Behind the steering wheel
I have to admit, I didn't start off in the best-rested mode. Two reasons for that: 1. I spent the night at my parents and the bed was awful. I think I managed to grab a few hours sleep, but I was awake for most of the night. 2. I was nervous! I know London quite well, but the main reason for being nervous was that I had organised the trip myself. If anything went wrong, it would be my fault. However, it all went smoothly. We only had a slight delay near Antwerp and missed our reserved train (we caught the next one). And when entering England, we were told the motorway was closed due to an accident, but we took another route and made it to the hotel in good time, and my sister was already waiting for us.
Dalì on the South Bank
After everybody had their roomkeys, I was waiting in the lobby to answer any questions about where to go, what to do and how to get there. That took about an hour and then I finally made it up to the room I shared with my friend C. A quick change out of my uniform and in proper civilian clothes and we were ready to go. First things first though: money, you can't go to London without it! Then we found the underground station and took a train to the 'center' of town. First stop: Covent Garden with its market, street artists, shops and restaurants.
We were by then quite hungry. So, we decided some food would be a good choice. We found a TGI Friday and had a fantastic dinner there. Spare ribs are always good and desert was a sin! Chocolate mousse, mint and chocolate mousse, raspberry mousse, strawberry mousse and lemon and lime mousse. Mmmmmm, absolutely scrumptious! After dinner we had a little look at Covent Garden, but by then most of the market stalls were being dismantled, so we had to look elsewhere.
A pod of the London Eye
Since the weather was still good, we chose to go on the London Eye. The queues weren't too bad and within half an hour we were up in pod 31 enjoying the sights of London from above! Our ride finished and slowly the sun was setting over Big Ben. It wasn't very late yet, but we had both been up for most of the day (I woke up at around 2am, C around the same time) and were starting to look more like zombies. At one point I actually felt I had to push my legs forward to move! Back to the hotel it was! At the hotel we spent another hour chatting to the other passengers, before finally going up to our rooms. And even with a huge amount of road noise we both fell asleep within minutes. Day one had passed okay!
Saturday morning the weather looked to be a bit dreary, but it was dry. I was giving everyone a tour of the town, showing all the sights before letting them loose again in time for the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace. C and I didn't get the chance to see it, by the time the coach was parked we only had half an hour left. It would take us 45 minutes to walk and about half an hour by underground, so we decided to go to Camden Market immediately. What a brilliant place: market stalls filled with rock, punk, alternative, goth and vintage clothing. Sunglasses, bags, shoes, boots and plenty of food stalls as well. It took us about an hour before we had seen everything! We had some Thai food (great) and walked a little bit further, where we hit upon another market! It seemed every time we thought that was it, we would turn a corner and another part of the market was opened up. We sat for a while near Camden Lock (with a narrowboat going through!) and after that little rest we continued sightseeing. In the end it didn't take us only an hour, but nearly six hours and I don't think we saw everything then!
The Navigator leaving one of the locks
We took the underground back to town, because my friend wanted to see Hamley's (Harrods amongst toystores) and I wanted to find a bookstore. And we needed some dinner as well. After dinner we went back to the coach to pick up the group again. Or who-ever was there (in the end only 11 out of 35). I did a short 'light-tour' and at a quarter past eleven we were back at the hotel. Day two was good!
Harrods at night
Day three started with beautiful sunshine. We left at 10 in the morning and everything went smoothly. We managed to catch a train 90 minutes before our reserved one and that meant traffic in Belgium was still fairly quiet. By a quarter past ten the last passengers got off and I was ready to go home. Everybody had been happy and had enjoyed themselves. My parents (and several others) will go back there in the future to see even more, so I have done a good job. Having family and friends on board did make a difference. On the one hand it caused more stress, because you want, you need it to go without a hitch, on the other hand, if something doesn't go quite according to plan, they forgive a lot more. For now though, I let other people do the organising and I will stick to the driving part.