getting in to england was pretty smooth, but that last leg in to london was more difficult. naturally, there was a tube strike that day. i was directed through a maze of tunnels to the bus station, then a maze of options where i had to buy my ticket with a touch screen. i had to select the time i wanted, but it let me complete the process for buses that were full, then sent me back to the start to try again. four times. this was on the machine that worked! ticket in hand i found my way to the buses, a small concrete stand of diagonal parking with no signage, which reminded me uncannily of a little town in south-west spain where we got stuck taking buses on my last trip. not what i expected at heathrow airport! still, the bus arrived and deposited me somewhere in the vicinity of where i needed to be. about 45 hours after i left home, i found lisa at her work in buckingham gate. who´dve thought buckingham gate is the street that points right to the gate of buckingham palace? certainly not anyone i asked for directions.
with my pack safely at lisaś, i headed into the nearest park with no shoes and a big grin on my face. i think i talked to more people in an hour or two, than i had in the previous few months in sydney. i saw the queen drive by, heralded by a million photo takers and a very big brass band. it wasn´t the changing of the guard, they marched round a big block and in to a bunch of old buildings, where they continued to play for a guest list of more uniforms and suits. however none of them matched the two men, presumably off for a picnic in cream linen suits, matching straw hats and a wicker basket.
the next day i took full advantage of the daily cap on my nice new oyster card, and took a tour of london by tube. eight different tube stations kept me walking all day from one end of town to the other, vaguely recognising some places and not others, alighting at some stations to find i´d walked right past them an hour or two before! i really overdid it down berwick street, bethnal green road and brick lane. street markets, costumes, bangladeshi food, fabrics, hats and interesting looking people. everything but tents. and of all the questions one can take away from a city, just what was that film playing in a little junk shop in the top of brick lane, with someone tap dancing in a bowling alley? sound familiar to anyone? anyone at all?
the rest of my time in london progressed at a more reasonable rate, staying at lisaś totally unfurnished new place and wandering round camden markets with her, until at 3am monday, when it was time to start the bus-train-plane trip to bulgaria and the real start of my travels.