Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Prime Meridian of the World; Windsor or Bust

My family and I are really getting a ton of stuff into our trip already. And the great part is, it’s a lot of stuff I haven’t seen. Yesterday was a trek to Greenwich, where we walked through the university campus, which is beautiful, through the center of town and up a very big, steep hill to the observatory. Located there was also the prime meridian of the world, which is something I’ve kind of always wanted to see without knowing I wanted to see it. Also there happened to be part of the Olympic grounds, specifically those for horseback riding, and we checked out some art and the National Maritime Museum while we were in the area.

On the way home, we went to the British Music Experience at the O2. I was really excited to see/do this; it’s basically an interactive museum of British musical history… or so it’s advertised. In truth, it’s set up in a cool way, but in the end, it’s just a lot of reading and not much music at all, which kind of defeats the purpose, in my opinion. Even the room where you can play instruments was disappointing- half of the things were broken, though they did have a left-handed guitar! Overall, it was a bust and another thing we were glad not to have paid for.

We returned to our area of residence and went to the Tower Bridge Experience (basically the history of the Tower Bridge.) This allowed you to walk on the upper walkways, which was cool. We found out while we were there that the bridge would be lifting that evening at six, and so we stuck around for that, which was definitely something to see.
And what an adventure today was. As I wrote earlier this week, we attempted to get to Windsor Castle a few days ago. Unfortunately, due to all of the trains to Oxford (which stopped where we needed to transfer) being cancelled, we couldn’t get there. However, we all (excluding my sister) wanted to get there and the pass we have lets us in for free, including transportation, and we decided to try again today.

We got up a bit earlier, hoping that the earlier trains from Paddington would somehow be immune to cancellations. We never found out, though, because the line we needed to take there is closed for the weekend. We didn’t know this until we had been waiting for it for a few minutes. We got on another line, but due to other line work and transfers we would have had to make anyway, we had a total of three changes just to get to Paddington. Finally, we did and instantly saw that the next train to Oxford was cancelled. We debated cutting our losses right then and going sightseeing somewhere else, but my dad decided to ask Information whether any Oxford trains would actually be leaving or if they would all be cancelled again. Their answer? “They’re rarely cancelled. You must have just had bad luck.”

We didn’t want to take their word for it, though, and as soon as Dad came back with the answer, we ran to try and catch a local train. We missed it by seconds. It turns out that the next Oxford train did in fact arrive, and though it was packed (we had to stand), we managed to get to Slough, where we would catch the train to Windsor… allegedly.

The train ride from Slough to Windsor is only six minutes, and rather than having a million different trains make this journey, they just have one that goes back and forth. Unfortunately, the train today was missing something very important: a driver. As we waited, the train got so packed that the doors couldn’t shut. But after nearly an hour and a half had passed, people got fed up (and too hot) and left. Dad had been asking employees questions, and when he heard that the driver might arrive in ten minutes, we got on the now-almost empty train. After fifteen minutes of waiting, we gave up on it, too. We went outside to the bus and taxi area where we found our trainmates. A woman passed us by and said that the station was making arrangements to get us all to Windsor… on a short bus. To transport several hundred people.

Knowing that this would only result in more wasted time, frustration, and possibly stampedes, and overhearing that a cab fare to Windsor was ten pounds, we flagged one down. I guess this is a case of “be careful what you wish for”- I’ve always wanted to ride in a London cab, but not under these frustrating circumstances. We had one more seat, and a young guy asked if he could share with us. We checked if he was going to Windsor Castle and he said, “Near enough. I’m already forty minutes late.”

Finally, our driver deposited us outside the castle. The line to get into the castle was incredibly long- it would have been probably two hours of waiting just to get tickets. But our passes paid for themselves in made up time by granting us “fast pass” entry.

I’m really glad we went. I’ve been before, when Megan and I went on the bus tour, but we only got about forty-five minutes and had to speed-walk through every room. As a result, I only remembered two of them, and it was nice to actually be able to look at them and listen to the audio guide.

After having a late lunch, during which I smacked my knee on the corner of a wall so hard, it immediately went numb (it’s quite painful now and getting purple), we heading to Eton College. My main reason for wanting to go to Eton is that it’s a part of my literary tour that I didn’t expect to get, but I was also just interested in seeing it, as it’s labeled the most famous college in the world. I really enjoyed the tour, and it was a cool place to see.

We managed to get a train back to Slough and hoped that there were some going to Paddington. Upon reaching Slough, we saw one pulled in and, not knowing if it was the right one or not, ran across the bridge and jumped onto it just as the doors were closing. It turned out that it brought us not to Paddington but to a place that got us to our flat more easily, so despite the long ride, I guess it worked out better that way.

Oh, an unrelated thing- the other night, we almost completely moved me out of my London dorm. It was a sad, sad time.


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