Day 36 - London

Woke up today to crappy weather still. Had nothing decent for breakfast but was hungry so, rather revoltingly, I opened another goddamned can of tuna and washed it down with some absolutely disgusting German apple juice. Things didn't get much better when I opened the door and all my trash instantly flew out. Chasing after flyaway wrappers and sticky napkins is soooo not what one wants to do first thing in the morning.

But the rest of the day went just dandy. There were probably a dozen different points of failure that could have kicked in at any moment to ruin it all and put me in quite a bind but Fate cut me slack so I could pull off a rather daring little day trip over to London. But Iím getting a little ahead of myself. I've just collected most (I hope) of the blowaway trash and gotten back inside to wonder how I'm going to deal with the car having been peppered with ice pellets on one side. It was brutally cold or, I should say, it felt brutally cold with the non-stop wind and freezing drizzle that made one instantly shiver. I kinda liked it though. Wasnít it supposed to be Spring by now, late in March as we were? All part of the adventure bud, I thought to myself, as I swallowed some more juice, winced and then looked in the mirror at my very unshaven face. I look like shit, I thought that too. Tonight I stay at a hotel to clean up a little.

Being that I had stayed just north of Calais, site of the England-France Chunnel, I wondered just for shits and giggles what it would cost to drive over to the U.K. for a day. I asked at a gas station but the guy had no idea. A ways down the road I saw signs for a ferry and maybe it wasnít as fancy or adventurous as the tunnel but got the job done all the same. I kinda braced for sticker shock the memory still fresh in my mind of the 60-Euro hop from Germany to Copenhagen and I wasnít disappointed when at the terminal they told me it would be 225 Euros roundtrip. Yeah, forget it. However, without missing a beat they told me it was only 10 Euros as a ďfoot passengerĒ and could leave my car in the lot for free then connect by commuter train into London. Hmmm, that works.

So I grabbed my backpack with the camera gear and left the rest in the car then hurried to catch the ferry which was already boarding. Wow, some killer ferry this was. It had like 10 stories, shops, restaurants, you name it. Pretty fancy stuff there. I just plopped in a corner after having changed twenty bucks into British Pounds which I figured might get me through lunch and waited the hour or so it took to get from one coast to the other all the meanwhile contemplating how close the two were (you can easily see each shore from the other). Centuries in fact passed where the two nations eyed each other suspiciously and whenever the one let the guard down the other would take advantage and row over with a horde of archers and swordmen for a little weekend mayhem.

Anyway, on getting to Dover I expected an easy transfer by train from there to London. No such thing. You have to take a shuttle (thatís four dollars) to transfer to a bus which then drove several miles out to a station where you took the train (another $30) the whole process taking a couple of hours. Here is where all those points of failure came in. I figured that a day trip was doable on account that the ferry ride was an hour or so then another hour into London where I could spend another several hours to reverse the process and be back to France just in time to crawl back into the back seat of the Renault. Well, the math was a little off. It takes about an hour and a half for the ferry plus another couple hours for the train. Once in London you have to find your way to the Underground (thatís the subway) and then walk from there to the British Museum about a ten minute walk farther. Since I was told the last ferry leaves back at twenty to eight, and it was past one in the afternoon by the time I actually found the museum, this meant I should be heading back before walking in.

The British Museum, like the Louvre, is an enormous museum the sort which is best not attempted in one sitting. Your eyes can only soak up so much before you just start dazing out. All that information blasting your senses in countless exhibits, the endless throngs of people and all the walking sap your strength so that after a couple of hours youíre pretty much done. For me, thanks to the time crunch, I visited only two rooms out of maybe 100 or so numbered and even then I spent probably a good hour photographing Roman stuff before heading back on the double.

Somewhere in there I managed to squeeze in a visit to a KFC for my first taste of chicken, I think, since I left the states over a month ago. Ask for ketchup for your fries and you get one packet. If you ask for lots and LOTS of ketchup, please, you get two packets. But no complaining. Anywhere else you can get all the ketchup you want... for a dime or two a packet.

The way back was mostly uneventful until I reached port at Dover again, with just twenty minutes to spare before literally missing the boat. Talk about cutting it close. On the ride back I gave myself the luxury of dinner, fish and chips, and it was heavenly.

But by the time I got off the ferry and got to my car it was almost 11 at night and was too bushed to even think about looking for a motel. I drove ten miles back to where I had stayed the night before, because it was just such a good spot, and spent my fourth night in a row in the car. Eww.

Day 37