The boom from the cannons was far more impressive (and loud!) in person; the camera mic didn't pick it up well and doesn't really do it justice. Nevertheless, enjoy! (QuickTime Plugin required, mp4 format video.)


My feet hurt.

Well, surprisingly they actually don't. However I did a lot of foot travel today, so they ought to. Thus I'm hoping the foot rub fairy will pay me a visit (though I'm not holding my breath).

I decided to go to Buckingham Palace today to see the changing of the guard. At this time of year it happens once every two days, instead of daily like in the summer. Today happened to be an exception, or something. There was some big to do for Saudi Arabia there today, with flags for the country flying all over the place. The guard band played and marched around and such so I thought perhaps the regular changing of the guard would occur until I heard a nearby policeman say otherwise. Nevertheless there was an immense crowd of people, and I even saw Prince Charles there... twice! The first time I saw him in the back of a car leaving the grounds, then later on in a horse-drawn carriage with some Saudi representative coming back to the palace. Alas my camera hand was too slow to capture a decent photo of either time, though I barely caught him in a snap in the carriage. I also barely caught the Queen in her carriage during the procession, but you can sort of halfway see her.

[Edit: The reason for the ceremony was a state visit from the Saudi king.]

After the ceremonial stuff I wandered around the park adjacent to the Palace and was surprised to hear cannonfire... there were some soldier type people with 4 or 5 cannons firing off rounds (blanks, no doubt). I wasn't sure if that was a special event for what had just taken place at the Palace or if it was a regular thing. I captured some video and with any luck I can get it compressed so it fits nicely for others to check out.

I left the Palace area and walked up The Mall, snapping some pics of palace guard type people, cops, horses, and so on and made my way up to Trafalgar Square with its huge monument to Horatio, Lord Nelson, martyr of the Napoleonic War. I didn't know all of what I wanted to do today but in looking at the map in my guidebook I saw Trafalgar Square was close enough to reach from Buckingham Palace so I knew I'd at least go there. What I didn't notice/realize when I was checking the map was it was close to other worthwhile places too.

Trafalgar Square sits in front of the National Gallery, so of course I had to go around there a bit. I didn't go into the gallery since art really doesn't turn my crank in the least (and multiple trips to the National Gallery in Ottawa have reinforced that over the years), but I took in the surroundings regardless.

I found out the Canadian High Commission is also right by there as well, so while I didn't go in (I wasn't carrying my passport so I wasn't sure if they'd let me in and just shoot the breeze with some fellow Canucks or somesuch) I was glad to learn where it was, just in case I ever needed to know that or require any of the services provided there. Earlier in the day I contemplated going to the Canadian Embassy after noticing it on a map but really didn't bother to notice where I was going to be in relation to it, and then wham, there it was.

After leaving the Trafalgar Square area I walked around aimlessly for a bit, but noticed Piccadilly Circus wasn't far off. So I figured sure, I'll go there. It's a poor man's Times Square to say the least, and it's FAR less impressive during the day versus pictures I've seen of it at night, but it's just one of those landmarks people flock to and I was no exception. I walked there, took some photos, sat on the steps by the fountain for a while and contemplated what to do next.

About 1-1 1/4 km away was Downing Street and the Churchill Museum, near Parliament. I didn't realize they were that close to Parliament when I was there the first time around, and I thought it would be worth a trip down there to check things out. One negative about Downing Street is that while once upon a time the street was open to foot traffic, it's been cordoned off after an attempted IRA attack a few years back... so the closest you can get is a huge iron gate by Whitehall. Still, knowing that in advance, I thought I should mosey over anyway, and so I did.

I didn't bother going to the Churchill museum, despite being quite intrigued to do so, instead deciding to either save that for another day or just skip it altogether (or perhaps save it for when someone comes to visit and we invariably go near Parliament).

After all that I decided to call it a day as far as sightseeing was concerned and headed back to write this and upload some pictures while I contemplated dinner plans.

I've been told the washing machine is halfway fixed (hot water is a go) but another plumber needs to come to fix the rest (the cold water?) and all should be well by tonight. Therefore I think I shall declare tomorrow to (finally) be laundry day since I'm definitely running short of stuff to wear. Plus it's Halloween tomorrow and I don't know how crazy it'll be out there in the world.



St Paul's Cathedral

Today I decided to go to St Paul's Cathedral, one of the most recognizable churches in the city. It's the burial place of some major historical figures (wow, a Bill and Ted moment there!) such as Horatio Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington, two notable Napoleonic War era folks.

The place is absolutely beautiful from the outside, and the tell-tale dome is world renowned. Alas, as with other such places, photography was not allowed inside. I've got some pictures uploading as I type this, but they're all exterior shots and shots from up high.

Ah, up high... for the unaware, which among others was me not long ago, St Paul's offers the chance for viewers to climb stairwells to the top. Well, the top ain't such an easy place to reach (especially for chaps my height; the climb is not for the claustrophobic to be sure). There's the ground floor, which has the main chapel, a number of monuments to various figures and military types. There's the crypt, housing the tombs of the Nelson and a memorial to Florence Nightingale. Then there's the rest.

The first vertical level is called the Whispering Gallery. It's (pretty much) a perfect circle (save doorways cocking things up) where you can sit on one side, whisper at the wall, and someone clear across the other side can hear what you say thanks to the acoustics carrying the words around the gallery. It also offers a nice view of part of the chapel below. The Whispering Gallery is reached by ascending 163 (!!!!) steps, many narrow of course given the centuries-old nature of the building. The climb was... well, pretty damned tiring I must say. I'm not in the best of shape by any means, and I started to get winded about 3/4 of the way up but I made it without having a heart attack. I got up there and thought perhaps this is as high as I want to go.

Except things didn't turn out that way. My friend Jean-Paul, who previously visited the Cathedral in 1995 (and who told me they allowed photos back then) said he never made it all the way to the top of the place. I thought, well, I'll have to at least give it a try, right?

On to the next level. Called the Stone Gallery, you climb another 119 steps, which takes you to an observation deck of sorts roughly around the base of the dome. The place is heavily fenced off to prevent accidents, and it's fairly hard to see through the narrow apertures and observe the surroundings. Nevertheless I finagled some pics from this level and figured I might as well carry onward and upward - because no, that's not the top.

The Golden Gallery - a further 152 steps upward, chiefly on iron circular staircases, certainly not a place for those afraid of heights - is the top-most level one can reach at the Cathedral. A staggering 111 metres above the ground, there's not much of a fence around the very narrow pathway (one attendant at the Whispering Gallery cautioned someone the fence was about chest-high; on me, of course, that was barely above waist-high) but the view is breathtaking.

You can see more of London from here than in a lot of places given you've got 360 degree access around the top. Although I'm not uploading every shot I took, I pretty much went crazy with the camera and shot dozens of photos from up there. Partly because (despite a bit of greyness in the air) it was just so amazing to see what one can see up there, and partly because I don't think I'd ever climb back up there even on a bet. One lady who made the trek up commented she was very afraid of heights, but like a trooper she made her way around to enjoy the view.

So, 450-odd steps downward and I was back on the ground. I almost felt like falling to my knees and kissing the ground after being up as high as I was with what amounted to minimal protection. Thankfully going DOWN the steps is far easier than going up, although I did have some issues navigating some of the narrower passageways and steps. When I was in the Whispering Gallery I asked that previously-noted attendant if someone my size would have issues getting to the Golden Gallery and he said pretty much no. I disagreed with him by the time I got to the top, however. Still, I got up and got down so all was well.

After leaving St Paul's I headed south toward the Millennium Bridge. A very, very ugly structure in my opinion, it's a very busy footbridge across the Thames toward Tate gallery and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. One can take tours around the Globe but after the two hours and change at St Paul's I didn't feel like taking that tour. I tooled around a bit on the south bank and then went back north across the bridge and headed toward the Museum of London.

The Museum of London chronicles the history of the city, back some 2000 years when it was called Londinium and settled by the Romans. The main display, near the entrance, was about the Great Fire in 1666, and the rest of the small (well, small compared to other museums I've been to here) museum was dedicated to medieval London up to the 17th century. The remainder of the history of the city, from where it currently ends to the present, is set to open some time in 2009. I was glad the place was free though... it had some neat bits of course, but overall wasn't as interesting as I'd hoped.

On the way back to the tube I walked around a bit and found a Curry's store (an electronics/computer-focused version of the store) and picked up some electronics I'd been meaning to get for a while now, chiefly a power bar, power adapter for my external hard drive, and a battery charger. After a quick stop at McDonald's for a burger I headed back to the flat and that's pretty much my day.

After a bit of TV and resting up a bit I'll sort out some dinner in a couple hours.

Tomorrow the plan is to go to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard and to see what I can see. Tours of the Palace stop in late September so I presumably can't look around inside, so we'll see what's what tomorrow.



Apple Day

Today was Apple day of sorts.

I started the day off by taking the tube WAY west to the Olympia National Hall for the Mac Live Expo event. The place was bustling, but there was really very little to see. I didn't even bother with pictures it was just that dull. Nevertheless I hung around for a couple hours, checking out the booths, demos and exhibits and then decided it was time to leave.

From there, I got back on the tube and took my first journey crossing three lines (the District line from Kensington Olympia one stop to Earl's Court, the Piccadilly line to Green Park, then the Victoria line to Oxford Circus) to go check the action at the Apple Store. Today is the release date for the new version of Mac OS X, v10.5, aka Leopard, and I figured there'd be a good queue by the time I got there. It was around 5:10 or so when I arrived and wow was there ever a queue. There were easily a thousand people, going down the street around one corner... and down that street around the next corner, and then halfway down the street again. The Apple Store is roughly in the middle of the block, meaning the line was literally halfway around the block (and it's not a tiny block). Earlier today I had considered getting in line when I got there, to try to get a Leopard t-shirt (there are supposed to be 500 or so on hand) but when I actually got there I knew there was no way that would happen.

The Leopard release doesn't really turn my crank, at least not enough to drop £85 on it, so I snapped a few pictures of part of the line, walked down the line from the start to the end to see if I might catch any celebrities or well-known folks in line (no, there were none I noticed), then walked back up to Oxford street and did some wandering before grabbing the tube at Bond Street station and coming back to the flat.

Pictures are up, as unexciting as they may be, and now it's time to think about dinner since it's past 6:30. Tomorrow is still up in the air for activities...

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The market down the road sells Tetley's Bitter. I bought some last night. I'm having some now. It's nummy stuff. Num num num.


Tower of London

Today I decided to visit the Tower of London. I wasn't sure, as has been the norm this week, what I wanted to do but decided what the heck, I'll go there. My last outing was on Tuesday to a series of places offering free admission; today was not like that. I went to the Tower of London and its grounds for a whopping £16 entry fee (I was informed the other day it was only £13.50 a year or so ago) as well as a tour around the Tower Bridge exhibition for another £6.

The Tower of London is famous for its prisoners over the years, the beheading of (and reported haunting by) Anne Boleyn (second wife of Henry VIII) and of course its use as a fortress in times gone by. It's frankly amazing to realize you're in a place which has stood (in some form or another) for the better part of 800 years. People in Canada, even eastern Canada with its heritage, consider things a century old to be very old. Those in Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and other such places have structures dating back maybe a few centuries... but nothing like this. Most of a millennium has passed by the walls of this famous landmark, it withstood attacks over the years including devastating ones such as the London Blitz of World War II, and there it still stands. It's just awe-inspiring really.

Of course being a 13th century structure it means tall people simply do not fit. If I wasn't ducking, I was carefully watching my feet on the narrow spiral staircases so I didn't slip. As advantageous as being tall can be, it's a severe detriment in places such as that.

I did, of course, snap many pictures along the way, but of course the best bits such as the area housing the Crown Jewels forbade photography, so I couldn't get any shots of the cool crowns, jewels, sceptres and so on adorning Jewel House. I had one request before I left Canada specifically asking me to take such photos, but that person will have to be disappointed as I wasn't about to risk having my camera confiscated or something.

Anyhow, after touring around the grounds, I wandered over to Tower Bridge and went on the tour there. The sights there are minimal at best, but I was far more interested in the history and architecture than anything else - along with the view, of course. The bridge was 16 years in the making between the time it was decided such a bridge was needed and the time it was built, and for a Victorian era work it certainly has the feel of something more medieval. The tour basically includes a couple historical videos, access to the elevated footpaths and a tour of the old coal/steam-powered engine room for operating the elevated roadway.

Pictures will soon be posted, and I've got more than a few shots of The Egg in there as well, aka city hall. Today was a VERY gloomy, gray, misty, foggy kind of day, the first full-on such day since I arrived. It's the kind of day which makes you love or hate London and makes it easy to realize why a lot of Britons visit Spain for some sun.

Tonight will be a night in methinks, probably enjoying the 4-pack of Tetley's Bitter I bought last night on a shopping trip at the market a few minutes walk south of here. I might even try to fight with the washing machine again, or at least hopefully ask someone (when someone gets back here) how to properly operate it so I can get some laundry done.

Tomorrow will be Apple day. It's the release of the new Mac OS X version, dubbed Leopard, and this week also has the Mac Live Expo at Kensington Olympia hall. I snagged a free pass to the expo a few weeks back so I think I shall use it and see what's what and how it compares to something like MacWorld Expo in San Francisco, the granddaddy of all Mac expos. I already know it'll greatly pale in comparison, especially since Apple has no formal presence there, but it might be a fun afternoon nonetheless. After that I'll head to the Apple Store on Regent St. around dinnertime for the formal release of Leopard at 6pm. I've not decided if I'll buy a copy, especially since it's £85 (vs. $129 CAD), but I want to be there for the hoopla more than anything.



Museums. Museii. Whatever.

Tuesday was museum day. I wasn't sure what to do, so after getting suggestions from a friend, his idea of going to the science museum was what I'd decided to act upon. After looking at my guide book I found that right by the science museum is the natural history museum... as well as the Victoria & Albert museum. All in one nice cluster around South Kensington tube station. Heck, the announcement played on the tube when you approach the station even says the museums are there.

I started out at the natural history museum. There were some fun things and all that, but the place was PACKED. The queue to get in must have been 200 people. Moving around was a pain in the butt at the best of times. I nevertheless tried to see as much of it as I could, even though a lot of displays were the same as you'd see at any other similar museum. Nothing really excited me about the place (other than a couple cute women I saw there, but that's a story for another time).

I moved on to the science museum and definitely had more fun there since I've always had a preference for science & technology over earth sciences or anthropology or whatever. Both places are huge, but the science museum definitely had more stairs...

I've posted some uncommented photos from both, along with my third stop on the trip, the Victoria & Albert museum. I went into the V&A and really couldn't get into anything. I was pretty sick of museums by that point I must admit... going through three in a day is a little much, especially when I spent over 3 hours combined at the previous two. After maybe 10-15 minutes of wandering aimlessly I left the V&A, snapped a couple pictures of the front, and made my way away.

I noticed on the map in the guide book that Harrod's was just down the street from the museum block, so I figured I'd take a spin around there. The place is very, very large... and any stories you might have heard about how expensive it is are probably understated (if only because it's nigh impossible to overstate!). I walked around the food section mostly, just to see the offerings. There were 6 or 7 restaurant type stalls with bar-style seating featuring things like "make your own sandwich, only £14.50", sushi, etc. There was a meat counter. A fish counter. A cheese counter. A deli counter. It was just like any supermarket really. Only prohibitively expensive for all but a select few. I took a trip up the escalator to the top floor, then back down. It's a neat place to visit, but between the prices and the fact it's just a store in the end, it's not THAT neat. The building, however, was very impressive. I enjoyed looking at that more than any other aspect about the place.

I went back to the flat after that, chilled for a couple hours, then made my way to the nearby chinese food buffet place and gorged myself. That was about it for the day.

Today I'm where I was yesterday in that I'm not sure what I want to do. I'm tempted to just take it easy and maybe do laundry or something since I'm not in a museum mood to be sure. There's some "Mac Live Expo" event in town at the Olympia National Hall running from Thursday through Saturday and I've got a (free) pass for that, so I think that'll be on my agenda for tomorrow (as soon as I find where the hall is anyway). Today... who knows.


Don't bank on it...

Monday I'd intended to go to The Who Shop and Tenth Planet, Doctor Who-related stores, but only got half of that accomplished as things turned out. I started the day by going to the nearest Barclay's branch to inquire about setting up a bank account. I knew that I needed a bank account if I wanted to get a (non-pay as you go) mobile phone, but apparently I can't get a viable bank account until I get a job. So I need a mobile phone to get a job, a job to get a bank account, and a bank account to get a phone. All I could think of was "there's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza" for stupid recursive stuff. So it looks like pay as you go is what I have to do for the phone to kickstart everything else. At least I can keep my number when I move from that to a proper monthly plan, but I view pay as you go a waste of money since I'll have to shell out as much as a couple months would cost me under a contract to get me up and running.

It took me over an hour at Barclay's with the queue to see the guy I had to speak to... and when I got near Barking tube station to go to Tenth Planet, I also stopped at Lloyd's TSB to see what they had to say. It was busier yet there, and I spent about an hour and a half waiting and talking when there to find out the same thing from them. So, it looks like I get a job before I get a bank account.

Anyway, I wound up getting to Tenth Planet on Monday and took a browse inside. It's a small shop but it had lots of fun stuff I could have spent a lot of money on (but didn't). I didn't spend much time there overall, since there's only so much to look at.

There was a 99p Store nearby as well (akin to our Dollar Stores) and I loaded up on a few things I didn't have but needed, all for a nice cheap total versus other places I'd looked. Those places rock... except I didn't buy enough clothes hangers. They had 14-packs for 99p and I bought two. I need about 30-32 hangers. Oh well, I'll go buy more one day.

I was knackered after all that and just called it a day for gallivanting.



British Museum

Travel by tube on weekends SUCKS! Well, at least it CAN suck.

I was heading out this morning to the west end again and when I got to the tube station -- which conveniently operates on 3 of the tube lines -- had service only on one line today! The District line was operational as usual, but Central (what I would have normally taken) was closed between Liverpool Street and Leytonstone (Mile End is about in the middle of that stretch) and the Hammersmith & City line was also closed. One good thing about the tube, at least around zone 1, is it's not hard to come up with an alternate travel route. So, a spin on the District line west to Embankment and a quick changeover to the Northern Line got me to Leicester Square (where I didn't mean to get off, I meant to get off one stop further at Tottenham Court Road) just fine. I began my day from there.

Anyway, today I went to the British Museum to have a look around. I didn't go to any of the paid exhibits (such as the one on the Terra Cotta Army) but I spent a good couple hours walking around. There's a tonne of stuff to look at, covering the entire planet (save Antarctica, anyway) but I spent most of my time on the Egypt and Ancient Greece sections, two areas where I have a soft spot. The place is immense and if I wanted to give it a proper look around I'm sure I'd have to take 4 or 5 hours at least, if not split it across a couple days. The highlight of the displays for me was the Rosetta Stone, without which modern understanding of the ancient world wouldn't be anywhere near as developed as it is. It was constantly crowded around there, for good reason, and it took a little while to get close enough to snap any pictures.

Pictures, of course, can be found at http://picasaweb.google.com/cburgess -- the ones from the museum are being posted as I write this.

Afterward I went to Forbidden Planet, a comic/cult TV/Sci Fi/etc store selling DVDs, comics, books, figurines, you name it... it's sort of like Warp One for those back in Edmonton who know it, though seemingly without the prick owner... oh, and prices don't completely suck either, unlike Warp One. A few things I considered buying are indeed cheaper at Amazon UK, and overall I wound up not buying anything.

A quick pitstop at Sainsbury's near Whitechapel tube station before coming back here pretty much completes my outing.

I'll have to see what I want to do tomorrow. I'm thinking of heading east to The Who Shop and Tenth Planet (both similarly-themed stores to Forbidden Planet) for a gawk, but we'll see what happens.


Friday Night Clusterfuck

I got email about 4pm to say the Underworld concert I was planning to attend Friday night was canceled. Nothing other than "severe illness in the band" was cited, and apparently the gig is supposed to be rescheduled. The band's website confirmed the news thankfully, so it wasn't some erroneous spam or something lame, and I guess I'm glad I found out before spending the time going to the venue, but I'm still very disappointed the gig was canceled. Underworld was scheduled to play 3 consecutive nights at The Roundhouse, and I didn't find out about it until maybe 5 weeks or so ago. By the time I found the concert info, only the third of the three nights had any available tickets. I quickly bought one, anticipating the concert, and the first two nights went off without a hitch. But not the third. Sigh.

Anyway, with the concert canceled, I opted to go to the nearest pub for a drink or two instead. I'd not had dinner yet when I made the decision, and by the time I'd started on my second pint of Guinness I was already feeling it. I wound up staying for an hour at a place on Devon's Road (southeast of here) called The Liquor Inn (how original!) and had three pints and a packet of Steak & Onion crisps before calling it a night (it was pretty boring in there, I didn't bother trying to meet anyone, I just sat around watching others play pool) and deciding I'd better get some food in me. I walked up the street to a pizza place and bought some 'za for dinner. It was at best average, but it was reasonably cheap and it hit the spot, so it was good enough.



Toad in the Hole

I had toad in the hole for dinner last night. I couldn't resist.

I went for dinner at a pub across the street from The Palace theatre, where Spamalot is playing, and while the menu had a whole bunch of yummy-sounding things, I decided that I couldn't resist getting the toad in the hole. It's one of those British dishes you hear the name of and chuckle, but actually it's pretty darn good.

It's a yorkshire pudding (proper style) with mash and veg inside, topped with sausage and gravy. Frankly it needed chips in my opinion, but it was nonetheless pretty good (I had to season it A LOT of course, as is par for the course with many British dishes). I'd have it again to be sure.


King Doctor

Last night was theatre night, and I went to see Spamalot, a musical derived (chiefly) from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It was indeed a fun time, at least until I started to feel cramped a bit as there wasn't quite enough leg room. It wasn't too bad leg room-wise, but I could have used a smidge more.

Anyhow, despite it being a Thursday night, the place (as far as I could see anyway, and I was on the second level, the dress circle) was packed. Londoners really love their theatre to be sure, and although I've seen the source movie far too many times to have been surprised much by the play, there were a couple elements which threw me for a bit of a loop.

First was the inclusion of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life -- a song from Monty Python's The Life of Brian -- in the play. I saw an ad on the tube for Spamalot which quoted a few lines from the song but it didn't click that the song would actually be in the show considering it's source was something completely different (zing!). The song felt EXTREMELY out of place for me, likely due to its context in Life of Brian being stuck in my head, but not only was it sung partway through the show it was also used to close the show. I guess Eric Idle is just getting mileage out of other Python stuff since things like the Finland song and trout-slapping (as well as a nod to The Lumberjack Song) are also in the play.

What really surprised me was the cast. While I didn't recognize most of the cast members, right away I was struck by the inclusion of Bill Ward, who'd played Charlie Stubbs on Corrie for a few years. I'd not seen him in a comedic role before (he played Lancelot and the lead Frenchman, among other roles, in the play) and I thought he did very well. He had decent timing and could do the OTT/Panto-style stuff quite well.

However, the real shocker for me was Peter Davison, good ol' Doctor Who number 5, in the lead role as King Arthur. It took me a few minutes to recognize him, and I had no idea ahead of time that he was in the play. I was very happy to see him doing live theatre (I had no idea what he was up to these days other than a sitcom with one of his kids) and he could really do the comedic stuff well. Part of the draw for me in coming to London was to see Britishisms that people back home (mostly) wouldn't recognize but would make me giggle or gape in awe, and seeing Peter Davison was one of those things. If I hadn't had such a long day and murderously pained feet, I would have stood by the actor's entrance in hopes of getting a picture with him or something afterward.

Instead, I hobbled back to the tube station at Tottenham Court Road, went through the maze (and down an immense spiral staircase -- easily 125 steps) to get to the required platform, and went back to the flat... though not before I experienced by first tube delay, as a train a couple stations ahead wasn't cooperating properly and I got stuck at Bethnal Green station for a good 20 minutes while that was cleared up. The crappy part is that stop is the one before mine, so if the delay had occurred only one stop later, well, to me there would have been no delay.

The spotty wireless is working at the flat for now, so I'm going to take this opportunity to catch up on stuff since I was last online before I get ready to go see Underworld, live in concert, tonight at the Roundhouse.



Westminster & South Bank

Today I tooled around Westminster and South Bank to see some sights. After a nothing day yesterday I made some ambitious plans to go around Westminster, South Bank, backtrack a bit to Tower Hill and then go back west to the West End to catch a play.

Most of that came to fruition at least. I took the tube from Mile End to Westminster and got off the train and walked around for a bit before making my way over to Parliament. There were literally cops EVERYWHERE around there, which doesn't surprise me, but the automatic weapons many of them carried looked a little out of place. I wanted to get a picture of one of them but didn't think it very appropriate to ask one if I'd be allowed to snap a shot or two. Nonetheless I got a bunch of pictures of Parliament and St. Stephen's Tower (what most refer to as Big Ben, which is incorrect as Big Ben is a bell at the top of the tower, not the tower itself. The more you know...). After a while I made my way over to Westminster Abbey and took some more pictures or the churches and surrounding area before going inside to walk around and check out the tombs.

I was highly disappointed that they didn't allow photography inside there. I figured they'd allow it (my research this morning was obviously insufficient), but despite having to pay £10 to get in photos were verboten. I knew there was no way I was going to remember all the folks entombed there so I wanted to take some pictures to remember as many as I could (even if I'd heard of few of them). So, as unfortunate as it is, no photos could be taken. Needless to say a lot of the tombs (and not just those of monarchs like Elizabeth I or Mary Queen of Scots) are very intricate, ornate and detailed. One thing that bothered my was my lack of Latin knowledge. A lot of the inscriptions and descriptions are in Latin and while I could understand some of what was written, not all of it was legible to me.

After an hour or so in the Abbey and around the property I left and crossed Westminster Bridge (made famous, of course, in the Doctor Who episode "Rose"...) to go around the South Bank area by the BA London Eye. That thing is impressive in photos but even moreso in person. It's freakin' huge to say the least, especially considering it's just a big ferris wheel. Before I left for here, my sister was in Edmonton for a visit and she was walking me through the construction and deployment of the Eye (she'd done a research project on it at school; she's in Engineering) and the way it was set up was amazing. It's really a cool thing to see when you know the history (such as it is, considering it's less than a decade old).

I'd decided to end the day by hitting the west end for a play, and while I'd hoped to see Joseph (after watching some episodes of the reality show a la Pop Idol choosing the next Joseph) I guess tickets aren't on sale (I have no idea when it opens to be honest, but I'll find that out today for curiosity's sake). I saw a playbill for it at a tube station though... naming the Adelphi theatre even...). Hmm, after looking, there are 4 performances in November but nothing until then, thus the inability for me to buy tickets.

Anyhow, I hopped the tube to Leicester Square and went to the TKTS booth (half price -- or so -- tickets can be had there, and at about a dozen other places around Leicester Square station) and I wound up choosing Spamalot since it seems so English to see something developed from Monty Python work. The finalists were that and We Will Rock You, a musical about/by Queen. Either seemed cool but Spamalot seemed more *fun* so that won out. It's nearly 5pm as I type this and the show is at 8:00. I'm at an internet cafe down the road from the theatre killing some time until I can take my seat, so despite the horribly uncomfortable chair I'm sitting in I'll see if I can last until 6:00 or so before departing to have some dinner. And they're playing American radio here... internet stream radio I expect, maybe satellite, but like, this is ENGLAND... should I not expect to hear more Oasis or something rather than Avril Lavigne and Eminem?

Anyhow, if there's a viable net connection back at the flat (it's spottier than a teenager) I'll see about getting some of today's photos posted when I get back.



Not much is up yet, but I've stareted posting pictures at http://picasaweb.google.com/cburgess for anyone who wants to look...



Daily Grind

It's 11am Wednesday morning and I've not had reliable internet access except when I come to this internet cafe about a 5 minute walk from the flat. I spent some time here yesterday morning catching up on email, news, etc. and I'm back again this morning.

After a sketchy morning yesterday, I hauled my butt out of bed and after spending some time at the internet cafe I took my first tube ride, going to Mile End station (the nearest stop) and taking the Central line to Oxford Circus. Why there? Well, the Regent Street Apple Store is a half block or so from there and that was one place I decided I wanted to visit early. I've only been to one other Apple store, in Palo Alto, a few years back when I was in San Francisco for MacWorld. It was a much smaller store than the Regent Street one here, but then unlike the downtown London one it's not a flagship store. The place is indeed beautiful and loaded with Apple gear, and was definitely very busy. There were a few dozen staff members at least so they at least appear to be doing good business. However, after wandering around for 15 or so minutes, the lustre wore off as it's just a store in the end, and I wasn't there to buy anything.

I left the store and did some walking around, winding up going toward and past Tottenham Court Road and then up toward Goodge Street tube stations. There's a monthly gathering of London-based Doctor Who fans which takes place at the Fitzrovia Tavern, a block southwest of the Goodge St. station, and I made sure to find it since I was in the area so I knew where to go if I happened to be able to make one of those gatherings. I stopped in for a bit to have some lunch and a few pints, and wound up sitting with a few older ladies (the place wasn't packed but it was far from empty) in town for some reason or another. After a few pints of bitter (proper, room-temperature bitter, not that shite you get back in Canada!) I left, did a smidge of grocery shopping at a nearby Sainsbury's, then hopped the tube back to the flat to do nothing else the rest of the day as my feet were killing me.

Along the way I did buy the new Underworld album which came out Oct 16 in North America but has been out a few weeks here in the UK. I'd previously downloaded it, but will have to listen to it again since I've got a ticket for their concert on Friday and the Roundhouse by Chalk Farm tube station.

Time to go now. I left my camera back at the flat but I think I'll be going back to pick it up and do some more sightseeing around town. Perhaps Big Ben and Parliament.



Moving in...

I've arrived at my flatshare, which is a smaller bedroom (as is the norm for what I sought, so I'm not surprised there) which isn't exactly clean. The place needs a good hoovering at the very least, but the walls are clean and there's only a bit of dust otherwise. I've signed the lease agreement but so far have not returned it to the landlord as I require a copy of it for myself, so I'll either get a copy from the landlord or go make a copy myself when I go for a jaunt later to see what's around the area.

I've taken pictures of most of the space, especially of places that could be questionable later on (a couple stains on the floor, a split seam in the wallpaper, etc.) and will soon email the landlord that I have done so and will ask what method is best to supply them with copies of all the photos so they know what I show at the end of the term is what they've had all along -- no room for funny business from either side of the equation.

The area is very ethnic. I'd read something the other day about the population being something like 40% Bangladeshi, and I can certainly attest to the non-white population comprising the nearby area. As long as I can easily find stuff I'm used to (crappy white food) it's all good.

The ad to which I responded promised certain amenities for the room which are as of yet not in place. I've been informed the people with whom I'm residing have only just moved in themselves and as such not all the furniture is in place, nor is the internet connection up and running. A neighbour (it seems) has an open wireless access point so I'm currently connected to that with a good degree of reliability. It's not the speediest of connections but for now beggars can't be choosers.

Once I get a copy of the lease agreement the next step is to get to a nearby bank and open an account. After that it's sorting out a mobile phone. I know what I'm going to get and from which carrier and at what tariff, it's just a matter of satisfying the requirements to obtain a monthly plan (versus pay as you go), among which is a bank account (last I saw anyway). Then it's some sightseeing and the Underworld concert on Friday. Somewhere in between will begin the job hunt so that I can sustain my cash flow.

I've had a really up and down weekend personally, between the excitement of being in a new place and the doldrums of missing people back in Canada already. I'm frankly not an emotional person but I've been on more of an emotional rollercoaster than I can remember for the longest time. I'll soon level out a bit and that'll make things easier, but for now it's really much tougher than I first anticipated.

If nothing else I do look forward to a bit of privacy and quiet relative to the hostel where I really got very little sleep during the night (having to take daytime naps to sustain myself, and also because of the time zone adjustment). As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure after I grab a glass or six of water I'll be taking a nap.

More to come later.

Oh, and speaking of the emotional rollercoaster, man was it cool to drive by Westminster Abbey, the London Eye and other well-known attractions on the way from the hostel to the flatshare. I think I'm going to like this place.



Okay wrong greeting but still...

So I got into Heathrow about 11:45 Friday morning. Short trip to immigration. It took about 5 minutes in line and about a minute at the counter to get my passport stamped and to move along. My baggage was waiting for me when I got to the baggage claim. I hopped a cab to the hostel because it was WAY too awkward to deal with what I had on me to take the tube. I was at the hostel by 12:45 or so after a £41.60 (!!!!) fare. Thank goodness you're not expected to tip!

I had to wait until 2pm to check in but I stored my luggage and went for a walk to see what was about. I found an M&S Simply Meals, Sainsbury's (both Local and full-blown) and a Tesco within walking distance, not to mention Boots, Carphone Warehouse, etc etc. I've not left the hostel too much otherwise since I fear for my stuff (and since it's now all I own in the world, I feel that's justified!) as well as being a bit scattered with the time difference. I'm paying £3/hr to get on the wifi (with which I get a killer connection to the router but not no great to the outside world, but it's usable).

I went and picked up an Oyster card today while the queue at Earl's Court station was small. Last night I went walking for a bit and got a smidge lost, getting as far away as 3 tube stops, which was about a half-hour walk away not counting meandering to and fro. Nevertheless I found my way back before too long thanks to maps on bus shelters and today I've done the least so far because my feet are killing me after the nearly 3-hour walk last night.

All in all it was a safe trip and aside from the snoring of the roommates at the hostel (and the cramped bed) the place is safe and clean and it's all good.

Tomorrow I meet my landlord to get the keys to my proper place and I can get settled.

(Originally written Sunday night, posted Monday morning due to technical issues.)