Saturday, August 15, 2009

Across the Atlantic Soup(part 1)

"Passport, please," the immigration officer requested.

Finally! The journey of 5,500 miles(give or take-having to fly all the way to Detroit first) ended here, at London Heathrow, at the end of another really, really, really long line in a facility that either didn't have air conditioning or all their units are broken. And then again-it rarely gets hot in London, so why bother? The US line was 2 miles long..while the UK/European Union passport holders zipped on by. As luck would have it, the honeymooning couple who must have hated our guts because we refused to give up our seats on the 7.5 hour flight over had been stuck in front of us for the past hour. Just in case both of us were trying to forget it ever happened. Yeah, those were our seats and really, they should thought of that prior to the flight but I still felt marginally guilty that they couldn't sit together. I'd gotten a couple of hours of shut-eye on the plane but excitement kept me running. As per docs orders, no diet coke yet.

After getting through security and picking up our bags we wandered out to the main area where our driver picked us up and took us out to the "Car Park", loaded us up, and drove us to our hotel. It looked like London, it felt like London, it smelled like must have been London. Humongous old buildings, smoke stacks, driving on the left side of the keeps one enthralled with the utter novelty of it all. It was a 45 minute ride to our hotel, the City Inn Westminster. We get there, attempt to check in-room isn't ready yet, go eat breakfast (it was at this point that I discovered the joys of trying to read a UK cereal box-6 languages and yet STILL no clear carb count, they just list the total weight of the food in grams so I just gave up and SWAGGED everything) and tried again. Eventually we got checked in and and went off to the first day's itinerary with a tour group. St. Paul's Cathedral:

And the Tower of London:

And saw the Crown Jewels, that was a 20 minute wait. Of course, no photography WAS allowed inside the buildings.(and I was too tired to take pics that day) I had difficulty believing they are the actual jewels and not replications, like any Joe Blow can waltz in and see them with very little security. They have a person in each room-but for the most valued artifacts in English history,that deserves a 20 person detail, at least. I guess I've watched Pink Panther too many times.

Our tour guide, a very bright and peppy individual by the name of "Sandra", was funny as all get out and kept us all suitably entertained by the wild and whacky stories of past tour groups. Like the time their coach(aka bus) broke down in the Cotswalds,2 hours from civilization(and a replacement bus). But by 4:30 pm, nothing in the world (not even exciting stories about Ravens) could keep me awake any longer, I was totally bushed(and staggering around like I was drunk). We skipped the Tower Gift Shoppe(bad,bad tourists) and Thames cruise and went back to the hotel to get some shut-eye. Our wonderful tour guide dropped us off within sight of the hotel, which is good because we were still really clueless about how to get around London. Upon getting back to the room, we discovered that
our mini-fridge still felt more like a sauna then the a coolant device and the "engineer" couldn't come out to look at it until Monday because it is a weekend. Whatever.(this hotel was rapidly approaching the list of places to avoid staying at on future visits) I was certainly not putting my insulin in there,I could not afford to waste any more insulin(2 vials frozen at the FFL hotel's fridge last month, 1 vial baked in my car), I had two vials remaining and nothing must happen to them(must last another month) till I could get home and order more. The room was fairly cool though, so I just left them out. Bg was drifting down, so I ate something and proceed to pass out. Woke up 45 minutes later, still around 100 and going down. In my state of brain deadness, I thought it was a good idea to disconnect for an hour or so and reconnect when we ate supper. Well, 11 hours later I awoke with a 365 and all the wonderful feelings that go along with that(but was surprised it wasn't worse!) Corrected, drunk water, and craved Diet Coke with a passion. Ate breakfast(heavy on the protein, light on the carbs!) and our tour bus picked us up and took us to the bus station where I immediately blew a cool 1.60 pounds(that's $2.60 USD, in case you were wondering) for a 500 ml bottle of Diet Coke. Which is not as big as a US bottle, and twice as expensive. But man, was it worth it.(having not had any in 18 days)It was like liquid Heaven.

small copper coin=pence
gold, thick coin=pound
large, octangular coin=50 pence
small grey (dime-ish looking) coin= 5 pence
Large, circular coin=ten pence
Other octangular coin=20 pence

I didn't see any 2 pence coins. There are no pound notes in the UK, so when you flash a five or ten note be assured you will be getting quite a few POUND coins in change. And yeah, I'd say they weigh about a pound each. It took awhile for this concept to truly sink in, and my change pouch subsequently acquired quite a bit in change because I had a fear of looking like an idiot American tourist who couldn't give proper change and giving a large note is much safer. I semi-got over that fear as I became more comfortable with the coinage.

Visited a currency exchange booth, got lots of 20 pound notes.

(More to come....)


Scott K. Johnson said...

Pricey Diet Coke! But I'm right there with you - I would have done it in a heartbeat after 18 days without (still don't know how you did that!).

Cara said...

Sounds fun. :) I love the pictures. And the coins. :)