The journey from Australia to England was pretty uneventful, but one of the great things about travel is the people you meet. On my first flight I met a couple (Rob & Trish) from Launceston who had a similar itinerary to me, heading over to Europe and then back to Yorkshire for the start of the tour. They were pretty keen cycling fans, and actually know Richie Porte well enough that they were planning to meet up with him the night before the race. I wanted to ask if I might tag along, but couldn’t pluck up the courage. On the last plane ride I sat next to a New Zealand couple (who now live in Melbourne) who are driving around the UK and Europe for a weeks. They helped me out with the names of some New Zealand parrots on my crossword too. I also met a girl (Anna) who was heading off to Ireland for an epic 4-day(!) wedding followed by a few weeks exploring Ireland with her parents and catching up with friends.
I always knew that on a trip like this logistics would be a challenge. My flight arrived into Heathrow at about 6AM after a couple of brief stops in Brunei and Dubai. In my head the plan was pretty simple, grab my bag and bike box, jump on the Heathrow express train into London, catch a train to St Albans and then a bus or taxi to Simon’s place. Easy right? Hrm. London is big. London train stations are big too. After lugging my 48kg of luggage across the terminal, the express got me to Paddington Station, where I had to lug it all across to another platform for a train to Kings Cross, then lug, lug, lug up to St. Pancras for the St. Albans train. Now I know why it’s called luggage! When I finally arrived at St. Albans the taxi driver suggested I could have probably caught a taxi direct for about the same price of my train tickets 😐 not what I wanted to hear but a lesson learned for next time 🙂
By the time I got to Simon’s it was 9AM and I’d been on the go for about 36 hours, with only a little broken sleep on the plane. Simon had left a key for me so I let myself in and started unpacking. Stuff everywhere! I cracked open the bike box and the Surly was just as I had left it. Perfect. I grabbed my tools, put it all together and headed off for a test ride to explore the village. Simon lives in a place called London Colney and while it is only a 30 minute train ride from central London, it is a nice little green village with a lake and a nature reserve. The green has always been something I love about England! I found the local supermarket to get some basic supplies, a tyre shop to pump up my tyres (I had to assure the poor bloke that they wouldn’t blow up with 100 psi) and then explored some of the cycle paths in the area. Satisfied that my bike was in great working order, I decided I’d ride it to the train station and catch the train back into central London and spend the day there.
When I got into St. Pancras again I discovered the British Library which, to my delight had a british comics exhibition “Comics Unmasked”. Some of my favourite creators are british, notably Grant Morrison, Dave McKean, Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore and they all featured. There was original scripts from V for Vendetta, Sandman, Batman & Robin and original props from Dave McKeans artwork on Arkham Asylum just to name a few. My comic-nerdiness was on overdrive. While I was there I got a call from Simon who told me he couldn’t get the day off tomorrow as planned, so his boss had agreed to let him go early so he could meet me in the city. It was a shame we wouldn’t get to spend the day together tomorrow, but an afternoon was still something. By the time I had made my way through the exhibition Simon was there, and he took me to see some of the proper highlights of the British Library: The Geneva Bible and Tyndale’s New Testament. Knowing the impact these volumes had on creation of the Bible we have today and even the formation of our English language, it was pretty special see them for real. Certainly a contrast from comic books!
Simon and I then headed of for a late lunch of burgers & chips. I have to say, since I came to London in 2002 the quality of food had improved remarkably. I’m somewhat of a burger connoisseur (I even drove from Hobart to Stanley to try ‘the world’s best burger’), and while not the best burger I’ve ever had, it was pretty decent. From there we wandered up to Oxford St, and eventually winding our way across to Waterloo. Waterloo is the home of IMAX theatre, the biggest in Britain. I’ve been to IMAX in Melbourne and I’m pretty sure this was the biggest I’ve seen. What better to see on the IMAX screen? Godzilla in 3D of course!! Unfortunately for me, by the time we sat down in the theatre I had been going for about 46 hours and the seductive beckoning of jet-lag was calling. As the lights went dim, I started to drift off to sleep. Not even the enormous explosions and epic monster battles could keep me awake as I fought desperately to stay awake. Eventually I left to get a Pepsi in the home that some caffeine could stave off the slumber, but I helplessly nodded my way through. I can’t remember much of the film, but I got the gist of it. There’s a monster terrorising the city. Then Godzilla comes along and pursues said monster. Then there is another monster that’s wrecking the place having monster babies. Then Godzilla comes in and whacks both the monsters and the monster baby eggs with his blue lightening out of the mouth trick, and slinks off back into the ocean. Sorry if that was spoilers. There are some humans and dialogue too, but that’s really superfluous.
So after the movie, we caught the train home. By this time it was dark of course and I still had to ride my bike home from the station, but I’d left my lights back at Simon’s place (doh!) Also, as it happens, I managed to jump on board the train before the doors closed, but left Simon helplessly standing on the platform waiting for the next train. So here I am, been awake for 50 hours, riding my bike home in the dark with no more than a little red LED on the back of my helmet begging drivers not wipe me out. Not cool. To make matters worse I took a wrong turn at the round about and ended up on the A-road with no shoulder, and no street lights. Not cool x 3! Of course it was a happy ending though. I got home safely, and crashed into bed. London day one done. Phew!