Obstacles and overcoming them!

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January 22nd 2007
Published: January 22nd 2007
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London DragonLondon DragonLondon Dragon

Apparantly London's symbol is a dragon, and this statue marks the border between London and Westminster.
Although I've really enjoyed my time in London, it seems like it's been full of us continually encountering obstacles and having to figure out a way to overcome them. We've been doing pretty well at coming up with solutions thus far, but it's getting a bit tiresome. First we had to find that internet cafe to book our hostel online before we could check in. Then there was the bed bug incident. Then yesterday we realized that it was becoming pretty much impossible for us to book a reasonably priced Eurostar ticket so that we could take the train from London to Paris today. Although we are supposed to be eligible for a youth rate of $45USD after 11am on Mondays, it seems to be essentially impossible to book such a ticket online. Coupled with the fact that we were completely unable to find any travel agent anywhere here and the travel desk at our hostel is completely useless, and you have a problem. It was looking like we were going to have to pay over $100CAN to take the Eurostar, and we just weren't really willing to do that. Soooo instead we decided to double the amount and fly to
Monument to the great fireMonument to the great fireMonument to the great fire

This monument commemorates the great fire that completely leveled London in the 1600's. Maria, our guide, really emphasised how London was a city of rebuilding--it had been cut down many times but always rebuilt to be better than ever!
Greece! I know, it's expensive, but it will save us at least 2 days of train travel on our railpass and give us a much better jumping off point for the rest of our travels through Europe. Plus, it's warm there =) We shouldn't have any more major transporation fees, at least for a good long while, so hopefully we'll be OK financially.

Aside from the constant feeling of doom hanging over our heads due to a lack of train ticket, yesterday was a really great day! We took the Tube to central London where we joined a 3.5 hour free walking tour of London. The tour was really great. We saw ALL the main landmarks for London, and our amazing guide, Maria, told us really neat stories behind all of them. It was tons of fun and I learned a lot, though I'll probably forget all of that info in about a day. It was such a great way to see things because when Derek and I were walking around by ourselves on our first day here, we were looking at all these amazing old buildings but we had no idea what they were for. Plus, Maria took
Maria in Covent SquareMaria in Covent SquareMaria in Covent Square

Here our tour guide tells us the story of Covent Square, which used to be the theatre center of Old London. There are still lots of street performers in the square, even today
us through neat back alleys and showed us cool, out of the way landmarks that we never would have found on our own, like a small, ancient pub where Charles Dickens wrote his first novel on his lunch breaks from work as a 16 year old teenager. We also saw the church of the Nights of Templar, which is mentioned in the DaVinci Code, but it was nothing at all like I pictured it. Dan Brown was kind of harsh when he described it as like a small, non-descript church, but it was actually fairly cool (I thought). It wasn't as grand as Westminster abbey or anything, but it was pretty neat just the same. It's still a working church, and since it was Sunday we got to it just as the congregation was getting out, so I was able to steal a glance inside.

Which brings me to a trend I've noticed here: English kids cannot ride push scooters here. I don't know if scooters are a new phenomenon in this neck of the world and they just haven't worked out the technique, or if British youth are suffering from some kind of endemic inner ear condition, but we have been on the town for just 3 days and have seen two kids completely bail and a great many more close calls. No helmets, of course. Not that I would normally think scooter riding would warrent the wearing of a helmet, but it is obvious that these children need some extra protection. Warning to future London visitors: If you see a child coming at you on a scooter, dive out of the way! They are--for sure, not just maybe--going to run directly in to you.

We also went to the National Gallery (free!) which was neat. The gallery had some really great captions on all of its paintings that gave insight into the different techniques used by the artists or the symbolism used in the painting. They were informative writeups but brief enough that you could read pretty much all of them if you wanted to. We just kind of scratched the surface of the gallery because we were getting concerned about our complete lack of ticket to Paris, so we left before closing.

Now we have a couple hours to kill before our flight to Athens. I'm not really sure where we're going to stay
Clergy of the Templar ChurchClergy of the Templar ChurchClergy of the Templar Church

Just as church got out. Look out for scooter kids!!
when we get there, because the hostel we've picked out now says it doesn't have availability for tonight, but tons of them seem to say that, so I think they might just have stopped taking online bookings for today. The problem is, the hostel is said to be in an EXTREMELY sketchy part of town, so we don't really want to go there at night if we aren't going to have a room there. Another hostel, which costs twice as much, mind you, says they reserve space for walk-ins, so I think we'll try there for one night. We'll see. For the rest of our time, though, we'll stay in the prostitute neighbourhood. Don't worry, Mom, I'll stick with Derek!

Additional photos below
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Tower BridgeTower Bridge
Tower Bridge

A famous landmark on lots of postcards, but not the source of the "London Bridge is Falling Down" song

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