Sunday, July 13, 2014
London - Day Seven
Well I learned the secret of a good sleep. BEER!!!! M and I decided to go out for dinner last night (we saved our grocery store dinner for tonight). She had wine - I had a beer. Came back to the hotel and well - it wasn't long before I was asleep and pretty much stayed asleep until morning. I must say that I did feel better in the morning than I have in a long time. So maybe there is some truth to this drinking thing after all?????
Today was the day that we promised ourselves that we would ride the bikes. Now if you have ever been to London, the traffic is just CRAZY. There is no other word for it. There are no straight roads (well most are not straight or so it seems), there are turns everywhere and of course they drive on the OTHER side of the road. And if you are a pedestrian - well one must be careful. They even have signs painted on the pavement at EVERY intersection - LOOK LEFT or LOOK RIGHT. Of course there are traffic signals. And just when you think you are safe - WHAM - traffic comes around the corner out of nowhere!!!!
We did see a FATAL ACCIDENT sign at a major intersection today - I have a feeling they were looking for witnesses. But it happened just a day ago. And the amount of sirens - both police and ambulance - well it never seems to stop. And let's not forget the honking of horns today as some streets were closed and people wanted to get home. Those that are silly enough to drive a car in this town!!!!
Well we walked to the bike station, NOT the nearest bike station, but a bike station that was close to Kensington Gardens. Hey - we are NOT suicidal and were not willing to attempt riding the bikes in the city traffic. Queen's Gate which run from Gloucestser to Kensington Gardens is pretty wide, VERY straight and leads right to the gardens. We were going to be safe. It took a bit of figuring out the silly bike system, but then we got two access codes and we were off. (Two pounds each for 24 hours of riding)
OK - not exactly. I could NOT get the seat figured out on mine and so I had to ride with the seat in the lowest position all the way up this street. I must have looked like a lunatic. Once we got inside Kensington Gardens, then we swapped the bike, but not before we had another learning curve in how to do that. OK - so now we are off. We rode all through Kensington Gardens and although we had walked through part of them the other day, it was so nice to ride them on the bike (and way faster). Then we rode along the street that intersected Kensington Gardens from Hyde Park and then we were in Hyde Park. Our goal was the opposite corner of Hyde Park - near the Marble Arch.
AHA - there is the Marble Arch - now to find the bike station. OH - there it is and we thought we were home free. NO - this was NOT an active bike station and so we had to find another. No problem because all the stations are indicated on the map attached to the post for the bike station. OH dear - it is across Park Road which is a BUSY CRAZY STREET. We attempted to go one way and well that wasn't going to work as we ended up on the end of the curb with major flows of traffic coming towards us from the left and the right. As soon as the left stopped, the right started. Nope - this isn't going to work. So we backed out of that spot and crossed the street.
No choice now, but to ride down Park with the MANY buses and cars on our tail. Keep to the left - keep to the left. There wasn't any other option and there it was - a DO NOT ENTER sign (except for cyclists) and there was the bike station. We were home free and had survived our first bike experience in London.
Off to Oxford Street (which is right by The Marble Arch and a major shopping street). We walked down the street and went into a few shops. I think M was a bit disappointed. A LOT of the shops were the same as what we have back home. One thing of note about the shopping here - we have NOT seen much in the way of magazines. Really???? Not even Waterfords - the big book store - no magazines. We finally found a nice display at Selfridges. A big department store. There are a LOT of department stores here. And one store we went into (Primark) was a zoo. Just nuts - we did not stay long.
We stopped at a small restaurant for lunch and then found a small magazine shop that we had searched out on-line. Nothing compared to what we had already seen at Selfridges. This was right by the London College of Design which is right by Oxford Circus which is where Oxford joins Regent. So we headed down Regent since it was closed to traffic on Sunday. I have to say that we do NOT have access to Google Maps while we are here and you know what??? We haven't needed it. We actually use a MAP - a real paper map or we look at the street maps on the street. Yep - NO Google Maps needed here.
Oh my goodness - what a cool place - Regent Street on a Sunday. They had out chairs and potted plants to make it look pretty. A bike repair shop set up if you needed something fixed up. Entertainment in the form of belly dancers and a lesson if you wanted. And then the rest of the space was taken up by a food court. I mean - there was EVERYTHING there. By the time we arrived the food was just closing down. Just as well - we would have eaten too much. But it was so neat to walk on the street. And there were TONS of people out. I really hate trying to walk with all those people. The tourist shuffle - that is seized hips just waiting to happen.
We ended up walking to Picadilly Circus and then back to Oxford Circus. I know - about 15,000 steps so far and imagine if we had NOT ridden the bikes. We even ventured onto the double decker buses along Oxford to avoid the crowds. I did not want to get on the underground as it looked packed from the amount of people heading down. Then we got back to The Marble Arch and now to find a bike station. We did NOT want to get our bikes from where we had dropped off as that street was insane.
We found the station, but for the life of me - my VISA card (which is how the system keeps track of your proof of payment) would NOT work in that machine. So we had to walk back across the street to another station. The card worked in this machine and then we rode on the side walk (I know - big chickens) until we could cross the street as a pedestrian and then we were in the park and no problem.
It is so cool and the park is FULL of everyone. There was a HUGE concert going on, there were people on bikes, both the BIKE HIRE and their own, people walking with babies in strollers, or young kids or four or five abreast on the road (no cars), there were skateboards, scooters (some kids were barely able to walk - yet they had a scooter), roller skates and roller blades - anything with wheels was in the park. After dodging them all we safely made it back to Queen's Gate. We rode down that long street and parked the bikes at the station at the corner of Queen's Gate and Gloucester (I think that is the street).
Anyway - it was an awesome day - we had loads of fun and so good to get around and now be tired by the time you got to where you wanted to go.
On that note - we are figuring out what to do with our next couple of days.
Have a great day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!