Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Day One: London Through the Clouds (of no sleep, that is)

Fran and I left O'Hare airport at approximately 5.30 pm on Halloween. It kinda creeped me out a little bit that we were putting our lives in the hands of someone else on a holiday marked by secrets and death. But oh well, we were livin' it up no matter what. That and the fact that we saved a ton of dough leaving on a Monday night.
I had taken an online course that my bra-in-law told me to take, too. It helped me to get over my fears of sitting in a tin can, flying at unnatural speeds, being strapped into a flimsy seat with a little tiny belt that is inserted into the buckle like this, all while being, oh, approximately 28,000 feet above the COLD HARD EARTH. I really did feel much better knowing all the ins and outs of air travel and I really am convinced that even though the stakes are just a tiny bit higher (no pun intended) flying really is safer than driving.
We reasoned that if we left at 5.30 pm, we would get on the plane, chill a little bit and drift into an airborne slumber above the clouds. Let me refresh your mind a little bit about trying to sleep on an airplane unless you forgot. You are sitting in an upright postition (which to me seems as though I am leaning forward just a little too far, is it just me?) and you have about as much width to sprawl out in as you might on say a emigrant ship from Scandinavia in the year 1889. There is always a creepy guy sitting in the aisle seat who seems to have no problem sleeping at all, especially when you need to use the restroom NOW (Except George whom I will explain later. He was the coolest person to ever grace the aisle seat.) The air on airplanes is also dryer than the air in the Sahara where the humidity is like at 40% or something where as British Air Flight 296 is at 10%. The extreme danger of your eyes being permanently glued shut caused a little anxiety for me. Needless to say I maybe slept about 30 minutes on the whole flight. Who cares, right? I will be in London in approximately 3.5 hours! Whoo-hoo!
The really cool part about flying British Air (among many other things) is the fact that you get this really cool little bag full of freebies. These are better than any of the crap you stuff in your suitcase after staying at the Days Inn. They have a little pair of socks, eye cover, toothbrush and paste and some other stuff. Before we landed, I had the thrill of actually seeing the London Eye from the plane. I thought I was gonna die. Where we really doing this??!?!
We landed, made a quick stop to use our new toothbrushes and toothpaste, and went through customs. We grabbed our stuff and were on our way!
Fran and I were really not too sure where to go or really which direction Paddington Station was, so I explained to Fran that if you use your "cute" just a little bit, it can get you a loooong way. We went up to the ticket counter at the Underground and Fran was freaking out a little bit about where we needed to go and how to ask for it. "Fran, Fran, Fran. It is like this, 'Excuse me, I have never been to London before and I need to get to Paddington Station. Could you tell me the best way to get there?'" The the best way to get there part is crucial, especially when dealing with a male because frankly, the need to show off their mad skillz will totally take over the urge to send the two stupid Americans in the absolulte wrong direction. I believe that most people are pretty cool and if you are nice to them, they will be nice back. It worked. We didn't get any free ride or anything, but we did get to where we needed to go and quite easily. (I thing the guy at the booth referred to me as "love" which totally made the experience all the more rich.)
We took the Tube all the way to Paddington Station where we hauled our stuff to a little hotel where we got a room that was about 2 feet bigger than the bed itself. They just don't have the time or the space to spend on needless things like elbow room in London. We decided that because it was about 10am London time and about 4am our time, we really would not be in the frame of mind to really take in the sights and culture of London. So what should we do to keep our spirits up and alive? Go shopping, of course! We hit all the hot spots, Topshop, H&M, Urban Outfitters... all of it. I really don't remember too much other than feeling like I was still flying at 28,000 feet and that this tshirt costs 25£!?!? That's like $50! We forced ourselves to enjoy the bliss of acutally shopping in the mecca that is London. Now, at the end of our shopping experience, we decided that we should get a little something to eat. A chippy? Some Indian or Thai takeaway, perhaps? Wait... McDonalds? Burger King? Subway? Pizza Hut? KFC?!?!?! What is this place? We found a pizza place that delivered a very tiny pizza to our very tiny room and ate it practically in our sleep. I took a much needed shower in the "World's Smallest Bathroom" and Fran was already asleep when I finished. As I drifted off I wondered, what would the rest of London be like? Would we see all we needed to in 1 day? Would we make it in time for our breakfast the next morning?

Up Next: Day Two: London Through the Nose (and how we combated the extreme cost of nearly EVERYTHING.)