36 hours in London
09.06.2015 - 10.06.2015
I do hate sitting on a plane for so many hours. Twice I have sailed across the Atlantic. I would always take that option if I had the time and the budget.
The plane was delayed at least two hours out of Dulles because weather delayed the incoming plane. I arrived in Reykjavik with just enough time to walk onto a flight to London. That flight took 2 1/2 hours. The customs line was at least 30 minutes long.
I have only been to London once in 2002. That time I took the Eurostar, so Heathrow was a new environment for me. It is a very convenient and attractive airport. Remember the fiasco of getting the new terminal opened a few years ago. I was glad it was a bigger news slam than than DIA was 20 years ago.
I had not made any plans for my one day in London, so I found a coffee shop to decide what to do.
What did we do without free internet?
On hotels.com, I found a hotel within walking distance of St Pancras train station where I must be the next day to continue my journey. Before leaving the USA, I had thought about finding a place to stay on Couch Surfing or the Affordable Travel Club, but I knew I would want to just relax quietly instead of interacting for the next 24 hours, so I took my chances on finding a hotel.
The London underground, or tube, is a wonderful thing! It took me from the airport to St Pancras, or King's Crossing, in less time than it took me to get through Customs.
The Mentone Hotel is a comfortable European-style hotel. All hotels here are expensive. Unless you really don't give a damn, you won't want to spend less than $200 (about 125 pounds sterling today).
When I was London in 2002, I had been working in Kazakhstan and visiting in Hungary. I was all confused on my currency exchange when I booked my hotel. I booked three nights in a 300 pound room and didn't realize until I checked out that I had converted in reverse and that my room was over $500 a night!
If you prefer, you might want to spend the money and stay at the historic St Pancras Hotel which is connected to the international train station.
The Bloomsbury area of London is quite international with a good mix of museums, residences, and commerce. Because of the proximity to St Pancras and the tube, it also has many small hotels.
I walked the neighborhood. You certainly don't need (or want!) a vehicle in London. The busy pedestrian crossings are marked to remind us which way the traffic comes.
I had some nice wine and a good meal at a very tasty Indian restaurant.
At 5 PM, I started to doze off sitting at the restaurant table. My night without sleep had finally caught up with me.
I had to return to my hotel room and go to bed.
At 3 AM, I was awake and ready to go. (Of course, I have a tendency to keep similarly strange hours back in Denver when I haven't traveled at all.)
After breakfast in the hotel, I walked around the area to see what else I could find.
The park across the street from my hotel is named Cartwright Square for John Cartwright. He was the first published writer in England to support the independence of the American Colonies. We certainly never learned that in school, and I doubt if few British students know it today.
I also discovered the British Library - similar to the Library of Congress in the United States. The British Library does not do research for Parliament, however.
It is a fairly new building (late 1990s, I think). It was surprising to see this modern archival library here when the archival library in the USA is older by 150 years.
The artwork in and around this building is spectacular.
There was an amazing embroidered exhibit of the entire Wikipedia description of the Magna Carta.
This is the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. There was a special exhibit with a very informative and interesting audio guide.
And - surprise! - the exhibit included Thomas Jefferson's handwritten draft of the Declaration of Independence and one of the original copies of the Bill of Rights
I received a good USA history lesson in a ten block visit to London, UK.
It was time to leave London and go to my next stop in England.
Fortunately, I had some time to visit in the beautiful, recently renovated St Pancras train station.
I had never heard of St Pancras, so I am assuming you haven't either. Here is a link to who he was.