Sydney to London is a long, long way, and there’s really no way to get around the fact that it sucks as a trip. I mean, I’m sure travelling business or first class is an improvement, but you’re still stuck in a chair for the better part of 24 hours, and that bites. Sydney to Manila was bad enough; Manila to London, however, is significantly worse – fourteen hours of suck. Happily, I managed to get some sleep on both legs, though my shoulder muscles are screaming at me now for sleeping on them funny. Still, I could have cried with relief at actually getting off the plane, though that relief was short lived: it took over an hour to get through immigration. By the time I was done with that, I was grumpy and exhausted, and desperately eager to just get horizontal somewhere for a minimum of eight hours.
Luckily, I was relatively smart and booked a hotel for myself just around the corner from Paddington station, so I was able to hop on the Heathrow Express train, and arrived by about 11pm. My hotel is pretty basic: the room is barely large enough for the double bed in it, and my luggage makes getting around difficult, but the bed is fine, the shower is amazing, and honestly, who cares beyond that? I’m also, luckily, on the first floor rather than the sixth, as there is no lift and getting my luggage up that many flights of stairs would be awful.
So I managed. Found the hotel without a hassle (there are maps on street corners here and it is the best thing ever for those of us who don’t yet have the internet on our phones), checked in, showered, slept.
And then woke up not long after 5am. Because of course I did.
Really, though, not a big deal. I’m still tired, but not so tired as I can’t function, and today was always intended to be a relatively low-key day. I spent some time catching up on email and then wandered downstairs for the included breakfast soon after 6:30. It was real food, cooked to order, and after a day of eating plane food, it tasted amazing, let me tell you. The whole ‘full english breakfast’ thing is delightful, and I think I can get used to eating like that, let me tell you (though, note to self: order tea rather than coffee next time and buy your coffee elsewhere).
Of course, by the time I was done with breakfast it was still only 7am, and thus still 2.5 hours before anything I needed to do could be done. Time for a walk! I basically headed out without any particular idea of where I was going, but ended up with a direction anyway: I might as well find where my semi-permanent (for the next five weeks) home is, and how I will get there tomorrow. Of course, I will catch the tube tomorrow rather than walk, but… walking overground is a much better orientation, right?
Thus, I walked through Paddington and down towards Kensington Gardens, where I walked through the park a fair ways. I love Hyde Park: once you’re in the middle of it, you can barely hear the sounds of traffic, and you can’t see anything but park, so you might as well be in the middle of the country. The last time I was in Hyde Park (albeit the other end of it), it was the middle of winter and we were throwing snowballs at each other. Today, despite the earliness of the hour, it was pleasantly cool, and the sun was shining; perfect weather for a walk.
There were lots of people about, unsurprisingly. Tourists, of course, but also locals out for a run or walking their dogs, or riding the bikes that are basically ubiquitous. Later, as I started heading back towards the streets, there were lots of children off to school and adults on their way to work (some with high heels strapped to the back of their backpacks; very clever!). I took a very roundabout and convoluted way through to Notting Hill, walking somewhat in circles at times. It was nice: I actually haven’t done a lot of just random exploring in London. The first time I was here – almost exactly twenty-five years ago (June 1991) – I was seven, and more inclined to whine and moan about sore feet than really get into explorations. The second time, in 2010, it was winter, and getting places seemed a little more important.
It’s strange, because on one hand I’m a tourist here, exploring and experiencing, and on the other… well, this is home, now. I live here. These are going to be my streets. They’re unfamiliar, now, but they won’t be for long; at the same time, I don’t want them to lose the sheer thrill I’m experiencing at the moment. London!
I did, eventually, stumble upon my future home. It’s a relatively boring-looking building just off of Pembridge Square in Notting Hill, only a block from the tube. It’s a good location, and I’m looking forward to moving in there tomorrow. For now, though, my hotel is working just fine for me, and I’m glad I booked in for two nights: the idea of manhandling my suitcases again is exhausting, and I could do without it just now.
I could have caught the tube back to Paddington, but I decided to keep walking. It’s still only about 18 degrees, but the sun is warm and honestly, it was lovely just to be out and walking and not stuck in a narrow chair in a rattling box. It meant that by the time I arrived back at my hotel, at about 9:30, I was footsore and a little tired, and sitting at over 10,000 steps on my pedometer.
My room has a door to nowhere (ie a window that opens like a door), so I have that open for some fresh air and sunshine(!) while I hang on the bed and type this. I’ll head out again soon: my goals for the day are to vote in the Australian election, open a bank account, and collect my permanent visa card. Beyond that… we’ll see how long I can keep going without wanting to nap.
Also: job hunting. But… that’s not an immediate priority, right? It can wait.