Croydon, UK - April 19, 2010
Well, the bag didn't show up right away but I decided to wait for it. The rest of the week was basically spent touring around London. I left the bike parked at the guest house and just went into and about London on the train and underground. Very convenient, quick way to get around.
Tuesday was just spent in reconnaissance and tracking down Stanfords, a large map dealer of international renown. Their floor decoration is one big map. I was looking in particular for a road atlas of Russia which I knew they had from their website. Sure enough, they had it. So picked that up, as well as a small map of London and continued my wanderings.
Used Book Street
On Wednesday, more wanderings and stopped at Parliament for a self-guided audio tour of the War Cabinet Rooms. Interesting place, left pretty much as it was at the end of the war. Guess they just walked out, locked the door and it stayed that way for 50 years until it was reopened in the '90's I think? Pretty nicely displayed.
On Thursday I went to visit all the dead folks at Westminster. Again a self-guided audio tour and very well done. Saw the burial sites of Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Newton, Handel, Lyell, Darwin and a bunch of kings, queens and others. Some were just memorials, some were burial sites. Then finished up the day wandering through the National Gallery. Definitely did not do that place justice in the couple of hours I spent. It needs much more time.
On Friday, I went looking for some motorcycle clothes. By now, I had heard on the news that British airspace was closed indefinitely due to the volcanic eruption on Iceland. And still no word on the whereabouts of the bag. So I thought that I should at least investigate the possibility of a plan B wherein I would just buy all new gear. So I tracked down a shop on Great Portland Road, just north of Carnaby Street and spent a couple of hours wandering through, trying on stuff, etc. I told the shopkeeper what my situation was, and so he just let me alone to do my thing. They definitely had what I needed... I just hate to spend $800 on new stuff when my own stuff is sitting somewhere perfectly usable.
Afterwards, I went to the British Museum. One of the most mind-blowing experiences so far. The highlight was definitely the Rosetta Stone. Reminds me of the stone in the movie 2001. Kind of had that kind of atmosphere about it. Communication path to an ancient culture. Very, very cool. A must-do before one dies. Also, a highlight were the drawings and collected samples of Banks, the botanist on Cook's voyage of discovery. Just right there. Awesome.
Saturday was another fascinating day. Took the train to Greenwich and walked up to the Royal Observatory, which straddles and defines the Prime Meridian. While that is cool in itself, I was particularly interested in seeing the Harrison clocks, the masterpieces in workmanship of John Harrison, the 18th century clockmaker who cracked the problem of telling accurate time (and therefore longitude) at sea. I'm just in awe of a guy who worked 45 years trying to perfect a design that was seriously flawed and who had the ability to change approaches once he realized it. Would have loved to meet him.
Straddling the Prime Meridian
I called the baggage company about the continuing airspace situation. The good news was that the bag had made it to Manchester on one of the only flights from Vancouver to Great Britain in the past several days. It was scheduled to be delivered on Tuesday. Whew. Alternate plan B needs not be put into action, although it will require a few more nights stay at the guest house.
Sunday was lazy day. Didn't go into London for a change, but just hung around Croydon. Nice town, totally full of shops. Got my Uzbekistan Letter of Invitation and visa application printed. Two more documents to keep track of. Yet another lunch at Pret a Manger, a chain of really excellent sandwich shops and finally went to the local Alma Tavern for dinner. Seems all they had for dinner was pizza but it was really excellent. Also had a Strongbow beer. Tasted like a blend of white wine and beer actually.
Monday. Well, that's when I am writing this and hence the present tense. Hanging around the guest house this morning. Have placed a call to a tire shop in London about getting a Continental tire for the front, to match the one I have for the rear. Said he could get it by tomorrow, but would call me back. Haven't heard yet. Waiting to change rooms yet again. I've been bounced back and forth between three rooms as I keep extending my stay. Sometimes I can book on line at a discount, sometimes not. Unfortunately for the next two nights (my last I hope) not.