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London day 1 - #travel #holiday #london #uk [Aug. 9th, 2016|08:39 pm]
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[feeling |soresore]

Photo of the day: 26.7.2016 (day 208)

Because it is apparently utterly impossible to start a holiday, which should be relaxing, without having to get up at stupid o' clock, Bert and I got up at 4am the 26th, because his dad was picking us up at 6am to drive us to the station so we could grab the 6.33am train to Louvain. Miraculously, the train was on time too! We didn't have to worry about tickets, because I had already used up our eco cheques to purchase tickets on Sunday when we took the train to Antwerp :)
So that was good, to just arrive and wait on the platform and get on the train.
Originally we had calculated in a delay (because you know, the NMBS is often a bit fail like that) but as there was none (huzzah) we grabbed the 7.09 train to Brussels Midi, where we still had about an hour to get on the Eurostar. When we arrived at the departure hall, it indicated that the boaridng for our train would begin in 5 minutes.
Which was ace, because it meant we didn't have to hang around the station (gangs of pick pockets operate there, and they don't let you inside the departure hall anymore if your boarding hasn't started, because apprently that's good "security") longer than needed.
I did, however, insisted we go to Panos so I could get us some food. Just as well because Bert claimed he wasn't really hungry, but he still choose a big sandwich when I asked him what he wanted and finished it all before we boarded the train :).

Eurostar security on the Brussels end is actually alright. It just takes forever because they have to check everyone TWICE (our police and then the UK police) before you can pass the scans. When I told the guy manning the scans about the analog film inside my camera, he was very understanding and was happy to hold the camera whilst my bags and I passed scanning devices. So that was really nice of him! He was all "oh yes, but film, you gotta be careful with that!". Very aweosme :).

Because we had gotten there early, I decided to go check out the newspaper store. Where I bought Bert a copy of De Tijd (they were all out of De Morgen and De Standaard, for a moment I thought I was going to have to buy him an American paper or another rag like the Daily Fail Mail or Het Laatste Nieuws. I also took some time to hunt down the free London guide they always have lying around in the departure hall, because it's always full of interesting info and events. This time was no different, because we discovered the Brit had an exhibit on about Egypt's lost cities, sunken in the river Nile. So we instantly decided we would go there at some point.

The Eurostar ride itself was uneventful, but of course, Bert had not nearly enough leg space :(. You'd think that if they charge you that much for a ticket they'd give you more space, but no. He still slept through most of the journey whilst I read the Eurostar magazine (which is actually pretty decent) and re-read The Dark Side of the Road on my kindle.

We arrived in London on time, but it still took us over 20 minutes to get through security XD.
Because you know, it doesn't matter that our passports were already checked and scanned by UK police BEFORE leaving Belgium, no it has to happen again upon arrival in the UK.
Utterly ridiculous.

Of course, our planning pretty much went out the window the second we got into St-Pancras station.
The plan, originally, had been to go to M.A.C in Covent Garden the next day so I could buy two eyeliners. But there was a lovely, big, shiny M.A.C store right there in the station, with no customers inside! So of course, it'd be crazy not to pop in. The people there were super friendly too. With exception of the security guard, who just GLARED at everyone, but I didn't have to deal with him so whatever.
The kind shop guy even explained to me how to get to the Boots where I had my internet order waiting for me, and to Platform 9 3/4.

The Boots staff was, sadly, not quite as friendly, and very much in no mood to do much actual work. So it took forever for them to get my order out so I could sign for it. They were ok with me opening the bag and double checking everything was correct though, so that was good. And thankfully, nothing had gone wrong with the order.

We found Platform 9 3/4 without much problems either but, OMFG, how crowded was that place?! There was a massive queue for the photo location too, so I didn't even bother. Especially not with all our bags. I did find the Gryffindor bow I wanted. The staff there wasn't very friendly either (most were downright rude and pushed everyone aside without even asking to move, that was really NOT on), and the customers were in some kind of Potter feeding frenzy. Most stuff was really overpriced too. Bert was braver than I and spent some time looking around, I gave up on the store pretty much as soon as I paid.

We didn't much like the fact that all ticketing everywhere seems to be automised now, but luckily there were very helpful and friendly underground staff around to help people out with Oyster cards and topping them off (as you call putting money on them in London). The lady helping us even gave me a little card map, because I didn't have one. I had originally intended to buy a cool one, but eh, free map :). Bert does have a bought one, a really cool electric circuit one I got him at Paperchase back in 2012, but somehow I never got round to getting one for myself and now I just can't be bothered anymore.

So on the tube to the hotel we went. Where we were able to leave our bags in their bag storage.

I ♥ you too, London

We had lunch at the Burger King near Earl's Court tube station. Our hotel, the Ibis Styles London Kensington was down the street from there, only a few minutes walk.
And from there on it was straight to Goodge Street for the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology!

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

Bert is really into ancient Egypt. I think it's all cool and interesting, but I'm not into it as much as he is. I'm happy to go along to all the museums and exhibits though and take a million photos (or what feels like that number at least).
I loved te Petrie! The staff was SUPER friendly. There was ZERO security, and if you want to leave your bag, you can just leave it in the office. It's all so relaxed with an amazing atomosphere you just don't find anymore in this day and age with the "war on terror" trying to scare us shitless every 3 seconds. But the staff had a total attitude of "what happens, happens and we're not going to be dicks because of mights". And I love them for it!

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

I also spent a while talking to the very kind shop girl Shawn (I hope I spelled that right! If not, I do apologise), who was mega into Egypt and so I gave her the link to my photos of Sarcophagi in the Cinquantenaire. They had a guide about it on sale, but she hadn't seen it. She told us about Sunken Cities in the Brit, and that tickets were timed, which was really good to know, and we decided to pop by the Brit to sort out tickets for Thursday after the Petrie visit.
Originally we had foreseen that we would be in the Petrie from opening (1pm) 'till closing (5pm), but when it was around 3pm, Bert had decided he had seen everything he wanted to see, so we bade the awesome staff farewell as we returned everything they lent us and went back on our way.

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

First we stopped by Planet Organic to see what they had there, and both got drinks.
I was very surprised to see they sold Spa water (it was very expensive though).

Found a place in the UK that sells Spa!

yummy drink

I wish we had what a melon in Belgium too!

And then we spent what felt like ages in the huge Paperchase store (I think that one is the biggest in London). I had seen some stuff on the site I wanted to get, but when I saw it in real life I quickly changed my mind. But Paperchase being Paperchase, I found other awesome things. Which I won't go into because some are birthday presents for friends. And much like River Song, I don't do spoilers.

Purr Maids


Looking at a street map (it's so practical those are all over the place now! Especially because the London Moleskine notebook had accidently gotten stored at the hotel, thankfully I memorized the way to the Petrie and Planet Organic!) we realised that the British Museum was only about 15 minutes on foot from where we were. So we wandered from Fitzrovia (what's in a name?) to Bloomsbury. Where we realised that back in 2009 we did a massive detour by taking Russel Square tube station when we stayed around the corner from the Brit, Tottenham Court Road is MUCH closer. Lesson learned. If we ever manage to snatch another mega deal for the Montague on the Garden, we'll be sure to alight at Tottenham Court Road.

British Museum

The British Museum was the complete opposite from the Petrie Museum. And I'm not just talking size and crowds. Their security was BEYOND anal. They were even giving me grief about my, wait for it, asthma inhaler. It wasn't 'till I pointed out that it is illegal to separate people from potentially live saving medication AND that I carried a note from my GP stating I need those meds that they let me pass, with my inhaler. Jeez!
Of course, at the very same time, people with no bags were NOT checked at all, because clearly, if you're up to no good you'll be carrying weapons in a bag rather than on your person. False sense of security much...
There was no one queueing at the ticketing booth, and when I enquired whether there was a press discount for Sunken Cities, the nice lady said we could actually go in for free! And that we could either go in immediately and enjoy the last hour and 20 minutes of the exhibit or get a return ticket for a later date. Or go in now and come back for another ticket later if we wanted. She was seriously mega nice.
I wrote a review about the exhibit on The Gatehouse, you can read that here.
Photos weren't allowed in the exhibition, so I didn't take any. I did take a lot of notes and doodled some in my notebook :). I liked the exhibit, but I won't go into it that much, you can just click the review if you want to know more details ;).
Like all exhibits, this one was also an "exit through the gift shop" kind of affair, and I got some postcards

Egyptian black cat postcard

and a birthday present for a friend. Bert doubted about a book, so I took a photo of it. Because you know: books are generally cheaper on Book Depository anyway.
Speaking of books, in the museum bookshop I found an AMAZING Jules Verne omnibus with 7 of his Extraordinary Voyages. For £ 25. I got that. Obviously.

Outfit shot in front of the Brit, photo by Bert.

Outfit: 26.7.2016 - London

Glasses: Theo
Cardigan: H&M
Black top: Forever 21
Top: Friendly Oak (it has a dapper octopus print)
Bag: H&M
Tote bag: British Museum
Skirt: made it myself
Socks: ebay seller
Shoes: sacha
Backpack: Fjällraven Kanken
Accessories: Veritas, Roxy, Fossil, handmade, Disney Store, Disneyland Paris, Forbidden Planet, Annso's art

Oxford Street

Because we were in walking distance from Oxford Street, we walked there, and because we had plenty of time left 'till we were meeting up with my friend Tom, we did some shopping. Basically a lot of shopping that was planned for the next day already got done.
Shopping on Oxford Street is still the same kind of miserable hell as I remember it to be. Especially the crowds around Primark (we didn't go in) were a special kind of horrid.
When Tom found us at the meeting spot, we went and found a Yo!Sushi and had dinner and hung out. Which was very ace!

Yo! Sushi

I forgot to take actual food photos so I took a plates photo instead.

When we said goodbye to Tom, we discovered the Picadilly line went down due to an accident at Green Park station. Luckily, we were in a tube station that also allowed us to connect to the District line, and our hotel was at a station that connected to Picadilly, District and Circle lines. So phew! It did take us 3 times as long as it normally would have to get to the hotel though, but we got there in the end and that's what matters!

Photo of the day: 26.7.2016 (day 208)

Mural in the hotel lobby.
Photo of the day: 26.7.2016 (day 208)

The hotel reception clerk was, however, just... urgh. First she couldn't really figure out in who's name the booking was (it's only listed on you know, the booking confirmation). Then it she couldn't figure out the temporary home printed Accor card I had. She even went as far as challenging me over actually being a member, acting as if I designed tat card myself! Then she kept going on about clearly listed Accor policy and kep on bitching and moaning I should have my permanent card. Whilst the site clearly states you have to have one eligible stay at a hotel before you get it. So that took FOREVER. Then she nearly had a coronary when I requested the paperwork to sign so they wouldn't be allowed to sell any of my personal details, especially none of the details from my ID, to third parties. Legally they have to give it to you, but that was so far beyond her capacity it was UNREAL. And THEN it turned out that her colleague had forgotten to label our bags and give us a ticket for them... we thought she'd have labelled them with our room number or something, but NO. So I pointed out that I could easily prove it were our bags, as they were locked and I had the keys AND there were tags on them with our name and address etc. To which she just went "oh no it's fine, I trust you!".

So basically, any guest could have gone in there with a member of staff, claimed it was their luggage and stole (from) it.
I was so not impressed!
Sure, we could have enquired about it a little more when leaving the bags, but when a member of staff ensures they'll take care of everything, then what reason did we have to doubt her? Apparently with this hotel: loads. But luckily nothing went wrong in the end.
At least the room was clean. Mostly. Because the sink was clogged and we couldn't get the metal bit stopping the water from getting out up. So that made brushing our teeth pretty interesting, but we made do with the shower. We figured that seeing it was 10pm and the reception staff (there was only 1 person on call) wasn't the most competent, it was no use reporting it right then and there. Bert briefly tried to get the wifi to work, to no avail, and we literally decided to call it a night.

All my photos of London are here.
And for those that just want to see photos of the Petrie Museum, click here.

Photo of the day: 29.7.2016 (day 211)

My haul from the 1st day in London:
Magazines, maps and newspaper from all over the place.
Jules Verne omnibus with 7 of his Extraordinary Voyages books from the British Museum bookstore.
Makeup bags, black lipstick and nail varnish by Barry M (the bags were freebies) via Boots.
Gryffindor bow clip from Platform 9 3/4.
Copper lipstick by NYX (Wicked Lippies - Wrath).
Postcards from Paperchase and the British Museum.
Eyeliner from M.A.C (Technakohl liner in Snowed In and Sourpuss).
Tickets to Sunken Cities at the British Museum.