Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jun 04 2012

London trip – Conclusion

Getting up on Saturday morning was a leisurely affair. The day outside was coolish but pleasant, and we headed out to the Portobello market, a long street full of shops and stands knickknacks, food, clothes, old cameras, old handbags, and even tiny pocket trumpets even smaller than mine. Unfortunately, they were barely playable. Or fortunately, I should say, as if they were playable I very likely would have bought one. I did buy a cupcake with the British flag on it, though. The entire city, I’ve realized now, was in a terribly good mood due to the week of pleasant weather as well as the upcoming Diamond Jubilee.

We walked all the way up and down the market, encountering several blues performers on instruments such as slide guitars and banjos, and had a delicious lunch at a cafe where Chenbl had been caught at earlier trying to use the bathroom. This happened to me the other day as well; you walk in, thinking you’ll just slip by the counter and borrow the “customers only” restroom, and some damn employee rushes up and says in the most pleasant, bright and cheerful tone you can imagine, “Can I help you?” If you admit the truth of your urinary quest, you’ll be told the restrooms are for paying customers only and asked if you’d like to buy something. If you’re not willing to own up to such a thing, you’ll have to come up with a bullshit excuse that you were “looking at the view” or “waiting for a friend,” etc.

After lunch we realized that we’d missed the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, which we’d entertained vague ideas of seeing, and instead took the underground back to Waterloo Station, where we passed over two Thames River cruise boats that were not to our liking before settling on the third, a large red affair with seats on the roof. It was grand sliding down the river, the crew making snarky comments about the buildings. The sun came out, the skies turned blue by the time we disembarked at the Tower Bridge. Crowds of tourists thronged about London Tower, and we walked across the bridge to the south side of the river. Camera crews were setting up on the sides of the bridge for the jubilee coverage the following day. We walked to London Bridge Station, stopping for some sweets at a Tesco, and returned to Kings Cross to check out of our hotel. Aside from the water pressure issues, the Fairway & Central Hotel has been great, with a great location, quiet rooms, reasonable prices, comfy mattresses and a filling English breakfast each morning. I highly recommend it.

We took the subway out to Heathrow, an hour-long journey that would have been quick and expensive on the dedicated airport train, and were told at Terminal 1 that our tickets were wrong that that we’d have to go to Terminal 4. Terminal 1 was full of white people; Terminal 4 was not, serving destinations in Africa and Asia. A mainland Chinese man in the line in front of us was in hysterics at the news that his newspaper-wrapped monstrosity of a carry-on was refused, and he shouted and threatened and nearly roughed up his tour guide while the airport staff stood by grinning nervously and rolling their eyes. I was thinking, try those antics at a US airport and see what happens.

Our departure gate was full of children for some reason. The weather outside was turning nasty, but we got on the plane soon enough and flew in a rush down the rain-soaked runway and away over the city into the skies of northern Europe and Asia.

Shanghai was grey as well. We decided to forgo the maglev and take the subway into town this time, but regretted it when this took over an hour and an inexplicable change of trains. Downtown, we walked around the alleys near Yu Garden station and then up the street behind the Bund, having a dinner of very good noodles at a nearly empty restaurant along the way, before taking the subway back. Only the subway to the airport had closed, so we ended up taking a “black car” back while the driver told us how poor he and his wife were. I dozed off a dozen times along the way, and sleep came quickly as we watched on TV as the hundreds of boats struggled through gale winds and torrential rains up the river we’d cruised in the sunshine under blue skies just the previous day.

This morning was spent mostly in the Pudong Airport terminal, as we were staying once again at the airport hotel. Fortunately there was a book of nice photography in one of the bookstores, so the time went quickly, and before we knew it, we were winging back to Taipei, where the weather was, again, grey. Back again, reconnecting things, washing things, transferring files. Work tomorrow.

posted by Poagao at 11:42 pm