30.1.08

A visit from Russel

A few weeks back I knew that a friend of mine, Russel Fleming, was coming to London for a teacher's job fair. He's currently living and teaching in San Tecla, El Salvador and is looking for different pastures. He's got a series of interviews lined up with various schools from Thailand, China, Oman and elsewhere. While he's got a bit of business to take care of, there's still time to take him around and show some sights from this city to him.

It's also quite nice to have a visitor, too!

On Monday I met him at Gatwick Airport and collected him from there, taking him on his frist UK train ride as we hopped the rail line north to Clapham Junction where another friend of his lives, and where he's staying for a few nights. After he dropped off his bags and had a bit of a visit, his friend had to take care of some work so we went out and about for a while.

One place he wanted to go was the Apple store, fellow Mac user that he is, chiefly to see the new MacBook Air; unfortunately, none were yet in stock to be put in display so we had to content ourselves with the other Apple fare. I was tinkering with an iPhone at one point and found it had a valid SIM card in it and actually was functional as a phone. Being an in-store demo unit that somewhat surprised me, but after calling my cell phone and seeing it work I was intrigued. I becked Russel over and told him about it, so he proceeded to try calling his wife back in El Salvador. Alas international calling seemed to be blocked as his call didn't go through.

If anyone cares to give it a ring, a valid phone number for an iPhone at the Regent Street Apple Store is 075 1584 7471 according to my cell phone's call history.

From the Apple Store we walked down Regent Street to Hamley's toy store, a simply massive place spread over 7 floors (though we skipped the girls toys floor). Russel was quite interested in looking at toys for his 17-month old son Matthew, while I was more interested in some other stuff such as the Teletubbies they had for sale.

After Hamley's we kept going down Regent Street toward Piccadilly Circus, tooled around there for a bit, went into the London Trocadero (a big amusement arcade with video games, bowling, a cinema, and more) to see what was in there, then kept going. We went up Shaftesbury Avenue at the start of the theatre district and meandered up to Great Russell Street to hit the British Museum. Unfortunately by the time we actually got to the museum it was nearly closing time so we spent all of 10 minutes in there before having to leave. We went back down Tottenham Court Road a bit back to Oxford Street and as Russel was tired from the jetlag we decided to call it a night and I went with him to the train station at Waterloo (after a series of strange events shut down Victoria station, which was the station we used to come into the city) and made sure he knew what he had to do to get back to his friend's place where he was staying.

Today, after a late start, we met up at the South Kensington tube station to go to the science museum. As he's a physics teacher, Russel wanted to start there. We wandered around there for about 3 hours before deciding to grab some lunch. A quick stop at Subway and we were on our way to the Natural History Museum, adjacent to the science museum. We spent about an hour and a quarter in there, leaving when they announced it was closing.

From there we wandered over to the Royal Albert Hall, mostly because I'd not yet gone there and I wanted to see it, especially at night. I satisfied my curiosity there and we moved on. Russel's wife had requested he buy some good British tea to bring back with him as she didn't care for what was available in El Salvador. So with that in mind, and being near Knightsbridge, the logical conclusion, of course, was to go shopping at Harrod's. We wandered around the food halls (ignoring the rest of the store) for a bit, eventually finding the area with coffee, tea, chocolates and other stuff. Russel looked around, found some interesting choices, and we left the store.

Knightsbridge isn't terribly far from Buckingham Palace, so with nothing better decided for a subsequent destination we headed over there. The palace looks quite nice at night all lit up, and while we were there we observed a lengthy line of cars waiting to get onto the palace grounds, as there was apparently some function there tonight. I pressed to go elsewhere (Trafalgar Square is about 10-15 minutes away on foot) but Russel decided to call it a night as we'd been going for about 6 1/2 hours without much stopping and he wanted to head back and relax. So, we trundled to the nearest tube station and made our respective ways back.

I've come up with some ideas for places to go the next couple days after his job interviews, so we'll see how far we actually get. Tomorrow will be all around Westminster by parliament, and Thursday will be a bit further east around Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Pall Mall, Canada House, The Strand, Covent Garden, and perhaps Holborn and St Paul's if we're quite energetic. We'll see how far we get!

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