Saturday, February 16, 2008

London: Day 1

As I'm struggling to keep my eyes open since I've had about 3.5 hours of sleep in the past 36 hours, there are two things that I'm proud of from my first day. First, I lived my dream of bringing just my purse and a carry-on for a nine-day trip abroad (well, sort of. I ended up checking my bag since it was so ridiculously heavy. I like to bring accumulated magazines from home with me when I travel). And, second, I sucked it up and took the Gatwick Express and underground Tube from the airport to my hotel with my heavy luggage. No cabs. (Although, my shoulders might curse me in the morning.)

Today and tomorrow I get to be a tourist since my business meetings start Monday, and I covered a lot of ground on day one. My piggies are oinkin'. Before this trip, I read my journal from my first visit to Europe seven years ago, and in one entry, I mentioned (with pride) that my girlfriend and I rode eight of the 12 Tube lines. Well, today I rode six different lines, so I'm well on my way to crushing that record since I've got four days to go.

After making it through the insufferable immigration check-in line at Gatwick, I grabbed the Gatwick Express to Victoria station and then bought an Oyster card (thanks Gary!), which is a "smartcard" that charges you the lowest fare based on your travel. From Victoria, I took the Tube to Bond Street, which is the area where I'm staying. Great shopping that will make it easy to break the bank, but I only bought post cards today.

I was having issues with access to e-mail and calls via my global phone, so I fiddled with that before taking an hour cat nap once I got to my hotel. What a difference an hour and Starbucks can make! After my caffeine recharge, I took the Tube to the Tower of London, my all-time favorite London site. How can you beat the Bloody Tower (prisoners scratched messages into the walls with their nails..ewww), crown jewels and Henry the VIII's hilarious "package" armor? It's also near the London Bridge, so there are great views.

I stayed till closing (4:30 p.m.) and then headed to one of my favorite art galleries: The Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House near the London Eye. The museum has an amazing collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. I love visiting private collections that are displayed in former residences (i.e. masterpieces are hung over fireplaces), and the Courtauld is a great hybrid of a traditional museum and a private collection. To add another dimension, the Courtauld's exterior (it's in the shape of a square) makes you feel like you're in a piazza in Italy where you're in the courtyard.

The collection of Van Goghs, particularly Van Gogh Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, got me all revved up for Paris where I hope to visit Montmartre for the first time, the community where Van Gogh worked and lived (as well as other well-known artists).

Closed the Courtauld down, too (wow, I live so on the edge), and then headed to Chinatown for some ridiculously delicious potstickers (again, thanks Gary!).

This joint was hotel room is actually bigger...and an older woman makes potstickers in the front window. You're seated wherever there's room, which means with completely random people. I was the only American in the room, and my dining mates were Chinese and German, both languages of which I can speak about one word each. (Reminds me of the time I was in Switzerland and trying to speak German to a man I didn't know was British and he told me to please speak English because I was hurting his ears.) So, I feel like I haven't talked much today, which is one of the weird things about traveling alone. I've never traveled this long on my own. It's scary and exciting, all at once.


  1. Amazing! And I can't believe it's for work. You are so lucky to have the opportunity to travel abroad on the company's dime. What an amazing expereience. I can't wait to read all about it.

  2. What a first day! Sounds like you had an awesome first day! Dont know what sounds better, the bloody tower or potstickers. Check that, the potstickers sound WAY better. When is the nobu experience? Kick ass and take names on the rest of your trip!