We arrive at Heathrow and hop on the ‘tube’. Meanwhile there is a heatwave going through London, the hottest summer on record for 6 years. Colin had been drinking coffee on the plane, trying to stay awake because he was unable to fall asleep. So, not so unexpectedly, Colin wearing plane clothes (jumpers, jeans etc), dehydrated and in a hotbox is a recipe for disaster. He starts slumping over the suitcase, murmuring about mugging people for their bottles of water and almost hallucinating.
We got off at Kings Cross station and got some water at “Burger King”. Whilst we there we borrowed the free wifi to get directions to our hotel, The Royal National. We manage to navigate to the hotel by hoping between cafes that offer free wifi and re-confirming our location. We make it to the concierge and check in. Our room was very sub-standard, but was dirt cheap so I guess the old adage, you get what you pay for, is true. It was so hot we had to keep the window open (there was no air conditioning or even fans) but the traffic outside was incredibly loud.
We set the alarm for 1 hour, to power nap. It was good in theory, but when we awoke, we were so out of it from being jet lagged that we barely managed to turn off the alarm before entering an 11 hour coma. We awake at 5:30am feeling refreshed and energised, however it was so early in the morning we thought we were alone.
We go to the lobby to use the free wifi and to see if we can make first contact with anyone from the tour. We posted in the “Contiki meetup” asking if anyone wanted to explore London together, and soon got a response from two Adeladians saying they were also in the lobby. The problem for us was how can we identify them… Eventually, they shouted out “Colin” and the problem was resolved.
We go exploring on foot to find somewhere nearby that was cool for breakfast. We find a really authentic Italian place and order gorgeous bruschetta on fresh bread with mozzarella. We then bought tickets to go on “The original tour”, a hop on/hop off tour similar to the one I took in LA. It was really good fun and value, though we would often miss our stop completely and have to walk around aimlessly to find our destination or another stop to hop back on.
We saw the Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, London Bridge, Tower of London, the Eye and more. We got off the bus at Madame Tussaud’s, which was really awesome. It had the well known wax statues, finally fulfilling my teenage dreams of kissing Britney Spears. However, as someone on my tour pointed out, was a very unhygienic action. Also got photos with Barrack Obama, Just Timberlake and Leonardo DeCaprio.
We had a check in with the rest of the tour group, all 42 of us. They seem like quite cool people, but about 90% are Australian which is not as multicultural as I had expected. We went out to a British pub for a few pints, then we broken into two groups. My group headed out to an Italian place whilst the rest stayed and had pub food. We subscribed to J-Street’s life long philosophy of “Eating is cheating” and forgo dinner. We returned to the pub to find that the other group had retired to bed. We stayed up till about 11pm then thought we better call it as we had a 6am start the next day.