjoy!  Tally ho!  

JUNE 2, 2003
We landed the plane in London with great joy that the excruciating, cramped 8 hours in a plane had finally come to an end.  My bloody seat wouldn’t move back an inch and I couldn’t find a comfortable position.  To make matters worse, the in flight movie was perhaps one of the worst I had even seen.  Daredevil – the name says it all.  Anyway, we got off of the plane and took the Gatwick Express through the best part of London.  I would honestly rather live in the inner city projects that what we went through.  Call me crazy but it was pretty rough.  We got off and caught a taxi to our hotel.  It was crazy – everyone was driving on the wrong side of the road.  We checked in a decided to go see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.  Woop-dee-freakin-do.  Nothing special there.  But it was worth it when we got a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth II being escorted out of the palace.  Some people have lived in London their entire lives without seeing the Queen, and we see the old hag in our first few hours of our trip.  After that I was tired and felt like I was about to puke – so we headed back to our hotel.  We grabbed a bland chicken sandwich along the way - with no mayo!  We returned to our hotel where we stayed until that night.  We went to the Broadway Chicago that night.  It was a ravishingly good performance, but I did have one compliant.  The two lead women of Chicago could have past for hookers on the London streets.  I don’t even think that Jack the Ripper would have wasted his time putting them out of their misery.  Why would you even try to play the lead role after Catherine Zeta Jones?  Ohh well, they had two other hott broads that made up for it.

JUNE 3, 2003
We awoke around 5 A.M. because the bloody sun rises so early here.  I took a shower after my father and it occurred to me that the bed and breakfast we are staying in has a very limited water supply.  Half way through my shower the water completely turned off.  I was standing there stark naked, covered in soap and freezing cold.  It was miserable.  Still freezing cold we went down to a huge breakfast.  We walked over to the London Eye, the biggest merry-go-round in the world.  It was a beautiful view.  We could see for miles over London, and it is so much bigger than it seems.  We got off and were heading to lunch when we were stopped by a half crazed man trying to sell us his paintings.  Of course I was thinking that this guy was your average poor chap “painting” on pieces of cardboard with a sharpie.  No – this guy was great.  He is sure to make it big one day.  We eventually bought one of his paintings from him for £10.  A few hours later we took a tour up and down the Thames River on a boat.  It was pretty cool.  Beautiful views!  I would love to live in London one day- it is so much nicer than I ever hoped for.  The architecture is absolutely fascinating.  The streets are litter free and I have yet to see a pothole.  You can say I have fallen in love with London.  Whether I live here or not I am coming back quite a few times.  Anyway – we finished up the night with an Italian dinner and the Broadway Les Misĕrables.  It is the best play of all time.  It is by far my favourite play – and I think it will stay that way. 

Oh Eponine, I still love you.  

Tower of London...circa 1066.

A Beefeater!

St. John's Chapel.  This room has seen some stuff...

Cargo shorts...check.  Gap Anorak...check.  Multiple undershirts...check.  

Bloody Tower.  Bloody hell!

Tower Bridge....NOT  the London Bridge.

Laughing at Danny G. and his ridiculous poses. 

JUNE 4, 2003
I awoke to the same bloody awful situation.  The shower quit again.  We had the same breakfast and we headed out.  It was a pretty miserable morning.  Cold and rainy.  But that was o.k. because we spent the whole morning underground anyway.  Three meters worth of concrete and steel to be exact.  Yep, if you haven’t guessed yet, we went to the War Cabinet Rooms were Winston Churchill and some other famous generals were stationed during WWII.  It had stopped raining by the time we came out so the weather was not a big problem.  We then went to some old pub where we had the “special” burger of the day.  Yes, it included BACON and CHEESE.  No mayo or other toppings though.  It seems that they have an excess of pigs around here, figuring everything they have has bacon on it.  That aside, we went down to the Tower of London.  This place was phenomenal and dates back to 1066.  The history of this place was fascinating.  In America when a building is more than 50 years old they consider it historic.  We were walking in buildings more than 900 years old.  Our bloody Constitution is only 200 and something years old, and it is in a nuke proof case underground.  Amazing.  In the tower, Jesse and I set off a couple of alarms by touching some stuff, but no big deal.  We also saw the Crown Jewels, which are in a nuke proof room.  Some chap gave me a warning for taking pictures – but the guy was nice enough.  We then went to Leichester Square by the tube (subway).  We bought tickets for half price to The Phantom of the Opera.  I enjoyed it, although not as much as Les Misĕrables.  We have had a great 3 days so far.

Entrance to the War Rooms.

The finishing touches on the "Gherkin".  Kinda looks like a giant "toy".

JUNE 5, 2003
Today was the first day I have had a complete shower, and it felt great.  We had the same bloody breakfast.  Good – but it is getting old.  The first thing we did after breakfast was catch the tube to catch a trolly (train).  We had a 1 and a half hour train ride to Bath, an interesting little town of about 86,000.  We took a tour of the place.  Our tour guide was this brittle old bitty who could grow a goatee faster than I can – honestly.  She knew her history though and that is all that matters.  There we saw the Roman Baths.  They were great temples and pools built around naturally hot springs.  The only hot springs in all of England.  The temperature reached around 46° C.  Bloody hell!  We got back in time to catch the 8:00 showing of Agatha Christie’s famous play Mousetrap.  It was in its 50th year.  It was great.  But just in case I ever come back to London and see it again, I do not want to reveal that the killer was the “policeman”.  We took a stroll through St. James’ park and got somewhat lost.  We eventually found our way back to the hotel, but it was kinda fun.

On the train to Bath.

The Roman baths.

JUNE 6, 2003
We indeed woke to the same usual breakfast.  This morning we decided to go to the British Museum and them… to the laundry!  But yes, clothes were dirty and they needed washing.  Anyway, the British Museum, considered the best museum in the world, was quite fantastic.  It was intriguing; we saw statues and mummy’s over 3,000 years old!  Still standing.  The mummies were preserved so good that they still had skin and hair 3,000 years later.  It was huge – it would’ve taken days to read every single thing in there, so we didn’t.  That evening we took the tube to Central London (downtown) where we met Mark Cheesman, a good friend of dad’s.  A very interesting chap.  We “hired” a driver to his house, which took about 20 minutes.  He lived in an old neighborhood where they actually live in houses!  I say this because I hate the way Londoner’s live.  Of course in the city the apartments are great.  But when you get to the suburbs all the houses are cramped together.  An upscale neighborhood honestly looks like the projects.  There can be acres and acres of nothing but everyone decides to cramp themselves together.  They are so ugly too.  I just don’t understand the communal living.  Who wants to hear their next door neighbors break wind in the middle of the night?  Well anyway – we went to the Cheesman’s house.  His home was extremely young for London, only built in 1939.  We met his wife, Moira, and his two kids, James and Catherine.  We went out to dinner with the adults and had a really good time.  They were really awesome and gave us two huge books on England.  It was very nice of them figuring we had never met them before.  But they turned out to be some great chaps.  Hopefully they will come to New Orleans again and we can show them around.  Here is a puzzle that I spent 20 minutes trying to figure out:

Y  M  D  O  H
R  A  N  I  T
E  E  I  R  Y
T  F  F  U  L
S  I  S  C  N
Y  L  U  E  O

We never did send this pic in to the Times Picayune.  Too late?

In our defense, cargo pants were in.

James and Catherine.  Where are they now?

JUNE 7, 2003
We ate our last breakfast at the Winchester Hotel and checked out.  We said our goodbyes to Jimmy and Paul, two great chaps at the hotel, who’ve promised to visit us in New Orleans.  We went to the train station and caught a train to Peterborough.  From there we caught a bus to Newark, and from there we took another train to the city of York.  Yes, the city New York was named after, hence the “New”.  It has some interesting churches and stuff, but we made the mistake of taking the tour.  This was no ordinary tour – this old chap actually lived through the history he was preaching.  Then this crazy old bitty came up to the group just started blabbing about her and her mother when she was a young girl.  It went on and on and on.  The old tour guide did nothing to stop her, just kept on calling her love.  After York, we took the last train to Edinburgh, the capitol of Scotland.  It is a great old city with a great old history.  We got here in time to check into our hotel, eat at a pretty good pub, and catch the City of the Dead Ghost tour.  It was really interesting.  It went into the real history of witches and executions and what not.  I enjoyed it even though you could tell dad was like, “bull”.  But who cares.  The tour took us to this old graveyard where Sir George McKenzie was buried.  He was quite an evil man.  Anyway, he haunts the place and even hurts people sometimes.  Pretty cool.  I actually wanted him to knock dad in the head so he would believe.  But even if he saw the bloody ghost he would convince himself that he had a rotten potato or something.  Anyway the story is great, and I plan on making a movie out of it one day.

Old York.

George McKenzie's grave...nothing happened.

JUNE 8, 2003
We woke up to a complementary breakfast, thanks to some moron at the hotel.  Gave some room to some old women, ohh well.  We started off the day at Edinburgh Castle.  It is a huge castle that is something like 900 years old.  Sort of Edinburgh’s claim to fame.  But is was awesome.  The part I enjoyed most was the history of the Scottish crown jewels.  They were hid for 8 years in some church, to hide them from this Cromwell character, who wanted to destroy them.  They were found and then again put into hiding where they were sealed in a room for 111 years.  Sir Walter Raleigh found them again in their original condition.  Anyway, the story kind of fascinated me at the time.  We even saw the statue of Sir Mel Gibson, I mean, William Wallace.  It is funny, ever since Braveheart, the whole William Wallace thing has exploded.  They even have the picture of Mel Gibson on the cover of history books of Scotland.  It is really funny.  We finally ate lunch around 4:00 P.M.  Time really does fly by here.  But we weren’t in a hurry, figuring it gets dark here at 11:30 at night.  Then at 6:00 we went and saw this choir at some old church.  It was actually quite good.  But of course, we had to finish off the night badly.  In an attempt to eat somewhere cheap and save a little money, we try Pizza Hut (but only after Burger King was closed).  Big mistake.  We ended up paying $35 on some poorly made grease bucket.  I have to say it ticked dad off in the worse way.  I understand because I hate to waste money too, but he was pissed (not drunk).  But I hope he got it out of his system so he can relax tomorrow.  Lesson learned.  Needless to say, it is understood between Jesse and I that dad is picking every place we eat from now on.  Goodnight.

Edinburgh...so beautiful.

JUNE 9, 2003
Today we woke up and went to hike to the top of the world.  The top of Edinburgh at least.  We hiked to Arthur’s Seat, and it was awesome.  After many a picture at the top, I ran down the hill at full speed until I got to some old ruins where some lovers where romancing in the meadow.  We then hiked all the way back to some little sandwich shop, where we stopped and ate.  We went back to our hotel where we took a short break.

The Queen's residence in Scotland. Nice lawn.

Arthur's Seat, elevation 822 ft!  

I hope you've enjoyed this trip down memory lane!  I know I have...

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