Europe 2002 Diary

1 [ Perth - Kuala Lumpur - London - Gloucester - London ]

This is part one, where I leave Perth on a Sunday afternoon in March, fly to London, get driven to Gloucester, see the rellies, then go back to London to see as much as possible in a day and a half.

See also parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.


1.1 [ Travel ]

Chris and I arrived at the airport very early because Malaysia Airlines told us to check-in three hours before the flight. Really it was a stupid idea because their check-in desk wasn't even open that early. Those of you who have been to Perth International Airport will know that there's not an awful lot to see there.

I did my duty free shopping (just a bottle of whiskey for my uncle) and sat in the cafe with Andrea, Erin, and Chris and waited. Not long after the check-in desk opened, and we checked in, then went back and waited some more. Erin decided a pre-departure photo would be a good idea.

At the Airport
At the Airport

After saying our goodbyes, we went through security soon after it opened. I set off the metal detectors in Perth as predicted, wearing steel caps tends to do that. The security people are more thorough than last time I travelled, they even decided to have a feel around the top of my shoes.

The flight to KL was ok, but there were no decent movies. And the guy in front of me insisted on having his seat down for the entire flight! The food was surprisingly reasonable. We arrived in KL 10 minutes early, and then had 2 hours to waste in the airport. KL International Airport is slightly more interesting than Perth, but not by much. I set off the metal detector again, was given a quick frisk, then it was onto the flight to Heathrow for 14 hours. That's a very very long time. Again there were no decent movies, and I was starting to feel dodgy. I got a bit of sleep on the way, but not a lot. The most depressing thing is when you sleep for a little bit early in the flight, then wake up and find there's still 10 hours to go.

We arrived in London at 5:45am, then it was straight through passport control, waited for the luggage for about half an hour, and straight through customs. My aunty and uncle were waiting for me, so I said goodbye to Chris for a few days and was driven to Gloucester. At this point the weather was foggy, overcast, and looking quite depressing. During the drive it started to clear, and by the time we arrived the sun was out and it was a nice day.

1.2 [ Gloucester ]

I didn't do much for most of Monday. We went into town to have a look around. It's very difficult to get lost in Gloucester. There are four main streets that intersect, named Northgate, Eastgate, Southgate, and Westgate Streets. We had lunch at a pub including a very decent pint of bitter for 99p. This was my second cheapest beer for the whole trip. I had a look for some DVDs that I was after, but didn't find what I wanted. In the afternoon I accidentally had a couple of hours sleep, and generally did very little.

The following day (Tuesday) I saw all there was to see in Gloucester, which being honest isn't a lot. St Peter's Cathedral and the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum were the best bits. The photos below show the cathedral, a stained glass window commemerating members of the Gloucestershire Regiment, and the tomb of Edward II inside the cathedral.

Gloucester Cathedral
Gloucester Cathedral
Gloucester Cathedral
Gloucester Cathedral
Gloucester Cathedral window
Window of Gloucester Cathedral
Edward II's tomb
Edward II's Tomb

On Wednesday morning I said goodbye to the rellies and headed into London on the coach. It was a bit slow going by bus (due to the route and roadworks in London) but the scenery was nice for the first bit (especially around Stroud) and the price was good (£13 rather than £41 for the train). I arrived in London at around 12:30pm, went to the hotel to drop off my luggage, and then had the rest of the day to explore.

1.3 [ London ]

On the day that I arrived in London, Chris had decided to take a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath. This meant I spent the day doing my own thing - all day Underground tickets are good. I went out to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre first, which was very interesting. It's in two parts - a well presented exhibition showing the history of both the original theatre and the reconstruction, and the theatre itself. The theatre is the only building in London to have a thatched roof since the Great Fire of 1666. The photos below are from inside the theatre.

Globe Theatre
Globe Theatre
Globe Theatre
Globe Theatre
Globe Theatre
Globe Theatre
Globe Theatre
Globe Theatre

After the theatre, I decided it was too nice a day to waste and that I should do as much as possible while I had the chance. The weather since I arrived had been great, maxima around 15C, no rain, and a fair bit of sun. First I went to Trafalgar Square, then walked down Whitehall past Downing Street to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Here's some photos - Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament.

Nelson's Column
Nelson's Column
Big Ben
Big Ben
Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament
Big Ben
Big Ben
Victoria Tower
Victoria Tower

Next it was off to Buckingham Palace. The guards kept walking backwards and forwards - eventually I got tired of their refusal to stand still and just took a photo anyway.

Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace

By this time it was getting late, so I headed back to the hotel, read for a while, then went to the pub for dinner. It was expensive and not particularly good. Chris arrived back from his day trip shortly after I got back to the hotel, and we planned the following day.

The first stop on Thursday was the Hungarian Embassy to get a visa. I wasn't able to get one before leaving Australia because the Czech Embassy took so bloody long with my passport. It ended up costing me £55 ($145) rather than the $77 it would have cost at home.

After getting the visa we realised that the Changing of the Guard was happening at Buckingham Palace in 40 minutes, so we walked over to have a look. It was difficult to see what was going on for parts of it due to the huge numbers of people.

Changing of the Guard
Changing of the Guard
Changing of the Guard
Changing of the Guard
Changing of the Guard
Changing of the Guard
Changing of the Guard
Changing of the Guard
Changing of the Guard
Changing of the Guard

The majority of Thursday was spent on the Big Bus Tour. If you only have one day to see London, this is definately the way to do it. For £15 you get four different tours that you can get on and off all day, including a cruise down the Thames from the Tower of London to Westminster Pier. It would have been nice to have longer to see things, for example we didn't have time to go into the Tower of London. These photos show Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament from south of the river, the Tower of London, and Tower Bridge.

Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament
Tower of London
Tower of London
Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge

Our final stop on the tour saw us back at Big Ben for more photo opportunities. The second photo below shows Victoria Tower, part of the Houses of Parliament building. We made our way back to the hotel, bought fish and chips for dinner, sent email from the local Internet cafe, then slept.

Me at Big Ben
Me at Big Ben
Victoria Tower
Victoria Tower

The diary continues in part two.