(Frustrated) Thoughts from Places: London in the Beginning

Friday, March 18, 2016

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My First Day in London

Have you ever been so excited for something and then when it actually happens it is the exact opposite of how you were hoping it would go? Well, I do and my trip to London is the perfect example. London sucked. A lot of it was just awful. When I tell the story of my trip to others I have to stress the point that while there I considered the trip 30% wonderful and just 70% absolutely horrible. I have never been so frustrated before in my life. A lot of why it sucked and I was so frustrated was because even though I have been studying London for about a decade it actually makes no sense. Don't quote me (or her) but I think Maureen Johnson once said either on twitter or in one of her books that London streets looked like they had been planned by a drunk man following a cat. I thought she was exaggerating. She was not. London is just ridiculously unplanned. I am so used to Buffalo which has been called the “best planned city in America” that London, despite all the preparation, was just stupidly unorganized. At times during our trip I actually believed that the city as a whole was out to get people unfamiliar with it. 
Our hotel room
For example, multiple times we were following signs that were obviously placed there to help tourists find the major landmarks and the signs actually led us in the wrong direction. What the hell is that all about, London?! Basically, a lot of things went wrong. I say wrong because we had to see a lot in only a few days. The wronger things got the less we got to see. Originally, the London Trip was supposed to be 2-3 weeks instead of 5 days, but Mom could only take off so much and I rally wanted her to be the one to come with me.

The frustration of day one especially, we landed a little late and customs took ages. We waited until the rest of the plane emptied out and because of that we were last in line. Then mom couldn’t find her suitcase, it ended up on the floor on the other side of the conveyor belt. When we finally got out of all that nonsense and were trying to find the Gatwick Express we were greeted by shirtless Scots in kilts. Weird, right? We bought a couple postcards and stamps then got on the train. We were supposed to be out of the airport and at Victoria Station by noon. 
The Gunner and I
No. By the time we got to Victoria it was past 3 and we decided to check into our hotel instead of leaving our luggage in lockers at the station. When we got there and checked in I cried. It was horrible because of all the time lost. Mentally, I was already taking out most of the things I wanted to see. I was freaking out. And then I stubbed my toe on the weird bed. There was a desk but no chair. There was a shower but no shampoo. There was soap, sorta, there was a hand soap dispenser in the shower. The toilet was down the hall and up half a flight of stairs. I was pretty sure there was mold on the handle; mom said it was just corrosion. There was another door in the bathroom too that leads outside, not normal! And then to make everything even weirder and worse we had to give our room key to the desk every time we left. Oh and the outlets didn’t work. When we asked at the desk where our fridge was and why our outlets didn’t work they said that we couldn’t have one and that they would check them. While I was in the room I wrote out my postcard to my work saying basically that everything sucked so far. We also decided to take out the Victoria and Albert Museum and that mom would do it Wednesday by herself while I was in Oxford instead (which was actually okay with me because they didn't have anything I really wanted to see).
The Little Duck Whisperer

We left the hotel and made our way to Hyde Park Corner so I could see the Royal Artillery Monument with the Gunner, one of the main characters from Charlie Fletcher's Stoneheart. That was pretty cool, but looking back I barely even looked at him. I felt rushed. I felt like I was just checking him off my list. Next we went into Hyde Park proper and walked along the Serpentine. There were a lot of swans and ducks and a little boy who was feeding them. There were trick skaters and a weird ice cream truck. As we were looking for Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens we saw an actual cricket game! We took a wrong turn and found a woman trying to feed birds. Later, after we actually found Peter we saw her again and she had gathered quite a crowd of both birds and humans alike. One green parrot was hanging off a tree eating from a girl’s hand.
Peter Pan Statue in Kensington Gardens

When we found Peter Pan I was really excited about seeing it, but mostly I was pumped we finally found it! I went to scan the QR code to hear Peter talk and it didn’t work. It worked for everyone else but not me and I that’s when I got extremely mad and frustrated. When I get frustrated I am the meanest person in the world. I dont want to be obviously but it's one of my flaws. And so I lashed out at mom. More and more people kept coming and scanning that code and it was working for them and I just said “forget it let’s leave.” Everything was going so wrong and I was so tired. By that time it was going to be dark in an hour or so and we wouldn’t make it to the TARDIS in time if we went to the Elfin tree at the other end of the Gardens and Harrods, so we took out the tree and walked to Harrods. We also ended up taking the TARDIS out. And we got seriously, scary lost in the dark outside of Harrods trying to find a bus stop that we needed to get back to the hotel, but didn't exist. It also didn't help that we were so hungry we couldn't concentrate. So many things had gone wrong already and we hadn’t been in London for more than a few hours.

Mom and I were reminded of the bird lady from Mary Poppins
I cried a lot that first day. But I learned a lot that day. I started to learn how the Tube worked. For the first day the platforms confused me and we ended up going to the wrong side a couple times but once I figured it out the next day everything became a lot easier because we were able to get from the station we were at to the station we needed to be at. However, once we were out of said station there wasn't a clear path on how to get to the place we wanted. So much so that I am pretty positive they give wrong directions so that tourists don’t come back. Frustration should not be a part of any trip but it does happen. From now on when I plan trips that I cannot embrace getting lost (so as to find new things) I’m going to add at least 2 hours a day cushion for when we are frustrated and just need to stop.

More cheerful London posts soon, I promise,