London - April 21, 2012
Thought that I should write to let you know that everything is unfolding as it should and that things have gotten off to a rather shaky and wet start... but at least it's a start. No real problems getting the bike shipped over from Vancouver although when I went to the shipper's warehouse to pick it up, it seems that while they hadn't really "lost" the bike, it was obvious that its location was not precisely known at that exact time. Apparently whoever had unloaded it from the plane had decided to take it elsewhere on the airport and put it where they store all the empty baggage bins. I had visions of Rosebud lost, abandoned and forgotten in Mr. Kane's warehouse. The shippers also apparently were looking for two very dehydrated and hungry dogs who had come over on the same flight. I assume they found the dogs since they did eventually find the bike. All of this hunting took a couple of hours... but I kept telling them not to rush as it was absolutely pouring rain and I was certainly not interested in jumping out into that. I can't believe that I am starting in the rain again!
Loading Up in Vancouver
Anyway... got the bike all prepped, gassed it up and after a 40-minute wet ride into Croydon, I headed for the "U-Stay London" I had booked online. Went to the address... but it was just someone's house. No one there. So I talked to the neighbor and he had never heard of "U-Stay London" and although he confirmed it was the right address, said that his neighbor did not even rent out rooms. Having learned not to believe addresses anyway over here, I drove up, down and around... in the rain... looking for the place, all the while trying to remember to drive on the left. Asked several people and no one had ever heard of the place. I tried to phone them but my phone battery was dead. Tracked down a pay phone but no British change. Called the operator and put a local call on my credit card, but it came back as an invalid phone number. Eventually smelling a scam (OK, so I was jet-lagged) I went back to the guesthouse I had stayed in two years ago to see if the owner, Percy, just by some wild chance might have a room available. I had tried to book with him online before I had left home but nothing was available and hence the U-Stay booking. I was really surprised when Percy opened the door and immediately recognized me... geez, even remembering my last name! And as it worked out, yes he did have a cancellation. So I got one of my old rooms for three nights and that's where I am now. Room 7 at the Atini. Ah... dry.
That was all Thursday(?)... yes... and so Friday I took the train into London to do the two things I wanted to do while I get de-jet-lagged... go to the Victoria and Albert museum to see the micro-mosaics and go back to the Greenwich Observatory. I had seen the micro-mosaics on PBS's Rick Steve's Europe and really wanted to see them firsthand. The mosaic pieces are so tiny, that they provide magnifying glasses to view them. But these works are not like a few pieces on the head of a pin. They are full-size "paintings" done in tiny shards of shaped glass and stone. When I got to the museum, I got a map and bee-lined past room after room of exquisite art and atifacts to the place where the mosaics were... but upon arriving there, thought I was in the wrong place. Just these paintings on the walls and a few painted tables. But wait! No they're not paintings... they're the mosaics. Unbelieveable. I can't understand how those were humanly possible to do. The way the clothing drapes and the skin tones... Seeing those was worth the trip alone. Like a total solar eclipse, these mosaics are something that everyone should see once. Or twice.
Micro-mosaics at the Victoria and Albert, London
After that, I staggered over to the Observatory and oggled the Harrison clocks again. Harrison's last clock, his H4, was truly one of the most important developments in technology... ever... and opened the world to accurate navigation and mapping. And it just sits there in a little case. About a foot from my nose.
The Harrison H4 at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich
Anyway, today was a bit quieter. Went to the "Sherlock Holmes Museum" at "221B Baker Street". That was fun. The museum took over an apartment on Baker Street that they have furnished as consistently as possible to the details provided in the stories. I'm sure they are constantly badgered by fanatics who say that such-and-such should be set to the right of Holmes's sitting chair and not to the left because of some evidence suggested by such-and-such. I've read all the stories a couple of times now but I'm no kook. But I just thought it was fun.
So tomorrow I am off to Dover. Short trip. I'll spend the night and then take the ferry to Calais on Monday morning. The weather will be sucky for a while. The weather forecasters are using such terms as "disappointing", "never-ending", and occasionally use the word "flood". There are no sunny days forecast for the next week or so. But I've noticed that the mornings are clear but that as soon as daytime heating begins, the rains and thunderstorms begin. So my plan is to ride in the mornings and stop early. Unfortunately, the place I am planning to stay tonight in Dover doesn't allow check-ins until 4 PM. It's just a B&B and so I will need to entertain myself indoors until then. What's in Dover? Dunno. Stay tuned and we'll find out together.