Big Bus Bust (August 25, 2009)

Today definitely did not go as planned, but I am trying to regroup and move forward. After a somewhat raucous night of drinking with Jessica until 3 AM that culminated with yours truly relieving herself in a public park in Piccadilly Square, the morning came on like a cruel blow to the head. I am not as young as I used to be and I really ought to learn to remember that. We enjoyed the companionship of a 33 year-old German dude and two 18 year-olds in a band from Belgium. The five of us ended up at a lame club that Jessica said reminded her of the opening scene in Blade, minus all the vampires, but with an equally urgent smell of death. We hung out with these guys for four hours and do not recall their names whatsoever. We were wrecks.

Jessica managed to hoist herself up at about 9:30, but I lay in a painful semi-coma until around 10:45. The problem is that we were due to get to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard, by 11:00 AM. This is done only every other day in August, and since I fly home on Thursday, I have missed my shot this time around. Seriously a pity, but all my own fault.

We dragged our dehydrated and exhausted carcasses to a nearby restaurant for a meal of fish and chips and then went to pick up the Big Bus Tour in front of Victoria Station. After a long wait, we boarded the bus. I wanted to see at least the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. These were quite a few stops away, so we settled into our seats snugly to listen to the audio tour of places we passed. The problem is that the big Bus Tour Company does not have their act together. First we were told there would be a two hour wait to get into the Tower of London, so that was scratched. The employees are rude and disorganized. It seemed every stop we reached, we were asked to disembark and switch buses so our current driver could go on break. Then there was the pouring rain and the bad traffic. These constant interruptions in our sightseeing momentum finlly took their toll on our weary bodies, and right in front of Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, we both fell into a post-lunch salt coma that lasted at least 30 minutes.

When we came to, we were in front of Westminster Abbey. Well great! We got off the bus and headed toward the building. It was only 3:30 in the afternoon and I finally felt somewhat alert. We made our way to the entrance of the magnificent facility and were greeted with locked doors. Guess what time Westminster closed? Yep – 3:30. Jessica got a great candid shot of me (which I do not condone) wearing the face of crushing disappointment.

She had to tell me to get over it for the next 30 minutes, because there was time enough to fit it in after we swap hotels tomorrow at noon. Boop hates itinerary changes, but she hates the idea of missing Westminster even more. So we walked over to Buckingham Palace to have a look, see the guards and do a little souvenir shopping. That made me feel better, as did the scrumptious smoked salmon sandwich I ate from Pret-A-Manger, my new favorite chain restaurant (otherwise, the rumors you hear about sucky British food are, sadly, mostly true).

Upon our return to the hotel, there was a message waiting for me from Premium Tours, the company that is hosting the Jack the Ripper crime tour we had tickets for tomorrow evening. Naturally, the tour has been cancelled due to low attendance. The good natured customer service rep. graciously offerred to reschedule me, but tomorrow is my last evening in London. This, my friends, is truly a devastating blow. Even the ever blase Jessica took it hard. Ever since reading Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell a few years back, I have been obsessed. This situation cannot be salvaged and I must console myself with the idea that at least I have plenty of time now for Westminster Abbey tomorrow, the Globe Theater, and a ride on the London Eye. Seriously though, no Jack the Ripper sucks big time.

I am definitely not having any pints tonight, and am on my way to the gym in an effort to feel less like I have nothing to show for Day 3 in London. Well, that couldn’t be true anyway. A stronger bond and a lot of laughs with an old, dear friend in a fabulous world city ought to be gift enough, right?

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