40th Marpole in Britain – Day 4, London Tour

25 07 2007

Sounds like our leader is having a hard time keeping up with the kids.  His dispatch came in at 0100 British Daylight Time…  How long will he last?

Currently, as I am busily writing up this log, your kids are refusing to go to bed and playing cards in the kitchen.  We came back from London around 2230 after a long day!  I don’t know how they could be so tired hiking through the city but wide awake now.  Oh, well, tomorrow is a sleep in day so no matter.
Everyone is enjoying themselves and nobody is homesick.  This group seems to gel very well and there is no one being ostracized.
The day started out looking bright but a seasoned Vancouverite could tell that the wet stuff was on the way.  No matter though…today is London day!  Nothing can make it less special.
Even with everyone playing hacky sack until curfew at 11:00pm the night before, all of our members made it for our 0800 continental breakfast and morning patrol meeting.  We were all excited to see what London had to offer and quickly made sure we were packed and ready for the elements.
We met in the lobby at 0900 to pick up our London Passes and all-day transit card.  The prepaid London Pass will get us into key London attractions for free.  Our Scouts had picked some activities they had wanted to do such as bowling, arcades, seeing the aquarium and going to the zoo.  With so many other authentic London attractions, I do not know if we could fit all of those in one day.
With our passes in our hands, we headed off in our patrol in search for London excitement but first we have to get there by rail.  This is our first taste of London’s public transit and the national rail service seemed like all the rest and ran on time.
As we got into the heart of London, we were surprised that there was not more highrises….actually, there are not really any highrises.  Most buildings were between 6 to 10 stories tall and most of them looked to be hundreds of years old but were well taken care of.
Our first stop is the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace.  Our original plan was to take the subway there to get there sooner with a better view of the ceremony.  Another PL that we bumped into on the train convinced me to walk instead.  As with all things, there are tradeoffs.  The good side of it was that as we made our way through the heart of London, we crossed over on the Waterloo Bridge which led to Big Ben and the Parliament buildings.  Even though, we have seen Big Ben and the rest of the British landmarks a thousand times, it was a bit surreal to see them in person.
Within ten minutes of being in London, we had seen all those plus the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, and The River Thames.  The weather was perfect with intermittent sun and a nice breeze.
Seeing and taking photos of these monuments, of course, had slowed us down.  When we got to Buckingham, it seemed the entire tourist population had arrived.  Needless to say, we had a poor view of the ceremonies and as a result, everyone gave it a poor rating.
Next was to Harrods’, the world famous department store.  We had wanted to go there for lunch but with ham costing $8 for a hundred grams and a prepared sandwich costing 15 pounds, we had second thoughts about eating there.  Besides, the security was a bit hoity-toity and limited us to only 4 youths to one adult and did not allow us to shop together.  I guess they realized we weren’t real customers anyway.
It was very neat to see Scouts from every part of the globe doing what we are doing.  We met Scouts from Japan, Australia, Brazil, Poland, Germany and Trinidad-Tobago to name a few.
Lunch, instead of a fancy sandwich, was a fancy Big Mac….which tasted the same as in Canada.  I say that because the McChickens are totally different….better meat but horrible McChickens sauce.
After that, we took the subway back to the British Airways London Eye and the Aquarium.  Tommy really wanted to go on the Eye, the world’s largest ferris wheel but because it is a pay attraction, nobody else wanted to go.  In the end, Tommy cost me 15 pounds (but only 7.50 pounds for him as a youth) and the rest went to the Aquarium.  It is quite the huge ferris wheel and you are so incredibly high in the scale of things.  All in all, I would chalk it up to a “once in a lifetime” experience…but just once. 🙂
Afterwards, Tommy and I had a quick whirlwind tour of the Aquarium as it was a London Pass free attraction.  I have to say, the Vancouver aquarium is much much better.
Next was the Tower Bridge – the draw bridge most commonly mistaken as the London Bridge.  We were lucky as we arrived in time to see it being raised.  We took a tour of the workings of the bridge and it was interesting to note that it took 8 years before they settled on the concept for the bridge.
After that, we got back into the subway and it was onto Piccadilly Circus – the shopping hub and busiest part of London.  This is definitely the most exciting part of London with huge neon lights and 40 foot TV screens.  The streets were packed with moving cars and trucks and what seemed like thousands of people weaving through them to get across the street.  Luckily, everyone one in my patrol had been to large cities such as Seoul, Hong Kong and Beijing so everyone was calm in dealing with the traffic.
After a taste of the big city and a sip of Starbucks coffee, we were ready to head down to Chelsea for dinner.  I had wanted to show the youths the Chelsea FC stadium and have famous fish and chips at the hotel beside it.  But after hiking for 30 minutes at a good clip as someone in our patrol had decided to get one stop earlier than required, we found out the restaurant was under renovations!  Disappointed was a mild phrase to describe most of our reactions.  This was of course only a momentary divergence from our usual cheerfulness and soon returned when we found a recommended burger joint right inside the train station that we needed to take home.  We did get a good picture outside of the Chelsea FC.
After our deliciously juicy burgers, we headed downstairs and took the subway home.  I have to say, everyone is great at reading the subway lines and how to get to different places.  On the side, the underground subway looks exactly the same as in HK…even the tiles are the same!
All in all, London proved to be an amazing city and it obviously cannot be seen in one day.  I think the youths, though they may not realized it quite yet, will appreciated being here despite our hectic schedule.  With their laughter that I hear coming from the kitchen right now, somehow I don’t think their aching feet bothered them too much after all.  My aching back though is a different story. 🙂
Tomorrow is a sleep in day for the youths but a morning meeting for me.  The day is devoted to WJ prep as we go through the gear that we will be using and work on our performances to show the rest of the world.
The real deal is about to begin….



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