London – Here We Come. We spent a couple of days in Singapore on our way over to London, and checked out the awesome zoo and the shopping, but now it was time to continue on our journey. My first ever big trip overseas. I had been to New Zealand (actually I am from there) and to Hong Kong, but that’s it, so this was a big deal for me, and I was so excited about going to London and Europe.
Our flight left Singapore at 9am and after a 13½ hour flight we finally arrived at Heathrow Airport in London. The day we arrived in London the temperature was over 30ºc so the trip to our hotel was quite uncomfortable.
This was in 2001 and Heath Row Airport was a stark contrast to Singapore Airport. It looked tired and worn, the carpets were threadbare, although I do believe there was an upgrade to Terminal 3 which was completed in 2007.
Coming from Australia where the summers are extremely hot, means that everything is air conditioned so when you get into a mini-van in London with NO air conditioning with 10 other people on a really hot day and drive for two hours to get to your hotel you start to feel a little uncomfortable. Added to this is the fact that you have been sitting on a plane for 13+ hours prior to this.
Paula asked the driver if he could turn on the aircon and he tartly replied “We don’t have air conditioning in the van, we don’t normally need it.”
At long last, we finally arrived at our hotel. We had booked the Regent Palace in Piccadilly Circus. Well regent it wasn’t. The hotel itself was pretty interesting. Fantastic location (we were opposite the tube) but the rooms were the size of closets. You actually had to step over one of the beds to get to the bathroom and if you dropped the soap in the shower you had to get out of the shower to pick it up.
As there was no air conditioning the room was stifling. As you can see in the photo below, this was our attempt to try and cool the room down. We had to use a bottle of water as a weight to keep the window open.
There was a fire drill in the middle of the night which is apparently a customary exercise. So we all filed down to the lobby, Paula and I dressed before joining the rest of the pyjama clad bunch in the lobby. the place is built of brick and concrete so I figured we had time to get dressed first. Turned out to a false alarm, some idiot smoking in their room.
Breakfast was sausages, bacon, baked beans, toast, eggs and deep fried bread, which I hadn’t dared to eat since I was a kid. No worries here about cholesterol and trans-fats. There was also black pudding which was delicious.
Note:The Regent Palance Hotel closed it’s doors in 2006, and I really can’t say I’m surprised
Early Morning Sightseeing
Our body clocks were way out of kilter so as we were up around 4:30am we decided to go sight seeing. We passed a solitary jogger and a policeman. Other than that, it seemed like we had London to ourselves. We did get some lovely tourist free photos. Albeit they are quite dark. This was back in the day before digital cameras and you had know idea how the photos looked until they were developed. And at 5:20 in the morning it was still quite dark. I have lightened the photos with photoshop but they are awful quality.
Too Much Baggage
Having never traveled overseas to anywhere other than between NZ, Australia and Fiji, I didn’t pack properly. Took way too much stuff, some of which I dumped in a rubbish bin and some of which I posted home at horrific expense.
Being a book lover I picked up some fantasic history books in London which then of course also had to be posted home as we were only at the start of our trip and I didn’t fancy lugging books all round Europe.
My advice to anyone going to London and Europe is to take as little as possible, there are plenty of Laundromats to do your washing, so keep the weight down to a manageable level. Especially when you have to lug cases up and down many flights of stairs. Believe me you soon learn what is essential and what can be done without.
London is certainly an amazing city full of interesting things to see and lots of historic places to visit, and we only have a few days here so we will return for a longer visit in the future. And I’m guessing that maybe it will be in the winter next time.