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Day 3 - May 1, 2005 - London, UK

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Unfortunately, I woke up at 6:00 AM that day.  I suppose I still wasn't fully adjusted to the five hour time difference.  In retrospect though, my jet lag was extremely minimal.  Sadly, this would end up being the last day of the entire trip that I would have the opportunity to sleep in this late, and I didn't even take advantage of it.  I reminded myself that I was in Europe though and sleep was just a huge waste of time.
 
At around 7:00 AM, I headed out to the nearby post office to see if I could pick up a phone card.  Of course, everything was closed.  I went back to the room and slept until 9:30.  The previous night, I made arrangements with James to meet in the Contiki basement at 10:00.  I had made very tentative plans to meet Joanne there at 10:00 as well.  Joanne is from Long Island and I had been chatting with her online for some time before the trip.  I didn't really expect her to show up because she was arriving in London that same morning, and I assumed she would have at least some of the difficulty I did making it to the hotel.
 
Not surprisingly, Joanne didn't show up.  James, Myungsoo, and I left.  Since I had been running all over town the previous day, I would become their unofficial tour guide.  This would also be the case for several future cities on the tour as well.  I didn't mind though.  I actually like to be the one calling the shots and leading the way in situations like that.  I explained that the best option would be to buy day passes for the Tube, as opposed to taking busses or cabs all day.  We set way towards Russell Square station and bought our 24 hour tickets.
 
Somehow, we decided to head to the London Tower first.  It may or may not have had something to do with me suggesting this, merely because I had seen some of the sights the previous day, this not being one of them.  We stood in a rather long line, or queue as I would soon often refer to them as, and bought our tickets for the London Tower.  It was bigger than I expected and it was, overall, pretty neat to see.  They had several displays of various weapons used back in those days.  I'm not a historian though and this web site is not a historical reference.
 
It started to drizzle a bit and, minutes later, it was sunny with little cloud coverage.  These swiftly shifting weather patterns seem to be the norm in England.  At this time, we checked out the Tower Bridge from the river bank.  It's really a unique and interesting structure and I wish I had the opportunity to drive over it.

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THE TOWER OF LONDON

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THE TOWER OF LONDON AGAIN

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INSIDE THE TOWER OF LONDON

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"WEAPONS OF DESTRUCTION" INSIDE THE TOWER OF LONDON

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AT THE TOWER BRIDGE

Next, we headed back to the Westminster area.  We saw Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.  We ate some hot dogs and then headed to the London Eye.  This queue was so unbelievably long.  While it was a nice day, and the views would've probably been amazing, we opted to skip this attraction.  I mentioned the Dali and Picasso exhibition I saw the day before, not expecting either James or Myungsoo to be interested at all.  James seemed to like the idea though, and Myungsoo sort of just went along with the flow.  We spent probably about two hours in there and, although it wasn't the best, it was memorable.  For the rather small size of the gallery and exhibition, they had a large selection of pieces (mostly sketches and studies) available for purchase.  They were, of course, ridiculously priced.

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OUTSIDE THE DALI EXHIBITION NEAR THE LONDON EYE

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PICASSO WORK AT THE DALI EXHIBITION

It was time for lunch at this point and we were all starving.  Myungsoo suggested that we head up to Chinatown for Chinese food.  James quickly agreed.  I don't really enjoy Chinese food, but I had prepared myself to be extremely open minded throughout the trip, especially when it came to food.  London's food wasn't all that great anyway.  So we took the Tube again, this time towards Chinatown.  This was the greatest Chinese food I've ever had.  It absolutely shattered any that I had tried back home and it completely gave me a new perspective just how "Americanized" Chinese food can be (not that London's is necessarily authentic).  I wish I remembered what I ordered.
 
Something very funny happened on the way out of the Chinese food restaurant.  We were searching for the Tube entrance and we couldn't find it anywhere.  James proceeded to ask a few teenagers how to get to the subway.  Half of them pointed one way and the other half pointed another way.  Then they all came to a consensus that it was a whole different way.  James, in his usual eccentric, hyper voice said jokingly, "You're sure now?  You wouldn't want to point us in the wrong direction, would you?"  They all laughed and they assured us that it was the correct direction.  We turned the corner and there was a Subway restaurant.  We couldn't help but laugh and make references to "The Subway Kids" for the next couple weeks.
 
Eventually, we did find the subway.  We took it to Piccadilly Circus, despite my negative review.  Soon, we left and took the Tube to Green Park for Buckingham Palace.  I also found this to be pretty dull.  The building's size was impressive and it had some decent landscaping.  However, there was nothing to warrant the whole tourist appeal or hype of the changing of the guard.  If I go back to London, I probably wouldn't go back to Buckingham Palace.
 
Next, we went to St. Paul's Cathedral.  This time, it was open so I went inside, with James and Myungsoo of course.  It was very nice inside, but not nearly the most impressive church or cathedral I had seen.  I guess, up to this point, that would either go to the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Montreal or St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.

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BUCKINGHAM PALACE

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THE FOUNTAIN IN FRONT OF BUCKINGHAM PALACE

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ME (AND A RANDOM LADY) IN FRONT OF BUCKINGHAM PALACE

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INSIDE ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL

It was now 5:00 PM.  There was a Contiki meeting at 7:00 and we didn't want to risk missing it, so we went back to the hotel.  Myungsoo and I went up to our room and eventually met James again at the bar in the lobby for a couple drinks.
We then went across the courtyard to the Contiki meeting.  There were I think three different tours in there, so we weren't really sure who was on our tour and who wasn't.  We met Rex, our tour manager, and Chris, our driver, both of whom were from Australia.  They seemed very pleasant and sociable.  I was a bit worried who I would get stuck with.  A bad tour manger or driver could result in a horrible time.  However, right from the start, they made me feel comfortable with them, and I was happy to have them.  They gave us a few quick instructions for the next morning.  The only ones that I remember were that we had to be in the lobby at 5:30 am and our luggage had to weigh less than 44 pounds.  After we checked in, we went out into the courtyard and chatted around a few tables.  I kept an eye on our tour's line to see who was on our tour.  I had a few people that I had been emailing whom I had yet to meet.
 
Next, we went over to the London Pub (the one James and I went to the previous night) for some drinks.  We had quite a large group there, mixed from all three tours.  To this day, I can't clearly remember who was there.  I just remember a bunch of Australians and me.  I also remember everyone was in such a great mood.  It was evident that most of us were highly anticipating the following day, as we were headed to Paris.  Some of them had just returned to London from their tours.  I loved hearing what they had to say about their time with Contiki.  It significantly added to the previously regarded unbearable anticipation.  So far, all of the Australians I was meeting were some of the most personable people I've ever met.
 
The pub was unofficially closing up and everyone was heading to bed, Myungsoo included.  I didn't really want to get to bed just yet, so I went with James and his roommate to find something to eat, even though I wasn't hungry.  We walked around for a bit and eventually came across a Pizza Hut.  We waited for an ungodly amount of time for the pizza.  I don't remember why but, for some reason, we split up from James' roommate.  That was weird, considering how it was him who was in search of food.  In the end, we took his pizza back to his and James' room.
 
On the way back, we both agreed that we wanted to drink more.  James said that his roommate had some Johnny Walker back in his room!  Coincidentally and fortunately, this is my favorite drink.  He said that his roommate told him to help himself to it, since he didn't want to lug it to Paris the next day.  So we ate half of this kid's pizza and drank his scotch and I didn't even know his name.  I didn't even think I'd ever see him again.  Australians are incredibly nice.  I think I made it to bed around 11 PM.