08 July 2011

Surprises in London

One of the things that makes travelling more memorable is the unexpected: you start out with plans, but they don't quite work out as planned or somewhere you turn left instead of right. Sometimes that leads to frustration, but sometimes it leads to delightful surprises.

Our trip to London, especially the first day (last week Saturday), felt like that. We'd left on time (7 in the morning!) and started biking to the train station - except my suitcase didn't have a side handle so I couldn't carry it on my bike - so Matthijs eventually took it - and we were a bit later leaving.

We did make it to the train station on time - only to discover that our train to Brussels had been cancelled! So first to Rotterdam and then the next international train - which was crammed. After things emptied out in Belgium, a friendly blind guy sat across from us - and we had a delightful random conversation. And despite the train delays, we had lots of time to board in Brussels.

And finally London! Neither of us had thought to print out a map (the ink in the printer is almost out, so I'm not sure if it would have helped anyways), so we meandered around trying to figure out how to get to our address (it didn't help that our 'local' subway station was closed). We ended up walking past the Oval cricket stadium and through a tiny little community garden - and then we were by our bed and breakfast. We were met by our host, who turned out to be a bit more flamboyant than we expected (and quite effusive about his love for God, as we discovered in the days to follow); we happily settled in and got ready to explore London.

With a guide book and a transportation card (oyster card), London is fairly easy to navigate. And our first stop was the Victoria and Albert museum. After exploring the more usual museum things, we bumped into the glass display (on our way to architecture). Wow! A staircase with a glass banister and hundreds of strange shapes and colours of glass - not what we'd come to see but it captured our attention in a way we hadn't expected.

After the museum, we walked through Kensington Park to get to a lovely Indian restaurant - only to discover we'd needed reservations. And so, we chose instead a strange but delightful snackbar place with crazy spicy food and a mixture of customers (from young mediterranean guys to a black woman to a couple where the woman was clothed in a burka).

And after dinner, back to the bed and breakfast - delighted by our day but tired from all the new things. We also wanted to get some extra sleep so as to be ready for the next adventures: Sunday would be Oxford and Monday was the beginning of the conference!

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