I found myself at Victoria Station buying a ticket for one of those Open Bus tours. I realize a lot of places have these tours, and I’ve heard some bad things about most of them. Still, if you’re ever in London, take one of these tours. They’re great. The only thing you’ll want to look out for is getting a good live commentator. Of the four different ones I’ve had, two weren’t all that great. The two good ones however, we’re great. They managed to find the right spot between being informative and telling jokes. You’re allowed to get off at any stop you want and get back on any other bus whenever you want to, as long as you keep your ticket.
I initially planned to just remain seated through most of the ride, but I did end up getting off to see Buckingham Palace, and more importantly Hamleys from up close. Yeah, call me childish all you want, I still think Hamleys is the most magical place in the world. It’s the only place I bought during the entire trip where I actually a decent souvenir from. Seeing I was in a gigantic 7 floor toy shop, I decided to buy myself a traditional board game. It’d be something that would get some good use out of it as well. So I bought 8-in-1 travel set for 20 pounds, which is getting a lot of use now. I love how it doesn’t look like most of the cheap game boxes as well. Heck, those cheap game boxes usually cost about the same as this one.
Unfortunately I can’t comment too much on the entire bus tour itself. There was so much to see, with so much information being added by the tour guides, that I just couldn’t retain any of it. The entire day was an amazing sensation of being overwhelmed by culture and history.
After I finished a full tour, and had walked around many of the great areas in London, I decided to head back to the hostel and rest up before the next day. Once back, I realized my notebook was missing, I had written the door code on there, so I couldn’t get in. Not just that, all of my notes of the trip up to that point were in there. Along with a few story ideas and points for future blog posts. With a little help from the people who were working there I got to the room, only to notice my alarm clock and better pair of shoes were missing. I should have left them in the locker, I know. But the locker was already pretty much crammed full of my possessions.
One terribly uncomfortable meal and long walk later, I came back to a cheerful person informing me my stuff had been found. At least, minus the alarm clock. I thanked him, got my things and started preparing my stuff for an easy and quick leave the day after. I had a hard time sleeping the next day, I was afraid I’d wake up late, having no alarm clock and all.
One uncomfortable night of light sleeping and a train ride later, I found myself in Sheffield.
Actually, I want to go back a bit to the train ride itself.
I wish we had trains this comfortable. I wish we could reserve seats for trains here. Here in the Netherlands you’re never sure of having a seat. I spent most of the train ride reading the rest of Going Postal. At one point I looked outside and saw the countryside. My mouth fell open as I my book turned closed. I sat staring outside for quite some time. How can those buildings be that far up compared to the others? Why am I able to see things from that far away? That’s not natural is it? Sorry, yes, I’m Dutch. We live in a flat country. Hills over there are a rarity. I have seen mountains when I went to Switzerland, but in that case most of is obscured by clouds. In the case you go to the top of one of those, you’re not walking up there yourself. Hills however, go up and down so abruptly you can take it in by just one quick glance. A single glance was enough to make me dizzy.
Now we can get back to me getting off the train, with about 10 pages of Going Postal left unread. I walked around the platform, seeing if Sky was waiting for me there, she wasn’t. So I went to the main hall of the train station, walked around the place. No trace of Sky. I noted where the payphones were, in case I’d end up needing them.
I decided I’d take a look outside, get some fresh air. My first thought, holy shit, this place looks amazing. I spotted someone sleeping at the fountain. There’s only one person I could imagine would sleep at a place like that, so I walked over to that person. No movement, she was probably asleep. I took off my hat and placed it on her head. Sky woke up, with more energy than I ever could.
We started walking around, the first thing on the list to do was finding a hotel room for me to stay at. She had offered me a place to stay at her place before the trip, but I’d rather have a place to myself. The first road was an uphill one. To me, this seemed incredibly steep. The next day I’d laugh about that thought. I was already a bit tired by the time we got to the hotel I ended up staying at, the Premier Inn hotel. I did the first thing that seem natural to me upon entering my room. I let myself fall on the bed. It got a laugh out of Sky, although honestly, the idea of just staying like that was incredibly tempting. The bed was amazingly comfortable. Especially after spending a week in a hostel bunk bed. Although to be honest, the beds there were about as comfortable as the bed I have at home.
After checking everything in the hotel room, we went out to get something to eat. First we went to a Pizza Hut, where it took so long before anyone came to us to help that I decided to walk out. Then we went to Subway’s, where I found out I left my wallet in the hotel room. I don’t think we can ever go back to that one. After getting my wallet we went to a different Subway’s. We had a quick lunch on a bench somewhere. I kept looking around, amazed at how nice everything looked. I’m used to cities being gigantic grey constructions sites. Even London, as nice as it was, had enough signs of that. This was something else entirely. It all just fit together.
Next we went for a ride on the Wheel of Sheffield, which is nicely placed next to a clock tower because they’re “trying to be like London” according to Sky. I’m still amazed at the sight of the place from up high. I didn’t take any pictures from up there, because they usually don’t come out all that great, what with the plastic between me and the scenery. That and I’m not that great at taking pictures in any case.
We walked around a bit more before going to her place. I’m still amazed they actually built streets on hills like that. It took a while to get used to walking uphill like that. It was strange how it made me feel really tired early on, yet near the end of it I didn’t feel a thing. At Sky’s place I met her two pets, her mother and her brother. Her brother being the guy that’d sit in a corner giving bad advice at Left 4 Dead the entire time. Usually at moments people were talking over the mic, or when things would get frantic and I’d have to concentrate. Bobby was the nicest dog I’ve ever seen. He jumped me the second I came in and followed me everywhere. I miss that dog. Gordon, her cat, seemed jealous of the bond between me and him.
Apparently Bobby hadn’t been walked in a while, so we took him for a walk through a foresty area. It was amazing to actually be in the middle of trees, without seeing or hearing any cars, buildings, or other people. I can’t remember experiencing that before. The few people that we did see however, all kindly greeted us. That’s another alien concept to me. I’ve tried doing that here in the city a few times before, I got a look as if I was about to murder them and take their money.
After some more gaming, and having ninja’d the old Skype chat room I left ages ago on Sky’s account, it was time for me to head back to the hotel room. Sky kindly escorted me back the entire way. On the way back, Sky got excited and pointed out a bunch of people dressed up as Scooby Doo characters walking the street.
I got back at the hotel room and spent some time wondering what to eat. I hadn’t eaten anything yet, and had no idea what else was in the area. So I decided to mix exploring the city a bit more with getting a decent meal. All of this got sidetracked when I saw Batman walking into a pub. I followed him and ended up drinking with a group doing a pub run dressed as old cartoon characters. I got to meet the Ghost Busters, Mario, Luigi, Wario, Princess Peach, Postman Pat, Team Rocket, Ash Ketchum and Misty and a bunch of other characters. I got my picture taken with the Scooby Gang me and Sky saw earlier. When the pub was about to close, a bunch of them decided to go to some nightclub, I was asked to go along with them. I think I ended up getting dancing lessons from a cat girl. It was a strange night.
The next day me and Sky had planned to go for a massive walk to the other side of a gigantic hill. By the time I got back to the hotel from that night out, I wondered if I was going to survive that.