London, United Kingdom
23-25 January 2013
As I continued to make my way around the world, the pace rapidly accelerated as the countries I hopped between lasted shorter in duration, and the stays became shorter and more frenetic. I had figured that by this stage of the holiday, my attention span for new places would have significantly diminished. This was especially true for London, a city to which I am no stranger.
I was actually quite looking forward to the flight, as I was booked on flight BA4 – one of the flight numbers previously allocated to the Concorde’s New York-London services. While the age of supersonic travel has long ended without me ever having had a chance to indulge, the service lives on in the form of an all-Business class service (instead of the usual mix) using miniature Airbus A318’s (as opposed to the much larger widebodies) travelling in to London City airport (in contrast to the more remote Heathrow airport). I was expecting great things from the intimate cabin of just 32 seats, especially when I discovered I was one of just a handful of people on the evening’s flight, but British Airways disappointed, and sadly it was the hard product that didn’t make the grade.
You see, it appears that the bed that they use is designed for midgets, not men with 190 centimetres of height such as myself. It wouldn’t have been such a problem if I were able to use the full bed space, but the muppets fixed an immoveable headrest/pillow way too far down the bed, forcing me to curl my legs up uncomfortably the whole trip over the pond.
Unexpectedly sleepless, I arrived at London City airport a zombie, and made my way over to Paddington, where I met Jess, a former colleague of mine who had just the day before took the plunge and moved to the UK. And at 10am, I went to sleep.
Zzzzzz. Six hours later.
I never intended to be jetlagged, but I had just totally wrecked my sleep cycle waking up again at 4pm. In a bleak attempt to salvage something of the day, we quickly got ready and headed to some of the few London landmarks I had not yet visited. First stop, Tate Modern.
Now art is problematic, in that it is so subjective that you will never really appreciate everything fully. I felt that compared to ‘traditional’ art, I was much more inclined to like modern art, and this is based on comparing my experiences at Paris’ Louvre, which was somewhat wasted on me, to say, Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art. But when one of the first pieces you see is little more than air-conditioning ducts placed on the floor next to a descriptive white wall-mounted plaque, you start to question whether you actually ‘get’ art at all. Progressing through the museum, I felt this view was more and more accurate.
Next stop was more up my alley, an arbitrary line which doesn’t actually exist – the Prime Meridian. A short journey across south London to Greenwich got us to the park in which houses the Royal Observatory, in which smart boffins quite some time ago invented a Cartesian coordinates system to allow worldwide naval navigation. Equipped with the GPS in my phone, I excitedly walked towards the line where I hoped to straddle two hemispheres simultaneously, for the second time this trip. You can imagine my delight when I spot a high powered laser, carving a slice through the dark night sky, emanating from the roof of the observatory took away the guesswork for me.
Satisfied with my geographical conquests thus far, we retired to the nearby Plume of Feathers pub for a hearty meal and round of trivia before heading home.
The next day, in the interests of conquering new horizons, we jumped on a train and headed to Cambridge for the day. Due to my self-inflicted jetlag, we didn’t leave London until 3pm, but attempted to make the most of it anyway. On arrival, we found there was little to do but admire the beautiful architecture and intricate gardens and the daily life of a living, breathing university town amongst the narrow, cobblestone streets.
The city was blanketed in a thin layer of fresh, crisp snow giving a wintery novelty I had never experienced before. While Cambridge contains little to tempt the typical tourist, especially at 6pm in winter, it was a relief after the bustling metropolises I’d visited of late to return to a tranquil place where people live with a distinct sense of normality.
On the way back to London on that final night with but a week remaining in my trip, I thought I’d return a little bit of normality of my own to my routine; I had Nando’s Peri-Peri Chicken for dinner.