I woke up and decided I’d see more of the city. I don’t know anything about the city, but the one thing I do remember from National Lampoon’s Eurpean Vacation is “hey kids, Big Ben, Parliament” as they drove around stuck in a traffic circle. I went back to the train station and found a reasonably-priced map. The map told me where I wanted to go, and what train stop I wanted. I went to an automatic ticket machine for the train and it listed a bunch of stops, but not mine. I didn’t want to wait in line to buy a ticket so I decided to walk to Westminster from where I was (Paddington).
When I showed up at the general area where all of those sights are, there were once again a bunch of people gathered round, and British military people (red uniforms, big black hairy hats) were playing music and marching around. The guidebook said that the changing of the guards happens daily at 11:30 AM, so I think that’s what it was. It was packed. London is kind of like New York in the fact that it’s very crowded and no one speaks English.
Walking a bit more I checked out the National Gallery which was huge, free, and had a ton of artwork. It was fairly interesting. It reminded me of the art gallery from the Thomas Crowne Affair. I specifically looked for automatic gates/doors that would come down from the ceiling in the event of a theft, but didn’t see any. I had lunch at a small cafe. The guy seated me at a table, served me food, but apparently had no intention of bringing my check. So I walked up and he handed me my check, I gave him money, he gave me change, and then I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to tip him, or if I was even supposed to tip him. I left two pounds on my table. Incidentally, I’m glad the US doesn’t have dollar coins. I felt like an ass leaving two coins which looked like thick pennies on the table as a tip. Plus, you get your pockets filled with enough of these pounds and they’re jingling around like crazy. Don’t even get me started with the fact that the pound coin is smaller than the 50, 10, and 2 pence coins. Just because it’s thicker, that doesn’t mean it’s easier for me to identify when fishing around.
The cars on the opposite side of the road thing is stupid too. Are there other countries who drive on the left hand side of the road? Most of Europe doesn’t, I don’t think. It’s stupid because they then have to paint all of these “look left” and “look right” signs on the street because everyone from other (normal) countries now has to re-learn how to cross the road. I’m sure automakers love having to build two versions of many of their cars also. Although, I did check and confirmed that the gearshift is the same as it is in the US. That is, first gear is still on the left, and they go up left to right. I’m not sure how easy it would be to drive with first gear being the furthest from the driver, but then again you’d be shifting with your left hand anyway so you’re pretty screwed no matter what.
Tomorrow will probably be less interesting, that’s when work really starts. I’m spending the rest of this evening getting ready.