Escaping The Madness
As neither of us were big Carnaval fans my friend Willem and I decided to escape the madness that was going on in the South of the Netherlands at the time and go on a city trip to London. Plans were made, we went to the travel agency to book our tickets and hotel (It were the eighties after all and something like internet was not in our dictionary) and met regularly in order to discuss our plans. We divided London in 4 areas in an attempt to limit the walking and started to look for things we really wanted to see. Amazingly we were on the same line of interest with a lot of things so that was an easy process. Then on the 16th of February we boarded a Virgin plane from Maastricht to London Gatwick, a flight that was just under an hour.
On arrival we only needed to take a train to Victoria Station where we bought a London Explorer ticket, that allowed us to use public transport for 4 days, after which we could go to our hotel, somewhere in London Paddington.
The next day we started our exploration and what better place to start than the houses of parliament, the centre of British democracy.
Our next place to visit was the Westminster Cathedral and going there we were amazed by the hight of the skyscrapers, something we had not seen before.
We did not have much time as we wanted to be in time for the changing of the Horse Guards, thankfully we had spent enough time researching so we knew exactly at what time we needed to be there.
Once the ceremony was completed it did not take us long to go to Buckingham Palace in order to see the Changing of the Guards, another typical British and very impressive ceremony.
We strolled leisurely through St. James Park and the Mall and afterwards we looked for a pub to sample some traditional pub food and a pint.
At a booth at Trafalgar Square we had bought tickets for Agatha Christie’s “Mousetrap” so in the evening we went to the St.Martin’s Theater to enjoy the show. It was a small theater and the both of us were most amazed to find our Bacardi Cola’s nicely presented and waiting for us on a table, accompanied by the number of our purchase. We had ordered them before the show started but had not expected this, a true show of trust that no one else would pick our drinks.
Next day was a Sunday and thanks to our research we had found out that Speaker’s Corner was “the” place to be. Another typical British invention where everyone could speak out whatever they wanted as long as things did not contain vulgar or included insults to the royal family.
We continued our exploration towards Cleopatra’s needle and on the way there saw some punks, it was were the eighties after all and punk was a big thing in the UK.
We were walking a lot and by now our feet started to hurt. Luckily the underground was never far away but by now the tiredness started to kick in. Still we did not want to miss anything this great city had to offer so we simply carried on.
In the evening we went to Piccadilly Circus to see the famous adverts and a bite to eat. A short underground ride later we were back at the hotel and another day was finished. Exhausted but happy we fell into a deep sleep.
Next morning, after our English Breakfast we returned to the city center to continue our sightseeing. First stop was Nelson’s column after we continued to the Thames in order to see the HMS Belfast and St. Catherine’s Dock.
We were now close to “The City” so moved on to St. Paul’s cathedral while we were deeply impressed by the tall building surrounding us.
The density of the city was breathtaking for the both of us, as we never had seen anything like this before. Fortunately we were well prepared and could easily navigate through the narrow streets on the way to our next stop. Halfway we discovered The monument, that was erected to commemorate the great fire of London in 1666.
Not much later we made it to the Tower of London and both of us we were excited to do the tour and get a glimpse of the Crown Jewels. We were only allowed a brief glimpse but nevertheless, it was the building itself that left the greatest impression to us.
Almost next to the Tower was London Bridge and of course we could not miss out on the opportunity to visit that, go to the top and watch the museum, it was something definitely worth to bee seen.
At the other side of the Thames we visited the Dungeons, as well as Madam Tussaud and over there we were even able to get a glimpse of Albert Einstein and the Royal family. It almost felt like real…
Later that evening we went to the Royal Albert Hall, as we had heard Phil Collins was giving a concert over there. Although we did not have tickets yet we wanted to try our luck and but tickets with one of the touts who without doubt would be hanging around the Hall. And we were right, it did not take long before we were able to buy two tickets for the gallery promenade and if I remember correctly we ended up paying double the face value, ten pounds, per ticket. The initial price was much higher but a sad story and being so close to the start of the concert helped a lot.
It was a magical evening and both of us enjoyed it tremendously. Seeing one of our heroes at such a special historical place was an event not to be forgotten. I still remember the crowd singing “take, take me home”, long after the band had left the stage.
Next day was already our last day and we spent most of the morning watching the animals in the zoo.
Time was passing by quickly but both of us felt like we could not leave London without going to Knightsbridge and to visit on of the iconic warehouses of the Uk. Just mention shopping in London and the first thing that comes to mind is Harrods.
Needless to say we were absolutely stunned by the goods for sale at this eccentric warehouse. Things which were way over our budget but there’s nothing wrong or less joyful to some window shopping.
Our time was up. In the evening we went out for dinner one last time, headed back to our hotel where we packed our suitcases after which the lights went out, leaving each of us with memories of the last four days.
Next morning we took a train back to London Gatwick and on the way there we passed the Battersea Power Station. Both of us thought it was a shame Pink Floyd’s pig had been removed as for us it was part of this iconic building.
Check in was easy and not much later we took off for our short flight back home. During the flight we were allowed to visit the cockpit and make some pictures. It were the eighties after all and things were not as strict as nowadays.
On arrival in Maastricht we were picked up by our parents and brought back to our homes. We had successfully escaped the madness of Carnaval and instead had a wonderful time in a city that the both of us had wanted to see for a long time. Yes we had walked a little bit more than anticipated and the both of us were extremely tired after this trip. But both Willem and myself agreed, it had been wonderful and worth every single step…