I tried to catch snippets out the window as the train whizzed through somewhere-between-Gatwick-and-London. The train was faster than any I had been on before and it was nighttime so I couldn’t see much. Just blurrs of light smudging past. At one stage I thought I could see lanterns hanging across a street, but I couldn’t be sure. I thought I would be far more excited, having made it to the other side of the world, but aside from novel bakery stalls in the Gatwick Airport train station it didn’t seem like anything I hadn’t seen before. One of the stations even looked like the Auchenflower Station in Brisbane, a big carpark behind it, exactly like the Auchenflower Hospital. Perhaps it was because I was too focussed on making sure I got off at all the right stations, diligently following the instructions printed off from the London Transport Journey Planner site.
My ticket cost me more than my flight to Denmark, but I made sure I was getting the cheapest option and the fastest route, AKA I was that annoying person asking the ticket man a million and one questions. Poor guy.
Things got a lot more interesting when I moved from the ‘overground’ to the underground. My station (Edgeware Rd) looked like something straight out of Harry Potter and I got far too much entertainment out of whizzing past stations with names from Monopoly. Maturity stepped down a notch as my friend told me about a stop called ‘Cockfosters’ on his line that makes him laugh every time.
The backpackers I checked in to gets an A+ for efficiency, with triple layer bunks in the room, but after the concierge (read:bartender) proudly let me know reception (read: the bar) would be open 24/7 and Karaoke would be going all night I made the executive decision to not even bother sleeping. I could here awful renditions of rap songs (who ‘sings’ a rap song at a karaoke bar?) loud and clear in the room. Plus I had to be on the road at 3am and allow time to either wear most of the items in my suitcase or cram them in to my pockets.
After drinks in Notting Hill (it was JUST like the movie) and a wee spot of clubbing in Soho with a friend from Brisbane and 2 friends from Uni who are now studying at Cambridge I then took my London public transport skills to the next level as I mastered the double decker
buses. So good, was I, that on both the buses I needed to take before getting to the Stansted airport I managed to have just the right amount of foreign naivety for the drivers to waive me on without paying! (Giant notes also help).
My final experience in London was what can only be described as the most invasive security procedures imaginable. I had to take my shoes off and put them through the scanner, my bag had to be opened up and examined because there was so much in there. In fact, I received some very skeptical looks for having a 2 phones, a laptop, ipod and harddrive. I also had to have all my liquids re-scanned because one lip balm tube fell out of the not so well sealed bag. I think I got off pretty lucky though, as the girl before me set off the detector and had every inch of skin on her body rubbed (not patted) down by Airport Security (luckily a woman). They took particular interest in the poor girl’s underwire bra – I could have sworn I was witnessing a mammogram! I would take the full body scanner over that any day.
And with that I was away on my Ryanair flight direct to Aarhus. There may not have been a movie to watch, but there sure was a lot of in-flight entertainment – an astonishing amount of advertising going on! Every seat has an ad on the back, as do each of the overhead lockers, and every 20minutes or so the air hostesses would enthusiastically read out a sales script. So bizarre.