Tuesday, September 16, 2008

All over London

When we first got to London it was rush hour, and we weren't confident about finding our way through a crowded hurrying Underground system, so we hopped into one of those famous London cabs for the ride to the Saudi Embassy. Traffic was slow, and - not surprisingly really - it cost us 20 pounds. Of course, had we known we didn't need to be there until 10 we would have waited till 9.30 to get an off-peak all day rider and spent some time studying Tube maps.

Playing on the trains

So after the Embassy business - it was about 12 noon when we were done - we headed down to the nearest station and invested in an all-day rider ticket. These little beauties cost 5 pounds 30 (just one regular single trip ticket is 4 pounds) and you can go anywhere - trains and buses - all day. So we decided to play on the trains.

Lunch in the park

We went all over the place, until our early morning start caught up with us and then we checked into our little hotel and flopped down for a bit of a nap. Then we got up and did some more gallivanting.

River Thames and the London Eye

Australia House

One of the quirky things about going to a country like Saudi Arabia was that all of our documents needed to be "authenticated". For Brits living in Britain it means a trip out to Milton Keynes. But our qualifications are from Australia in the '70s, so in the morning we got up bright and early and went to the Australia High Commission in "Australia House".

Australia House

The last time I was here was back in 1970 when my family emigrated to Australia!

After yesterday's Saudi Embassy experience, this place was a breath of fresh air! In no time at all we had all our necessary papers stamped and signed, and for very little cost.

They're Changing Guard at Buckingham Palace ...

Buckingham Palace

Peter ... went down there with Ruth ...

(You might remember A.A.Milne's: They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace -
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.)

Seeing the changing of the guard was one of the items on Peter's "to do in Britain" list - along with lying in the heather, seeing a genuine old castle, and drinking a pint of Guinness in an Irish pub. So, this was the last thing on his list.

There were crowds and crowds and crowds of people,

and a heavy police presence!

There was music, and marching, and horses.

And it was at least as tiring and aching on the legs standing there as I remember from when I came here as a little kid.

I don't think anyone actually had a really good view of all of it.

Playing on the buses as well

We had one more thing to do ... I needed to find a place where I could buy an 'abaya' - the black cloak I would need to wear like the other women in Saudi Arabia. (While, yes, I was sure that I could buy one when I got there, I had been warned that getting through Immigration in the airport would be much easier if I was wearing an abaya.) The day before I had been to a little shop I saw recommended on the 'Net - a place you wouldn't know about if you hadn't read it on the net because I had to access it through an Internet Cafe where they sold abayas in an unmarked room at the back. But although this lady had a full range of different lengths of gowns (the advert said 'all sizes') she only had one width and they were all a tad too tight for me.

I had heard that you can get them at Shepherd's Bush Markets - which hadn't been open on Monday. So we hopped on the Tube and headed to Shepherd's Bush ... just to realise one stop before that the station is closed while they are building a new one which would be opening in October! So we had to hop off and try the buses.

Actually it's all remarkably easier with all the signs being in English ... this stuff was so complicated in China and Turkey!

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