Wednesday, July 27, 2011

London, You Weren't The Greatest

Well, Tuesday, we made the voyage over to London and it was quite an interesting one. We left the hotel around 6:00 a.m. which is more or less before the sun really even comes up here in Paris. We had to take two different RER lines (underground subway system) to get to the train station. Once there, we had a little difficulty getting our tickets and I thought I was going to have a panic attack. We had ordered and paid for our tickets online, but they were not able to pull up our reservation at first.

Finally, we got in the line for the 7:13 train to London and were unfortunately towards the end of the line. When going through, we had to be stamped out of France by a French customs officer and into England by an English customs officer. The French officer asked my dad to take off his cap, which he did… while rolling his eyes. I didn’t seem to have any problems but I think the guy recognized the last name as being the same because he kept looking back at my dad while holding my passport. The English officer was a woman and she was nice. She asked us a few questions about why we were going and so on and so forth and then stamped our books and let us on to the train. We also went through airport like security scanners.

We finally made it on to the train and our seats got mixed up – I was sitting in the wrong seat and someone else was sitting in my dad’s seat and long story short, we ended up not sitting together on the train, but we both slept, which was a good thing because the night before my dad snored most of the night and I didn’t sleep as well as I would have liked.

Two hours later, we arrived in London and when we got off the train, there were probably 20 or more customs officers watching all the people getting off the train. They pulled my dad aside and asked for his passport and asked him what he did. He said he was a minister. They asked for what church. My dad said the church of Christ and then he asked who does he answer to and my dad said God. Well, apparently the guy didn’t like that answer because they took him back into an interrogation room and asked him a few more questions. Thankfully after three or four minutes he came back out because I was quite concerned that they may hold him forever. Apparently they are on the lookout for terrorists disguised as American tourists. We actually came to the conclusion while we were there that the Brits are more than a little paranoid when it comes to security measures. We Americans don’t seem to hold a candle to the Brits in that department.

We grabbed a small bite to eat at the train station and then asked a police officer how to get over to Buckingham Palace. I had bought tickets in advance and we wanted to do that first. He was actually nice to us and gave us a couple of maps and told us how to use the Tube as they call it, formally known as the Underground, which is just their metro. We have ridden a lot of trains since we have been here.

We headed over to the palace, took some pictures, picked up our tickets and toured the palace at 11:00 a.m. I really enjoyed it and I think my dad thought it was okay. He isn’t really into touring palaces and what not. He said he could have breezed right through it but he did say that Kate Middleton’s dress was nice.

After the palace tour, we stopped at a pub and ate some fish and chips, then we headed over to The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. We also rode on the London Eye and then went to Westminster Abbey which was closed because it apparently isn’t open on Tuesdays. Go figure.

We went back to the train station and had to wait about three hours before our train left for Paris but we ate some food and people watched and went to the boarding area early. This time we only got one stamp, from the French who asked no questions and were easy peezy about getting folks through customs. We made it back to Paris and took the RER back to the hotel, getting in around midnight.

It was a long an interesting day and I’m glad we didn’t have to spend the whole day at British customs because that would have put a major damper on things. However, it did leave a bad taste in our mouths and I don’t think either one of us wants to go back.

At Buckingham Palace

The Houses of Parliment

My dad at Big Ben

The London Eye

Today we are hitting the streets of Paris and are going to the Moulin Rouge this evening. Should be an interesting day.


Erika said...

Very interesting story!
Sorry the customs experience put a damper on your trip, but it does make for good blogging :)

Jackie said...

That stinks that is was such an ordeal!! I can't wait to hear about Moulin Rouge:)