In my last update I said "400 miles to London". I was, fortunately, wrong, it was only 290 miles or so (for some reason the number "382" got stuck in my head instead of 282). Anyway, we motored down the motorway (as one does), mostly keeping to the 70-75 mph of the slower left lane, sometimes drifting up to the 75-85 of the middle lane, and a couple of times the 80+ of the rightmost lane. The nominal speed limit on the motorway is 70, of course, but people driving silver and black Audis, BMWs, Porches, etc, don't seem to care. There are even speed cameras, but they are sign-posted rather than hidden, so just before the camera you see a sea of brakelights in front of you, then everyone resumes "cruising speed" - except for the BMWs and Audis I mentioned above, who just keep cruising, According to Anna, they don't care about the speeding fines (after all, they can afford to drive BMWs and Audis - and pay UK prices for petrol ! (roughly $AUD 1.80 - 2.00 per litre - we pay $AUD 0.85 - $0.92 or so here)). Anyway, we left the motorway at about 2:30, drove less than 15 miles up to 3:45 when we finally found the hotel and then found parking near it, and it was just after 5:30 by the time we found a Hertz place to return our car. Driving in London itself is exasperating, frustrating, infuriating, and surprisingly stressful. It didn't help that we didn't have a proper street directory, just a road atlas which only included the most major roads and only identified them by route number, and a detailed map of a fairly small section of the inner city - but still, the signage in and around London often seemed actively unhelpful in getting us to where we wanted to go, and of course the traffic was mostly quite crazy.
Anyway, once we were rid of the car, we found food, then went for a wander up to the Westminster area (Downing St is completely blocked off to anything larger than a small dog at the moment, and there are large concrete blocks around the houses of Parliament themselves). (This was all Saturday 24th).
On Sunday, we went to Camden Town for the markets - imagine the East End markets in Adelaide combined with the Queen Vic Markets in Melbourne, then doubled in number of stalls but squeezed into 5 separate areas along one road, and crammed with squillions of people (because he weather was reasonable (for England :-> ) ). Of course, we bought a few things (CDs and t-shirts, mainly).
On Monday, we went to Legoland, near Windsor (some miles West-ish of London). It was cool ! Of course, most of it is aimed at children, but there is the "Miniland" area with models of parts of many European towns and cities (including Scotland, England and Wales, which (as far as I recall) weren't really represented at Legoland in Denmark when I went there ( that was 9 years ago, though, it might have changed a little since then ... ). Also, this Legoland features "The Big Shop", which sells all of the current range of Lego (at the full retail prices, i.e. if you can find them elsewhere, they'll probably be cheaper), but also has many items normally only available through the Shop at Home service. There was also a selection of pieces available in bulk - at GBP 11, you could fill up a large-ish cup with any assortment of pieces you liked from various bins of pieces. Unfortunately, this didn't include much in the way of standard building blocks, but there were lots of transparent pieces in various colours, which are often hard to come by in normal sets.
On Tuesday, we went ... shopping ! Seriously, this time - Lisa bought herself a full set of fencing clothing (jacket, mask, breeches, sabre lame), a new wheeled bag, and some other bits and pieces, I bought some Lego, quite a few CDs, a t-shirt, and some books. That night, we packed everything into the three bags we had, and managed to make it all fit (yes, we only started with two suitcases, and we'd been a little restrained in our shopping until we got the fencing bag since we didn't know quite how we'd get everything home).
On Wednesday, which still feels like "yesterday" at the moment (early Saturday morning, but I'm counting it as part of Friday), we managed to wake up at 6:00am (ow !), get up and movning and to the airport by 8:50am, so we could be processed by Customs and get VAT refund processing done, and go through security and onwards to our flight at 12:30pm. The flight was ... another long, boring flight, like any 12 hour flight, then we had 90 minutes to kill at Bangkok before the 9 hour leg to Sydney, then another hour to wait before finally heading to Melbourne, arriving around 10:50 PM. Unfortunately, we got through to the "items to declare" area in Customs just after 11:00 PM, and they had apparently decided that the first people after 11 would get a full bag search (not that we had anything to hide, but we'd been travelling for 30 hours and they were between us and our beds !). Anyway, we passed through that (although my jugging balls (bought at Camden Town at a shop called "Oddballs") were taken away to be irradiated, just in case any of the seeds inside them should leap out and sprout somewhere), and finally made it home. Whew !
Now, I'm thinking of going back over the events of the last few weeks and posting back-dated entries for some of the days, since I haven't gone in to as much detail as I could in some of them, so keep your eyes out for those :->
(maybe I'll post current-dated entries listing the days I've backdated for ... )