After a long night of playing Civilization IV on the PC with Matthew (help us, we’re addicted!) we awoke “refreshed” (read: at noon) and set out for our second major foray into ye olde London Town. We had an aggressive itinerary, and although we didn’t hit everything we wanted to, that’s okay…because we get some more time here after Cardiff.
The bus ride to the centre of Uxbridge took about ten minutes or so. I’ve noticed that since I’ve been back in a place where public transportation happens often (Prague was all walking) that my motion sickness is trying to re-emerge. I used to get WAY carsick as a kid, but it eventually went away. My long absence from most motorized transportation seems to have re-awakened it somewhat on buses and trains. Anyway, we arrived in Uxbridge to discover…part of the subway was closed! Not only in Uxbridge, but portions all around London were having work done. We had to take a ‘replacement’ bus to a different station in order to take the rails to where we wanted to go. Minor inconvenience, but we’re a resilient bunch. We were provided a tiny tube map that we used to alter our course for the day.
The first stop we made was at Earl’s Court. As we were getting close, the train driver got on the speaker (in a stereotypical older British gent voice) to let us know we were arriving. Not uncommon, sure. But he was all like, “Next stop is…well, I’ll be! Earl’s Court! I’ve been looking forward to this stop all day. It’s my last stop. Sorry folks, all good things must come to an end. Be sure you gather all your belongings when getting off the train, including your smile. Yes, your smile. Because when you smile, it encourages other people to smile. Why, just earlier today I smiled at someone on the platform…” He went on like this for a few minutes as we pulled into the station. I seriously hope that I enjoy my next job as much as this guy enjoys his.
When you walk out of the station, it seems like any other street in London. Beautiful buildings, bustling people, lines of traffic…nothing special, right? Until you notice there’s an ACTUAL Police Box right outside! The only one left in London! It was hard for us to contain our nerdy joy as we took photos of the box, wishing David Tennant would step out and invite us on a journey through time and space. I can only imagine what’s going to happen to Indi when we make it to the tower in Cardiff that signals the home of Torchwood. I wonder how many Londoners walk by that Police Box daily and see other ridiculous tourists like us taking pictures. It’s just a part of the landscape for them, but such a treat for us. Although I must say it’s a bit sobering to look at it and see KFC right across the street. Sigh.
We re-boarded the tube and headed for King’s Cross. Anybody who has read Harry Potter knows this is the station used to board the train to Hogwarts, on platform 9 ¾. The wizards-in-training pass through an invisible door in a wall to reach the special platform. We wandered around the station for a bit before finally finding a little section of wall with a ‘Platform 9 ¾’ sign and half a trolley in the wall. There was a group of giggling college-age girls in front of us, taking pictures and saying things in thick accents I didn’t quite understand. Once it had cleared, you bet we stepped in to take pictures and enjoy the quiet simplicity of the area. There are no ‘HARRY POTTER PLATFORM THIS WAY’ signs or anything. If you don’t know it’s there, you’ll just walk on by none the wiser. I like that. Most of the touristy areas in London have been that way. Rome had signs EVERYWHERE pointing folks to the next big thing, but London is laid out in a ‘if you care about it, you’ll do some research beforehand’ attitude. Sometimes annoying, but I ultimately feel better when I find what I’m looking for. Which brings me to our next stop.
We went back down to Chinatown so I could verify something. Back in 1978, Warren Zevon wrote and performed what would turn out to be his most famous contribution to the American musical scene, ‘Werewolves of London’. Among other landmarks and locations, he mentions a restaurant in Chinatown named Lee Ho Fook’s. I had done a Google search and found that, yes, indeed that was a real restaurant, and yes, it had been around for thirty+ years. I was tremendously excited to see a place that was mentioned in a song by my favorite musician. Last time, though, I didn’t find it. This time, I had an exact address and was determined. After much searching, and using a picture from Google Maps as a guide, I found it. Only it was no longer Lee Ho Fook’s. A matter of months prior, it went under and has been replaced by another restaurant. I was gutted. I took a picture anyway, to prove I had been there. Missed it by that much. Guess I’ll have to find a way to walk the streets of Soho in the rain.
It was getting late, and after a rest in a local pub we ventured back to Matthew’s in Uxbridge. Our first stint in London is nearly over, and Cardiff is on the horizon. I’m quite excited to be visiting the home of my first name. Indi pointed something out the other day. Perhaps I’ll find some little trinket with my name on it, like you see in all tourist places…only this time it’ll be spelled the way I spell it. I might break down and cry from happiness.