The flight over from Canada was jam packed. I sat next to a South African returning home on the first leg of his journey and an American doctor going to Nepal to do some volunteer work. Quite an interesting conversation was had on the flight over!
Heathrow was very quiet and I got out of the airport much quicker than anticipated. I thought it was due to the time of my arrival, but my friend Keith tells me that this was the post Sept. 11 situation. The other surprise was the mild weather and sunshine that I had! In fact this has been constant for the first two weeks, with the temperature around 10 to 15C nearly everyday with only a bit of rain. Packed too many warm clothes!
The first week was spent in London, Flitwick (Bedford) and Kent (near the cliffs of Dover) visiting friends and relatives. Many thanks again to Keith, Ian and June, and Margaret who housed and fed me during this time.
In London, Keith and I managed to visit a fair number of sights including the Greenwich Observatory and Maritime museum, the Thames Barrier which keeps the North Sea out of Central London during particularly high tides, Piccadilly Circus for Malaysian cuisine, the Tate Modern museum, the London Dungeons, the London Eye, millennium bridge and dome, and Canary Wharf. The Greenwich Observatory was particularly interesting as it is the point from which longitude is measured. Everyone lines up to have their picture taken straddling the Western and Eastern hemispheres which is marked with a giant line. The history of the development of accurate time pieces to enable precise determination of the longitude of a ship is chronicled on the walls of the observatory. This is definitely a must see for anyone interested in the history of navigation, transportation or exploration.
Another bonus is that most if not all of the museums in London are now free. Seems that attendance has been lagging, and the government is trying to get people into the museums to learn about their history etc. This a great savings for those of us traveling with weak currencies!
Other night time activities included a pub near Heathrow with Keith’s coworkers from Virgin Express and a night of Kaluki and Red Stripe with other Jamaicans living nearby. While visiting Flitwick, Ian took me on a drive of the surrounding area which included a run through Milton Keynes, a place that I had heard a lot about, since my former employer had its UK office there.
The Kent countryside was beautiful despite the rain that day. My mother was over visiting my aunt and so we had a bit of a family reunion for one night. This included a dinner at the neighborhood pub, owned by a family that goes to Whistler every year for a ski vacation. That was the end of the first week.
Keith dropped me at Heathrow after we drove up from Kent and I jetted to Basel in Switzerland to visit my Godmother Lily and her husband Peter.