Thursday, July 25, 2013

London 2013 Part 1: Are We There Yet?

Are we there yet? Apparently not. Apparently we haven't even boarded the plane yet. Sigh. How unfortunate it is that no one's invented teleportation yet - if there's one thing I could do without it's a 20 hour flight. But one does need to make certain sacrifices for the great good, and if there ever was a greater good, it's this trip to London.
London. Ever since I'd returned from my first UK adventure last August, I'd thought of nothing but going back. So let me thank my favourite band for announcing their Wembley headline show for June 2013, and giving me the perfect excuse to plan another trip! On some levels I couldn't even begin to comprehend going back - yes, it's exciting the first time you visit a new country, but for me knowing what I was in store for had me all the more excited!
And so day finally arrived: a cold and wet Cape Town morning saw us on the shuttle to the airport around 9am, for the flight which was to depart for Dubai at 1pm. Thankfully unlike last year, we were not 8 hours early, so were able to drop our bags off immediately (weighing 11.5kg and 14kg at the time - this was soon to change), but entertaining oneself in an airport for even three hours is a bit of a stretch.

After dragging Wimpy breakfast out for as long as possible, and a quick look around the airport shops, we find the boarding gate, and I begin Instagramming the most cliche of things (including my boarding pass and what I assume is our plane) because you know what? I'm going on holiday, and the whole world had better know about it! Emirates does always make for a comfortable, decent flight, but the issue here is that we're flying partly during the day and partly through the night, meaning we're sure to arrive in London without having slept in approximately 24 hours. Sigh. I get halfway through Les Mis before the food arrives and I decide that I need something involving slightly less brainwork so that I can try to nap after lunch/supper/whatever meal this is that has broken free of the constraints of time. Cue re-watching episodes of The Big Bang Theory  and some Modern Family  that I'm pretty sure I watched on last year's flight.

Upon landing in Dubai circa 10pm (only 29 degrees outside at the moment), we have exactly 40 minutes to get to our boarding gate. Now, whilst this may sound like a long time, have you ever been to Dubai airport? Have you had to remove half your clothes for security checks (I exaggerate only slightly), and then dash to what will most definitely be the very furthest boarding gate? No? Well it can take far more than 40 minutes. Mad dash ensues. Of course we make it, with about 15 minutes to spare, and join the group of exhausted-looking travellers attempting to control screaming five-year-olds, beg their phones to connect to the wi-fi, and generally keep themselves awake.

I'm not sure whether or not I ever actually fell asleep on the flight to England, but it seemed to drag on for even longer than its 7 hours. Longest. Flight. Ever. But it's all worth it when I see those familiar green fields and I know that we're coming in to land. Ah, Gatwick Airport. I'm finally here - back in my Sam's Town. It's around 7.30am on Tuesday morning, and my first order of business is a simple one: find the NME. With that done, I accept the fact that, despite my generally dislike of coffee, I need someone to inject caffeine into my veins before I simply keel over and die of exhaustion. Unfortunately there's no Starbucks at the airport, so I accept a Costa latte with a grimace - it will have to do. We've decided to do things a little differently this time - instead of a hire care, we'll be completely reliant on public transport, which could either work out a lot cheaper, or be a complete disaster. The best way to get from the airport to town is on the Gatwick Express (the bus is a lot cheaper, but even the lady at the bus kiosk said we should take the train instead), and it's bustling with people even at this early hour. So much so, in fact, that we don't manage to get seats, but rather stand next to our luggage for the duration of the 30 minute ride, whilst attempting to not spill aforementioned Costa latte.

Our hotel is - in theory - a five minute walk from Victoria Station, but in which direction is anybody's guess. North, East, South and West are helpful concepts only when one is possessed of a compass, which currently I was not (or so I thought). It also does not help that most of the maps in London are, for some unfathomable reason, upside down. In retrospect, pulling 11.5kg of luggage and carrying a 2.5kg backpack seems like kind of a joke (you'll understand later), at the time it was kind of a big deal. Also not forgetting the fact that we'd been travelling for 20 hours by now. The hotel, as it transpires, is really only about 8 minutes from the station, but seeing it's not even 9am (check in is at 2pm), the best we can do is drop our bags off and hit the road again.

So, what does one do on one's first day back in London, after 20 hours' worth of traveling? Why, one shops, of course!

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