Why London? Well, why not London?? You see, when you are someone who has played the “The London Bridge is falling down” or “Monopoly” games, at some point while growing up; or you’ve watched the movies or read most of Ian Fleming’s Bond books – I’m pretty sure, buried deep down in your subconscious mind, London is one place you promise to visit some day when you’re older.
Apart from all that, growing up in a house where every now and then stories of London Missionary Society are told, you listen in awe and you dream of the day you will get to see London. In addition, the 12 day tour we were booked on, was starting and ending in London. A perfect opportunity presented itself, and as the saying goes, when that happens you grab it with both hands – and we did!
Just before 7am on Saturday 26.10.2019, London time, we touched down at Heathrow Airport. There was clapping & shouts of joy in the plane, because earlier we had circled for a while, over London, while waiting for an all clear signal to land. Infact there were many other planes circling as well, so you can understand the joy when ours finally touched down.
By the time we cleared customs and went outside to look for transport, it was 8am and we realised London was living up to it’s weather – cold and wet. It wasn’t raining but it was dark and gloomy, no sunshine. We opted to take the Tube just to check it out, our destination was Greenwich, where the tour would start from, on Monday 28.10.2019.
Outside terminal 3, we asked for directions and someone kindly redirected us back into the terminal to get to the Tube/Underground stations. At the gates, one of the attendants kindly showed us which lines to take and also helped us buy our tickets for the tube.
I remember the instructions ‘take Picadilly line from this platform, change at Green Park for Jubilee line. On the Jubilee line, your stop is Canary Wharf. You can catch the bus from there to your hotel or you could walk’. And walk we did, it was a good 20 minute one – felt longer because we were pulling our luggage too. In any case we still arrived well before the 1pm check-in time. I think it was 11am by the time we arrived at the hotel.
We left our bags in storage and headed out for lunch and then onto meet our friend, Annabel, near the London Eye. We had lunch quickly then took a bus back to Canary Wharf. We were told the closest station to London Eye was Waterloo, so we caught the Tube again. This time we made sure to buy Oyster cards, rather than just paying with cash or credit card.
Trust me when I say, it felt like I was in a monopoly game or that I would bump into James Bond or Miss Moneypenny or even M anytime while we were out walking. It was surreal! Anyhow, we got to Waterloo station (my favorite), one of the biggest and busiest train stations in the world. Over a million people pass through its gates every single day: imagine, standing there with lots of strangers milling around and out of nowhere you hear your name being shouted out! ‘Idau! Idau!’ I recognised the voice and yes, had a good “run-meet-hug” emotional moment with our dear friend Annabel. What a lovely surprise to meet that way after more than two decades ❤
It had started to rain, so for the next two hours, we sat in a little coffee shop and caught up with stories while waiting for the rain to stop. When it slowed down a bit, we started off on a sightseeing walk, past the London Eye, along the Thames towards Westminster, past Parliament offices. We saw the Big Ben too, but it was under construction, all the while taking photos of course. We walked by Westminster Abbey and took more photos, then caught a bus to Trafalgar square.
From the bus we caught glimpses of 10 Downing St (PM’s official residence) and the Horse Guards. After taking a few pictures and videos at Trafalgar square, Annabel took us to see the memorial of her ancestor, Edith Cavell – a British nurse who was executed for treason – she was helping everyone including enemy soldiers during the war.
Then we went for tea @ Cafe in the Crypt – this is an interesting place. Check it out when you get a chance to visit London. Annabel later explained that we were actually sitting in a cafe built on people’s crypts or cemeteries. Scary stuff!! The building above it is a church so after tea, we went upstairs to have a look and found a group practising for their show “Brahm’s Requiem”. We watched for a bit and then left because it was time to bid our friend goodbye. We said our farewells and separated at Charing’s Cross station. Although short, we thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent with Annabel.
Iamo and I, even though we were dog-tired and seriously jet-lagged, decided to check out London Bridge so we disembarked at the London Bridge station. Unfortunately weather was not on our side, it was raining cats and dogs by then, so called it a night and returned to our hotel in Greenwich to catch up on some much needed shut-eye.
What a city and what a first day it turned it turned out to be!!