It was about this time last year that I decided I was going to go to the UK filkcon in 2003. My dear friend Teri (teri945) was going to be one of the GOH, I’d always wanted to go, and was only recently free from former personal constraints which left me able to undertake such a trip.
After discussing the likely costs with a number of people who had made the trip before, I approached kitanzi about the idea of us going over together. This was several months before she decided to move to Georgia, and there were any number of reasons why it might have been complicated, but I felt like I could afford it and really wanted to give her something special like a trip overseas. When she did move down, it became something we both were carefully saving for and working toward being able to do. Finally, on February 5th, it was time to leave
Our flight was scheduled to leave at 8:30pm, so we had planned on driving over to Bill and ladyat‘s at about 4:30, in order to drive down with them to the airport. B&B have made this trip many times in the past and would act as a guide as we got oriented. We got to the airport at about 6pm, breezed through security, and wound up in the Delta Crown Club room, where Bill has a membership.
I could get used to traveling this way. Comfortable, quiet lounge with all the free drinks you care for. We were especially glad for the comfort when our flight was delayed by two hours. At about 10pm, we made our way to the gate and finally took off around 11pm.
I will pause to note here that the average airline seat and I are simply not made for one another. It is entirely possible that I would have been more comfortable if I’d been allowed to climb into an overhead bin than I was in the seat I was given. As a result, I did not get to sleep at all on the plane as I had hoped, even with the aid of a large number of drinks and having been up since 6am that morning. Oh well, lesson here is to insist on an exit row or a bulkhead row in the future if one cannot manage to afford first class.
We landed at Gatwick at about 11am London time and navigated our way through customs and across to the South Terminal, where we left our bags in Left Luggage while we went into London for a bit of tourism. We then took a train into Victoria Station. Pulling into Victoria, we saw the top of the London Eye poking up over the skyline; Brenda started bouncing happily, exclaiming “They didn’t take it down!” Since ferris wheels have a fair amount of symbolic significance in Kit and my relationship, we decided this would be the first top on the tour.
It was walking up the steps of the Westminster Underground station when it finally sunk in that we had actually made it here! I mean, Gatwick airport looks like most airports, and Victoria station looks like most train stations, but standing in the shadow of Big Ben…everything we’d worked for and saved for over the last year was real, and we had arrived. Cool!
The London Eye ferris wheel was worth every penny of the admission cost. The view from the top was inspiring, and I got a lot of great pictures.
After the ferris wheel, we took a look at the time and figured we’d take in something close-by for our next attraction, so we walked across the bridge and around the corner to Westminster Abbey.
I tend to avoid using the word “awesome” casually, as I still have an appreciation for what the word ought to mean. Westminster Abbey was awesome. Standing the midst of all that history was a humbling experience, and made me feel really connected to the great human drama. There were some rooms where I think you could spend a week in and still not see every detail. We happened to come to the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior just as a tour guide was stopping there with a group, and learning more about it’s construction and the symbolic significance of it being the last ever actual burial in the Abbey was especially memorable.
After leaving the Abbey, we went back to the Underground and dashed over to Oxford Street so that Bill could find a cell phone store to get his mobile working. This ended up taking longer than anyone expected, and the long trip was starting to wear a bit on Kit and myself, so we suggested (insisted) on getting some food at this point. This lead to what has become, to my mind, “The Great Dinner Quest I”, as we wandered about looking for something acceptable to all parties for food. One pub was rejected by Bill for serving “fizzy beer”, another by me for being unreasonably filled with smoke. We finally found ourself standing outside an Indian restaurant which Brenda felt was too expensive, and I turned, pointed to a Chinese buffet across the road, and said “That’ll do.” Admittedly, it’s only suggested virtue was being in front of us, but I was wet, cold, and hadn’t slept for 35 hours, and merely wanted at that point to sit down and eat something warm. And that, Dear Reader, is how we found ourselves at the worst Chinese restaurant in Europe.
Such is life. Fed, if not satisfied, we set off again in an effort to locate the Silver Cross pub, where the Tun (London SF club meeting) was being held. Tired as I was, I would have hated to miss the opportunity to drop in on this event, since we WERE in town and all. We found it with little difficulty, got some good ale, and had a chance to chat with a number of folks, including demoneyes, oreouk, djbp, and some others. At some point, khaosworks and cadhla dropped by, and I was starting to feel well and truly at home. I always feel more at home when I’m surrounded by fen. 🙂
We stayed for about an hour and a half, and then made our way back to Gatwick to reclaim our luggage, pick up a rental car, and drive up to Peterborough to crash at fleetfootmike and Anne’s house. Upon arriving, we chatted for just a few moments, and then were shown to a bed prepared for us, and succumbed to dreams and darkness.