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The Night Before

London, United Kingdom

So tomorrow is the big day; and yet, despite months of preparation, there are a multitude of unforeseens. When I first decided to leave on April 1st (a prefered date because I have throughout my life stubbornly tried to challenge superstition), I did not know that the G20 summit would be being held in London, that Barack Obama would be making his first visit to Europe as President and that as a consequence, the biggest and most vicious demonstrations for a generation were forecast around London. As my Eurostar train leaves St. Pancras at 09:26, half way across town from Waterloo where I am arriving into, I am naturally a little bit apprehensive.

I have at least nearly finished packing, a task which has taken nearly two days including a number of shopping trips and only partly successful attempts to consolidate my medical supplies into one small bag. And although I have remained determined to be as independent as is possible in my preparations, I have thankfully received significant and invaluable help from my mother. Amongst other things, she has had to put up with Bosnian ticket offices that for some inexplicable reason are based in Austria, long hours of internet shopping and a most unhelpful woman in Rochester who thought she was trying to purchase an informational DVD about the Italian Rail Network. You will be pleased to hear that, after several days, the matter that has come to be known as 'The Serbian Problem', has now been resolved.

Now to bed. In eight and a half hours I have to be out of the house, and although I am too excited to sleep, I should at least make an attempt at it.

permalink written by  BenWH on March 31, 2009 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Gap Year Odyssey
tagged UnitedKingdom

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Homeward Bound

Plymouth, United Kingdom

I have heard that if you have nothing nice to say about someone, you shouldn't say anything at all. If I am to follow this, mention of my fellow passengers on the Santander-Plymouth ferry would be conspicuous only by its absence. However, I also know that what people don't hear can't hurt them, and I have promised to give a full account of my trip, up until the last hour.

Simply by waiting at the port, you could tell things had changed. At least 90% of the passengers were British, and those that weren't were mostly English-speaking. (Although, 'what sane Spanish person would holiday in Plymouth?' would be the obvious response to this.) People just walked up to the checkin and started speaking English without even asking if the person behind the desk could understand it, a big breach of travel etiquette. They headed straight for the duty-free and bought cases of cheap wine, beer and spirits. They sat, moaning about this and that, talking as if they hadn't just spent a week or more on holiday. It turns out that many of them hadn't. Later I was to discover that many people just travel from Plymouth to Roscoff to Santander to Plymouth as a sort of economy cruise, sometimes not getting off the ferry, and if they do only to make the most of the duty-free. Extraordinary.

On board the ferry, I was at first very impressed. With the exception of my Marmaris-Rhodes disaster, the ferries I have travelled on have got progressively better over the course of the trip, and this completed the journey in style. A couple of good restaurants, bars, and half a shopping mall meant getting bored here would be quite difficult. Some people, however, seemed to manage it. Soon after boarding, there were calls for 'Bingo!', and it was promised by the onboard organiser of 'entertainment' that this would be played in due course. First, however, was the football: Man U vs Barcelona. I found a nice private table from were I could keep an eye on one of the many large flatscreens and my fellow passengers and bought a paper and a magazine to read. I tried to walk downstairs to get some food, and ended up spilling much of it due to the unsteadiness of the floor, so I returned to the football. This of course finished with the British getting angry and the few Spanish crew members jumping up and down in glee. Hooliganism averted, however, the bingo began. I'm no bingo-expert, but the rules seem pretty easy to follow. But by the end, half an hour of listening to random numbers combined with a worsening seasickness, made me feel like I was stumbling drunkenly through a game of NumberWang. I went to bed. Sleep was just out of reach, however, and after about an hour in this state I was alarmed by an awful wailing, as if a mother had lost her child over the side of the ship. But gradually, it settled into something resembling a 1980s ballad and I concluded that it must be one of the onboard entertainers.

The next day was difficult to get through. I couldn't make myself sleep through it, and so I had to endure an aching tiredness and dizziness, not helped by further games of bingo and a second outing for the entertainers in the background. These latter were no better than a mediocre karaoke performer, but might have got through to the second round of X-Factor if they had been young, charismatic and attractive. They were neither young nor charismatic nor attractive.

Thankfully, by mid afternoon the shore of Southern England became visible on the horizon. I walked outside and stood in the sun as the last minutes of my trip slid away.

permalink written by  BenWH on May 28, 2009 from Plymouth, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Gap Year Odyssey
tagged Spain and UnitedKingdom

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Atlanta, United States

London is the capital of England and the United Kingdom and by far the largest city there. They have a historical heritage that I'd love to see for myself. And of course, they have Parliment and Big Ben :)

permalink written by  MeganThompson84 on November 4, 2010 from Atlanta, United States
from the travel blog: Atlanta to London
tagged London, BigBen and UnitedKingdom

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