the hoofindex - rewind to the previous trip (the snr hoofs in holland) - fast forward to the following trip (making UK home)
Day 29 and 30 - London Hoof...
After the pilot finished spanking the plane from Holland we landed at Luton. At immigration there were 2 queues, 1 for EU passports and 1 for non EU. With Hoof having an EU passport we decided to take the faster moving queue for EU passport holders. This is what we usually do, in NZ I follow the Hoof'ess down the NZ line - it always works fine and nobody has ever worried. Of course we've never tried to enter Britain. The somewhat grumpy immigration officer took our passports, stamped my EU passport in 1 second and then started to grump at the Hoof'ess about coming through the wrong queue. He grumpily said "you're holding up all the other EU passport holders who are using the correct queue" and "make sure you don't do it again". Then repeated himself and give the Hoof'ess evil looks. Welcome to Britain Hoof'ess. After the immigration experience we decided to really go "easy", and took EasyBus from Luton into London. Arriving at Luton to go to London is like arriving in Hamilton to go to Auckland. It's really another town and heading back to London you go through rural countryside before re-entering urban sprawl. After a tube ride using 2 trains we got to Earls Court which is where the backpackers we had booked is located. After a 10 minute walk we got there and were not at all impressed by the place. Location was going to be good, price was pretty good but the place looked like it hadn't been cleaned for a while, and needed some serious maintenance and a fresh paint job. Little did we know it got worse the more you saw. We checked in and went up to our room, basic which was all we needed. The Hoof'ess wasn't feeling the freshest so she had a shower while I sorted some of our stuff out. She was back within a couple of minutes - apparently the bathrooms were even worse. Firstly they were shared. Secondly the main door didn't stay shut. So anyone walking down the stairs could peak straight at the showers which only had slightly frosted doors. Nice! Then there were the toilets - they were sensational! These were worse than anything we had seen in Mexico or Cuba. But okay - we could survive for now, so we headed out for a look around and get some drinks and dinner. First night in London, where else would we go other than a local pub. We found a classic local, got a beer and an OJ for the Hoof'ess - and got some pub snacks - good old fried stuff. Having enjoyed our first London meal we wondered around Earls Court to walk off the fried stuff and hold off the Heathrow injection. Eventually we made our way back to the backpackers to crash.
The Hoof was not sleeping too well, very restless feeling itchy. That was until the Hoof'ess got up and turned the light on. I don't think I've ever moved so fast to get off the bed. If it was a 100m sprint I would have beaten Carl Lewis. Why I hear you say... the bed was full of bed bugs where the Hoof'ess had been laying - at least 40 of the damn things and they were massive, about the size of the head of a pencil. Needless to say she had a very screwed up face shrieking "that's soo gross!". I agreed, the only comfort I had were that they were all on the Hoof'ess side of the bed. Only 1 or 2 were where I was. We stood there shaking ourselves for a few minutes to clear off the bugs and itchy feeling. It was 2am in the morning and neither of us were keen to sleep there again. We decided that it was time for some new digs - and we started to do some research from the backpacker brochures we had for other accommodation sites. We watched a DVD on the laptop to kill some time, and then as the sun rose we braved the bathrooms and had short showers before heading out to find a cafe for breakfast and wireless internet access.
Fortunately we had a back up plan - you always have to have a plan B or be able to formulate one very quickly! So within half an hour we'd sorted out alternative accommodation and we went back to check out of the hell hole. Fortunately they didn't charge us for the previous night - which is probably what this place was actually worth. We moved to Willesden Green and have a room in a shared house, its definitely clean so the Hoof'ess is much happier. She's back to chanting - "London Baby!".
So now that we are sorted for sleeping digs we decided to hit the town and check out more of London. But with so much to see where do you start? We considered pinning a large map of London on the wall and throw a dart at it to figure out where we are going. Instead the Hoof took control with the Hoof'ess not know where we were going and we made like Meercats through the tube with the plan to pop up at various sites to check out the sights. Firstly we headed straight for Tower Bridge station to walk along the Thames, over Tower Bridge and to the Tower of London.
Hoof'ess on the famous bridge
And the Tower of London, London's oldest structure
With our hiking shoes on we continued down the Thames to pile on the kilometres. Down the river slightly we got to London Bridge and made our way to the Monument. The Monument is to the 1666 Great Fire when over 13,000 house were burned down over 5 days. At the Monument we jumped down into the tube and headed off to Westminster. Out we popped at Westminster and were confronted by Big Ben which the Hoof'ess has decided is her favourite thing in London.
Hoofy loved Big Ben - he couldn't stop smiling!
Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings are sensational - the
gothic architecture of these buildings is truly amazing. The level of detail
all over the buildings is stunning. After gazing at the buildings for a while
and finish taking the required photos, we turned around and there was the London
Eye. That's the great thing about London, everywhere you look there is stuff
to see - all these sights which you hear about in NZ and they're all around
you, everywhere you look. Hoof'ess just keeps saying "London Baby
View from the Jubilee Bridge, London Eye on the left with Big Ben and the Parliament Building on the north bank (right).
Then we wandered past Westminster Abbey to St James Park. Walking through the park until the Hoof'ess squealled with excitement, a fluffy tailed squirrel bounded across the path in front of us. Soon the Hoof'ess was in hot pursuit, giggling at the bounding squirrel. We sat down on a bench so the Hoof'ess could calm down and we watched a group of people feeding the Pigeons. These Pigeons are not scared of people and within seconds the girl who was feeding the Pigeons was absolutely covered with them. About 10 to 15 Pigeons were not happy with waiting for the food to hit the ground, rather they decided to go straight to the source and climb all over the girl who was struggling to stay composed and not scream.
At the end of St John's park we got to Buckingham Palace and the Queen Victoria memorial out front - apparently its nicknamed the Wedding Cake due to the tiered look.
The Hoof'ess checking out the queens digs.
Then it was off to the Circus, down the tube and to Piccadilly Circus. It was 7pm and it was chaos, people everywhere. As 2 wide eyed kiwi's we just stood there taking it all in. It was like an ant colony all weaving about each other. We made a B line to the Virgin Megastore which takes up one entire corner of the intersection. This is one big store... we checked out the DVD specials and everything else Virgin.
After heading out of Virgin we wandered around Piccadilly Circus which is the centre of the West End, filled with Theatres and musicals such as "We Will Rock You" and "Phantom of the Opera", and more bars and restaurants than sheep in NZ. Feeling nackered from our bed bug interrupted sleep we crashed early in our much nicer, more comfortable, creepy crawly free bed.
Day 31 - Overwhelming number of clothes
We slept in still catching up on the absolutely crap Friday night sleep. The morning activity makes for exciting web reading! I don't know where to start. Basically we checked addresses for our Monday interviews, checked online for travel directions and bought Oyster Cards which is what you use on the tubes. Once Hoof and Hoof'ess were comfortable for their three interviews each we headed out.
Previously we had seen a shopping centre a couple of stations south, so we decided to head there and check it out. The best descriptor I have for the place is that it sucked. On ground floor there was a massive book store plus a couple of food court style places. Downstairs was a Sainsbury's and upstairs more food and a meeting hall. That was it, so 5 minutes later we hoofed out of there and back on the tube.
We (or should I say Hoof'ess) decided we'd go to a serious shopping area. Oxford Street. When we stepped out of the tube we were again confronted by a mass of people everywhere. We started to walk down the street and strolled into a few shops - and then we went into Top Shop. Hoof'ess was overwhelmed. The ground floor was full of accessories, no clothes in sight - they were in the lower levels. The Hoof'ess can be a magpie on a normal day rushing towards anything that glitters - but the magpie almost fainted from all the sparkly stuff. We wandered around the clothing level and she couldn't even bring herself to grab any clothes. There was just too much, too much choice and she just didn't know where to go.
Then we jumped into Borders to have a look for a new book. Again the Hoof'ess was over awed by the range - books, books and even more books. We decided Londoners must read a truck load of books - probably because they spend so much time in the tube.
After being totally overwhelmed by Oxford Street we headed home to dump our purchasers and then head out to find a pub with a sunday roast. Having seen a number of places while wandering around in the central city, we thought there would be plenty of places in Willesden Green. Heading out of our street and onto the main road we made a B line towards the pubs we'd seen previously. First pub, no sunday roast. We kept walking down and went past about another 4 pubs all without sunday roasts. Then we found a pub with a sign for sunday roast on the wall. Great we thought... until we saw the "closed for refurbishment" sign. After walking down the road for 30 minutes we decided to bail to another suburb where we'd seen more pubs. Onto the tube, south a couple of stations and then we were on the hunt again. The Hoof was getting reasonably peckish having been on the search for a sunday roast for about an hour. We went into The Walkabout pub and decided to eat there even if they didn't have a sunday roast. And this sunday was not going to be the sunday where we get our roast. Damn. We ate anyway - but the upside was I found a special beer in the fridge. It had been a while since I'd held that special ribbed bottle!
The Hoof managed to find his baby, Mac's in London!
You know the real irony though, heading back home we turned into our street which has a little restaurant on the corner. They had a sign out saying "Sunday Roast..." - we'd walked around for an hour to find something which was at the end of our street. Typical.
That was our first 3 days in London, spending New Zealand dollars which doesn't convert nicely to British Pounds. It was now time to get on the hunt for jobs paying British Pounds and so week 2 and job hunting begins.