First Look at London

We’ve spent most of today travelling. A taxi picked us up in Rome at 8am and drove us to the international airport. We made good time in the morning traffic and had to wait a while before the bag drop opened. Then there was quite a bit of sitting around waiting to find out our departure gate. We managed to squeeze in an early lunch, though airport food is rarely anything to get excited about. We were all seated on the plane ready for our 12.40pm departure, but there seemed to be some sort of problem up the front of the plane as maintenance guys fiddled about with one of the instrument panels. An announcement informed us that they were trying to fix the air conditioning. We eventually managed to get away an hour late, which was a bit of a nuisance, but at least we didn’t have a connecting flight to worry about.

It’s the first week of the northern hemisphere summer, and we’ve just been sweltering in Rome, so we were hoping it would be relatively pleasant in England when we arrived. But we touched down on a gloomy, drizzly afternoon at Gatwick. We bought some tickets for a bus to take us into London. The ride was over two hours, and most of it was in driving rain. What an awful day. But the bus ride was a good one, as it took us through some of the suburbs on the south side of the Thames – Sutton, Mitcham, Streatham, Clapham, Lambeth – and we had a chance to see housing styles and neighbourhoods that were so similar to those we’d seen in movies and television shows when we were growing up. We passed a couple of beautiful cricket grounds that I would have loved the chance to play on when I was younger.

The bus dropped us off just over the road from Vauxhall station. From there it was about a 15-minute walk along the river to our hotel, the Park Plaza Riverbank. It’s the Trafalgar Tours pick up point, so it made good sense to book in here. After dinner Marg and I went for a walk along the Thames past the Houses of Parliament on the opposite bank. Fortunately the rain had stopped and the late afternoon sun was shining, although sadly Big Ben was wrapped up in scaffolding while it is being restored and is unable to be seen. I guess that’s one landmark that will have to wait until next time we’re in London before we can say we’ve seen it.

Donald Trump is here too at the moment. There were a few posters on walls protesting his visit. The mayor of London has been particularly critical. We’re planning to walk across the bridge to have a closer look at Parliament, No 10 Downing St and Buckingham Palace tomorrow. I wonder if we’ll cross paths with Don and Melania.

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