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Day One - Arrival in London and Early Exploration

After a brief detour by way of Chicago (Hello!? That's the wrong direction), we were on our way aboard a United Airlines 747 en route to Heathrow (click for an interesting look at all Heathrow flights).

Sandra Bullock Image
"I have a premonition about this flight."
The flight itself was a little disappointing, as we had been accustomed to the very nice entertainment system we had experienced on Northwest Airlines during our previous trip to Europe. Rather than on-demand films and games, we were given a strict schedule and only a few films to choose from. I chose Premonition, which wasn't the best film in the world, but it served its purpose for this occasion.

It was an overnight flight and we were able to sleep a decent amount, making for a pretty nice flight overall. However, as we approached London, some excitement ensued, as the aircraft was struck by lightning. Twice! We saw a couple of very bright flashes of light, each accompanied by a loud "crack," but no damage was done. Some heavy storms were in the area and this would prove to be a bigger story for England as the days went on. But at this time, it just added a little flare to the trip and we were soon on the ground and seeking the Underground.

The tube system was quite easy to navigate -- perhaps the best I've encountered -- and we made our way to Barkston Gardens Hotel, which was a decent room with a fantastic location; just around the corner from the Earl's Court Underground station. However, at this moment the station was closed due to some flooding and we instead set about on foot to explore the local area.

We found a nice man inside a nearby pub and inquired about a place to eat. He recommended the Troubadour, which was an interesting mix of cafe, art gallery, music club, and deli. It was a fine choice and we enjoyed our meal before returning to the hotel for a change of clothes and a little rest.

With Knightsbridge being within walking distance and the tube issues at the moment, this would be a good night to visit Harrods.

Harrods image
(Click to Enlarge)

London's most famous department store is named after Charles Henry Harrod, who opened a family grocers shop on the site in 1849. The shop has grown to become the destination for expensive and glamourous shopping, priding itself on its motto Omnia Omnibus Ubique -- All things, for all people, everywhere. Bought by Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al Fayed in 1985, the seven-storey building sits upon 4.5 acres and is illuminated by 11,500 lightbulbs. Harrods contains over 300 departments, selling luxury items from furniture to polo mallets and wax coats for dogs.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows image

On our way back, we noticed a very large crowd gathering on a corner, generating quite a good deal of excitement. We crept up close enough to ask a few people what the commotion was about and it turns out that J.K. Rowling was there for a live reading and book signing at the Natural History Museum, to begin at midnight, when the latest Harry Potter book officially went on sale.

Making our way past the euphoric masses, we we grabbed a quick bite at Pizza Organic and then headed to a Sainsbury's grocery store for some supplies. Upon entering the store, we came upon a rather large line of people stretching all the way back to the main doors. It seemed strange to have so many shoppers at such a late hour, but we soon discovered the line for those waiting for a copy of the new Harry Potter book with the midnight hour fast approaching. As we shopped, we heard many young women scream with delight as their books were scanned and paid for.

Gliterball Logo
Back at the hotel, I turned on the television and encountered a rather strange game show called Glitterball.Callers pay 75 pence for the opportunity to call and try to guess a word for a big cash prize. It held our attention for a few minutes before becoming largely monotonous. Yet somehow I watched on, waiting for at least one person to correctly guess a word. This did not come quickly and it started to get annoying. But hey, we were in London.

Day Two

Day: 123456789101112      London, Dublin, Paris