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No Kidding: Good Times in London

I apologize for leaving you all hanging for an update this week, and now this one will mostly be about travel, but hopefully I’ll get everything back under control soon. I left for London with a cold and came back with a new one. But at least the time in-between was fun.

Trains vs. Airplanes

No one interrogates otters (London Zoo).

While planning our trip Dan & I went back and forth on the best way to get from Maastricht to London without spending a fortune. Airplanes seemed out, since the airport here only goes to places in Spain, but the EuroStar train tickets weren’t coming up much cheaper until we committed to staying more than three days. Then the prices dropped to an acceptable range and didn’t, we thought, involve going through crazy security to board a train. Trains from Maastricht are about equivalent to a cheap Ryanair ticket from Eindhoven, but the train doesn’t require as much travel to get to and from airports.

Getting to Brussels to pick up our EuroStar train (included in the ticket price) was uneventful, but when we arrived we discovered that train security can be just as much a pain in the butt as airport security. We went through two checkpoints before being stopped at a third by a surly guard who wanted to know what we were doing in London and how long we’d be there.

We said “5 days for a comics convention and to see the city”. He said, “What are you going to see?” This is the point where we stumbled. Dan & I hadn’t done much planning for the trip (its only 5 hours away after all) and we usually just start walking and see where our feet take us. Who knew we needed an itinerary just to enter the country. “Er…Westminster Abbey…” I say, confused. He gives a nasty look, “You’re going to see Westminster Abbey for 5 days? What else do you think is in London?” We finally stumbled out enough places to satisfy the guard and he finally let us through with snide remarks about the “proper” way to do things. Welcome to London indeed! Next time I’ll bring a guidebook. Maybe we were suppose to tip or something.

Fortunately the rest of the trip was uneventful, even though the EuroStar’s headrests are designed for people much taller than myself. For Americans, it is a lot like riding Amtrak. Maybe faster but not much more comfortable.


Around the Thing!, Dan and I found time to do a little site seeing. Maybe I should send the next overzealous crossing guard to my blog if he needs the full scoop. We were lucky enough to receive an excellent walking audio tour from a good friend and it lead us all over Central London. We were impressed by how monumental (and large) the city is.

Tower of London

Some of the things we saw are:

  • Westminster Abbey: Which sadly does not permit photography inside by it worth every pence that it costs to go inside and see the stunning and eclectic statues and tombs. I find the merging of church and state in the UK to be very curious and the Abbey is a monument in and of itself to that merger.
  • Big Ben: Which is much bigger and attached to a Parliment (which I hadn’t realized).
  • Jewel Tower: I’m always happy to see very old construction preserved within a modern city.
  • National Gallery: A large and FREE art gallery where we played “guess which painting is Dutch”. I got a wonderful picture of myself with a large lion statue outside on the square to go with my high school photo.
  • Fortnum & Mason: The same grocery store where the royal family has their shopping done. Elegant grocery stores with crystal chandeliers are way beyond my experience.
  • Covent Garden: Which isn’t a garden at all but a shopping area.
  • Buckingham Palace: Which is huge and had great wrought iron/gold gates. Dan thought the facade was too plain. We didn’t catch the changing of the guard because we went to the London Zoo instead.
  • Tower of London: Much much more than a tower and well worth a visit if you like 1) Murder or 2) Jewelry.
  • Jack the Ripper Tour: A two-hour, historical tour about Jack the Ripper. The tour guide was great, but so much of the area has been rebuilt that there were not many good visuals for the tour. Victorian London was not a happy place.

Comix Thing!

Of course the main reason we were in London was to attend the UK Mini & Web Comix Thing! on Saturday. On a personal and business level it was great fun and an excellent networking opportunity. I’m always impressed by the way comics can overcome pretty much any silence between two strangers who like looking at sequential art. Read my Complete Con Report at Fallen Kitten Productions for more details.

And you might be starting to see comics inspired things here as well. You’ve been warned.

Lions & Tigers & Scones

This was actually rather high up.

We wrapped up our holiday in a very typical manner for us. A trip to the zoo followed by Afternoon Tea at a place more upscale that you might typically find us.

The London Zoo was a good time, with mostly nice and large enclosures for their animals and lots of walking. Its not quite high season (and a Monday), so many eating areas were closed. On the other hand we didn’t have to deal with a large crowd and only a few school groups so I felt it was a good trade off. My favorite animals were the otters. We happened by their enclosure just in time for a feeding and a dozen of the little critters were tumbling over each other, chirping like birds, and crying like kittens in the hopes that they would be fed.  Adorable.

On the way back to the Center, Dan & I happened upon an entire street and open air market (Camden Lock) dedicated to alternative clothing and culture (goth, punk, hippies, etc). We didn’t have time to really explore, but it was pretty awesome looking and we’ll be making time on the next trip.

Afternoon Tea (which we had around 5 pm instead of dinner) was lovely with several sandwiches, warm scones, clotted cream, jam, small desserts, and two large pots of tea.  As always happens with Tea, there was too much food but it was all very tasty and well worth going to London to have it served in white china.

All in all it was a great trip, but I was happy to come home. My feet were killing me and I like the small space of Maastricht much more than any large city.

3 Responses to “No Kidding: Good Times in London”

  1. Dave Hampton says:

    Sounds like a wonderful trip; glad you got to do and see all the thing’s you’d hoped to. I’ve got to look into Eurostar as an alernative means off getting there: it’s seemed expensive, but it’s interestign that the price drops if you stay a few days.

    ‘look forward to seeing the comix news :)

  2. Amanda says:

    You’ll have to swing by for the full convention report. Here’s the link:

    It was a very good time and has put me back into the comicing mood again (i.e.- me drawing, which is pretty scary really)

  3. John says:

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