October 3rd, 2012 – Wednesday
As is usual after arriving in the evening after a long haul flight, I woke up super early the next morning. No use trying to sleep when the body won’t cooperate, so I got up and got dressed, grabbed the camera, and left the hotel to scope out the neighborhood.
On Praed Street I headed back the way we came the night before, towards Paddington Station. It was 6:00 AM, it was damp, and it was chilly. I was glad I put on an extra shirt. There were already a few people out and about, and just as it is all over the world during those hours, double-parked trucks stood on the street while their drivers made deliveries.
Earlier, I had checked online and saw that the nearest ATM was a block away; I made my way over there and withdrew some GBP. The second objective was breakfast, so I walked back towards the hotel, to the McDonald’s right next door. I guess McDonald’s has the worldwide early morning market cornered, as it always seems like it’s the only place that’s open at such an early hour.
I had a nice little breakfast wrap that I’d never seen before (I don’t think they use that box in the U.S.). The coffee was also different than the black drip-type that I’m used to (I think they call it “white coffee” and it already has milk in it, and it’s slightly frothy), but that’s been the case everywhere we’ve been outside of the U.S. Nonetheless, the meal was satisfying and I was ready to go on my way.
You might notice a bottle of water in the background of the photo above. I drink lots and lots of water, and often one of the first things I like to do after I come home is to drink a big glass of water. Well, when first arriving after a long flight, water isn’t always readily available (i.e. I’m too exhausted to go buy water), so by the time I wake up the next morning I’m pretty thirsty and dehydrated. I don’t usually buy bottled water at McDonald’s, but I wanted something in addition to coffee to hydrate myself with.
Now, I was fueled up and feeling fresh. I tried walking in the other direction this time, towards the East. I walked past the recently-in-the-news St. Mary’s Hospital. At the time I wasn’t aware of its history, and when I saw on TV that Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge had her baby there, I took a second look and realized that I had walked by this historic hospital. Dang.
Further down Praed Street, I saw a Tesco Express and went in to check it out. As it was still so early, there were unshelved groceries all over the place, but I was able to bag some oranges and, of course, drinking water. I also looked for a phone SIM card as my online research showed that Tesco sold them. I didn’t see any and didn’t ask (social anxiety FTW), and headed back the way I came.
I must have had a reason at the time for going back and forth, but I don’t remember anymore. This time, I walked past the hotel and went into the Underground station to get some Oyster cards. Unlike Clipper cards in San Francisco or Octopus cards in Hong Kong, I was able to purchase them from an automated machine. How civilised. At this time, the station was starting to get a little crowded from the morning commute. I figured I’d test out my new Oyster card and followed the crowd. It occurred to me that I could go check out the hotel where we would be staying after returning from Paris, near the Eurostar terminal at King’s Cross/St. Pancras, but somehow I ended up on the notoriously slow Circle line terminating at Edgware Road, the last station on that line. No wonder the train was so empty. Luckily, the correct train was just across the platform.
I scoped out the area of the hotel as well as where we would be boarding the Eurostar. Having accomplished my mission, I headed back to Paddington. There was a Vodafone shop inside the station so I went ahead and bought a couple of SIM cards. After such a productive morning, I went back to the hotel to rest for a couple of hours.
Now, JC was up and hungry, and I was ready for my second breakfast, so we went downstairs to try out the other restaurant that was right next to the hotel, Garfunkel’s. I guess it is like the Denny’s of London. It was our first time having full English breakfasts with tea, and we were pretty excited about it. It was also our first time trying HP Sauce. It’s almost like A1 Steak Sauce but a bit sweeter and less tangy, in my opinion (well, I liked it enough such that it was one of the first things I bought after moving to Hong Kong). There was also a triangular fried item that we thought was a hash brown, but then realized was fried bread. Very interesting, and very delicious.
Another interesting thing was the nationality of the servers. Our server at Garfunkel’s was from Lithuania. In quite a few restaurants that we subsequently went to in London, we encountered staff who were from Lithuania. I wondered if Lithuanians in London were like Mexicans in San Francisco, immigrants just trying to make a living in a land of opportunity.
Having had such a hearty breakfast, we decided to walk it off with a stroll through the neighborhood. No matter where you are, one of the more adventurous things you can do is to just pick a street and walk down it. In our case, we headed South and eventually reached Hyde Park. We walked into the park but then it started raining, so we headed back to Praed Street.
We decided to take a bus tour as it was still early and we didn’t want to go back to the hotel room. In Hong Kong, one of our favorite activities is sitting on the upper deck of a double decker bus and just watching the world go by. One of the lines we ride the most is the 23, so when we saw a 23 on Praed Street, we decided to take it. You could call this our initial tour of London, as the 23 traveled through a lot of popular tourist sites, including Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, and Trafalgar Square. We took it all the way to the end, to Liverpool Street Station, and then boarded the return-trip 23 to go back, as we were now pretty tired from the jet lag.
The driver of the 23 on the way back drove the bus in a very jerky manner, pumping the gas and brake pedals, causing the bus to stutter and rock back and forth. In our jet-lagged state, it was more than we could bear, so we got off at Charing Cross Station to take the Underground back to Paddington. We used our first 30p pay-toilet inside (guess it’s a good idea for keeping out homeless people) and then took the Bakerloo line back to our hotel.
For the rest of the day we stayed in, resting and recovering from jet lag. We bought KFC takeaway from across the street and enjoyed a nice fried chicken dinner before turning in early, for the next day we would be heading to Paris!