Fri 2 Aug - London, England

"Very silly woman with long legs"...

An admin day and a bit of touring North London... Sort of.

Rain in the morning, but that was OK as we were a bit slow anyway, given last night's outings and the heat over night. Around 9am, we were back on bus number 9, destination Australia House on Strand. Purpose; check what we need to do vote / avoid a fine for not voting in the upcoming Australian federal election.

As we sat down upstairs, Di opened up the small window (reenactment below) and... immediately gets a spray from a tiny little old female sitting in the middle of the back seats about 5 rows behind us. She did not like the opening of yet another window on the bus and ordered Di to shut it as she did not like the wind. Di said no and some minor argument started where she complained bitterly about Di's window but said nothing to the other male passengers who had windows open. She started insults (again, just for Di) and one of the things Di got to hear was that she was a "very silly woman with long legs". What legs, long or not, had to do with small open windows on buses was not immediately clear and not explained. Di's response "too bad so sad".

The offending window...

And as you can see, there were many windows opened already with others being opened (and shut) during our ride. So why did she zoom in on Di? Di thought that it was because she was the only woman nearby and near a window...and with long legs. Interesting...

View from the top of our nice bus trip once the crazy old bat had departed (Di...let it go)

We arrived on home turf...

Brings a tear to your eye...

We found out that a non-vote would be accepted without a fine if we can prove that we were overseas at the time of the Australian federal election. And if we want to vote, well, as the election date is not yet announced and we don't know whether we would be in the UK or in Central Europe somewhere, we didn't get any further on that one. Would it be undemocratic to say that option 1 sounds more attractive...?

Next stop during our admin morning was the London branch of Wells Fargo. Well, that was what we thought as that it is how it was presented online. We found the address OK, but Wells Fargo is hidden away on the 8th floor behind swipe cards and security and is not a branch at all we found out after talking to the buildings receptionist.

Now, why would be need to get in contact with Wells Fargo? Back in January when we arrived in the US with the intention of being there for 6 months, we thought that it would be good to have an American account, with an attached debit card.

The whole exercise has been a series of disappointments and very poor customer service. For example...

  • We told and reconfirmed at the Los Angeles branch where we opened up the accounts to send the debit cards to Vineet's address in Scottsdale as we will not be back in Australia for another year. Yes, yes, will do they said.... and then sent both cards to Manly, NSW, Australia.
  • To purchase anything with debit cards, I.e. not just credit cards, a zip code in addition to the PIN number is required. US zip codes are 5 characters, Australian post codes are 4 characters and we could not use Vineet's zip code. So, we walked into a Wells Fargo branch in Scottsdale, AZ and talked through our dilemma. They will investigate and call back... We are still waiting for that call 5 months later.
  • Wells Fargo reps in Los Angeles told us that they have great coverage across the US. Yep, fine in western and south western US, but what about the north east? For example, there is not one single branch in the whole of Boston, never mind from there to the Canadian border including Vermont and New Hampshire. Nothing at all...
  • We were also told that there would be no monthly fee if we do a monthly transfer of $25 from the check account to the savings account which can then promptly be transferred back again. Well, as we were not able to close the accounts before we left due to non-existing branches, we left $27 in the check account... And we were then promptly charged a $10 monthly service fee, with the result that there were no longer $25 left to transfer the on the 1st of August, so that transfer was cancelled etc etc with emails triggered to us to that effect. Next month, same story and soon we would be in negative land...

So, we looked up Wells Fargo to see whether they have a London representation so we can finally cease our business with this hopeless institution and yet another disappointment...

Advice to our readers, do NOT open any accounts with Wells Fargo in the US. Nothing will work as you would expect it to do. Take your business elsewhere.

Next point of call is Kings Cross / Pancras station, which we reached tube from Bank station. A blast from the past for Hans...this is where he was met by Di in 2010 after his "train/ferry/bus" 42 hour trip from Stockholm due to the eruption from an unpronounceable Icelandic volcano.

We picked up our train tickets to Edinburgh next Thursday from a machine at very little effort or time. Learn from that, Wells Fargo (Hans...let it go).
The interior of Kings Cross station.

Hey, that's an odd platform number... And what are all those people doing there...? The ghost of Harry Potter lives on.

Time for a tea and cake break (both very good) and finalization of yesterday's blog.

An hour later, we are on the road again, looking for a pay as you go SIM card for the iPhone. We found it in a newspaper hut on the street outside Kings Cross station. £2 for the SIM and we loaded it with as little as £5 worth of calls and text. The provider was called Lycamobile. Our initial testing worked fine.

Down into the underground again and... We found a tube map made out of LEGO. Cute, but not very user friendly and almost unreadable.

We then took the train to Baker Street station. Hey, who is sitting there at the station?

Baker Street station looked very cool and was clearly built in a different era.

We found out that Baker Street station is one of the 7 original stations of London tube from 1863. No wonder it has such a fantastic atmosphere.

The most famous person who had ever "lived" on Baker Street was just down the road a bit, at 221B.

There is even a plaque on the wall commemorating this famous character, a certain consulting detective called Sherlock Holmes. This place is set up now as the Sherlock Holmes Museum. The queue to get in was huge and Di preferred her own imagination from Conan Doyle's great books. Conan Doyle must be spinning in his grave - he tried to kill off his created detective but found it almost impossible due to public pressure. Londoners at the time wore black arm bands and protested. And here Holmes still lives on...

It may not be totally clear in this picture, but the house numbering were not incremental on this part of Baker Street. The building to the left of the entrance is number 235, followed by number 237, followed by number 221B... Hmmm...

Baker Street was home to some real famous people including H.G.Wells and also William Pitt Jr.

We wandered around for a while looking for a lunch place (as 2pm has come and gone) and settled for Nandos. The drill here was a bit different from Australia in that you are shown a table by a "waiting" person, but then left to your own devices. We had to ask and were told that you go up to the counter, order and pay and let them know your table number and the food is delivered to your table. You help yourself to cutlery and sauces and water and soft drinks elsewhere there inside. We found the system a bit odd, but our shared spicy chicken with sides was quite nice. Macho peas turned out to be delicious - with mint, basil and chilli.

After lunch we looked at a map, switched on Runkeeper and this is how we then walked...

First up, Regents Park.

Lovely parkland with ponds and birds and walkways and lawns...

Queen Mary's Gardens are in the middle of Regent Park and offers beautiful flowers, roses everywhere and... an elephant (to the left of Di...)

Hans stopped to smell the roses. Well, with a name like "Ingrid Bergman", he had to.

A rose among the other roses...

We stopped and enjoyed a break in the deck chairs until... the deck chair payment dude arrived and wanted £1.50 per hour per deck chair per hour. Nah... We left...

Various crafts were offered for pottering around in the ponds for a while...

We left Regents Park and moved on to Regents Canal. The canal is about 14kms long in total and links up to the Thames at Limehouse west of Greenwich. It all looked very interesting.

And who is this dubious character peeking out from behind a column...?

The short walk we did along Regents Canal was really lovely. A world away from the hustle and bustle of London Town on the streets above.

What! Do coconuts really migrate? There was one in the water there.

At one point there were many houseboats moored along the canal. Most of them were very narrow and long and it looked like they were moored there permanently. A nice neighborhood for some and it seemed a very casual lifestyle. A barber was even giving a haircut to a customer (or friend) sitting in a chair on the path Vietnam style.

We moved on to a tunnel under the street. The swans seems to think this is their own waterway.

There was a very narrow walkway along the canal there which made it difficult to meet and pass other people. A short and wide, bloke tried to pass Di on the high side (forcing her in the shorter area near the wall) but he was quickly told off (after this mornings episode Di was not taking s**t from anyone!)

Up at street level, we were very close to Lord's, the home of cricket and Di insisted we stop. We couldn't get any further than the area below as today's tours had ended and the cost £15 per person anyway, which was far too much for Hans who is not very interested in cricket.

And frankly, Lord's didn't look very interesting from the street anyway (Hans' view...and our friend Phil would probably be choking on this comment now as he is a cricket tragic).

The map showed that a few blocks away from Lord's was Abbey Road. We just had to go there too (hence our meandering Runkeeper route).

And what a circus it was. Punters from around the world was clogging up that famous pedestrian crossing and the street as well. Quite a few irritated drivers let their frustration be heard through their horns.

This punter also tried his best to reenact that famous album cover, but he didn't quite have the flair for it.

Of course, next to the pedestrian crossing on Abbey Road is Abbey Road Studios which are still used as recording studios today. Obviously famous from the Beatles but also Pink Flloyd and others who recorded here in the '60s too.

A lot of scribbles "decorated" the entrance to Abbey Road Studios. Of course, a variety of Beatles songs featured with plenty of people claiming to be "the walrus". And who is that guy that Hans is pointing at?

Time had quickly approached 5pm and we felt that we had done and seen enough for one day. A couple of blocks away from Abbey Road is Maida Vale tube station from which we could go to Paddington. We then changed to bus 27 which took us all the way back home to West Kensington via Notting Hill, which looked glamorous and trendy. Yep - it was a big day for our Oyster Cards and the unlimited travel for £30 was paying off quickly.

On the bus home we also passed Churchill Arms, the pub we went to with Mark yesterday. Hans realized that we didn't have any photo from its flowery exterior so he shot off a quick snapshot from the bus.

Back home just before 6pm and we picked up a sandwich each and a couple of drinks which we enjoyed in the common room of our hotel before we went upstairs, had our showers and chilled.

Close to 9pm, we decided to go out to see whether the local Costa coffee shop was still open, but alas it closes at 7pm. So, we swung by Morrisons and picked up some chocolate and other snacks and went back to our room for a cup of tea and a sweet.

Today was supposed to be an admin day, but we ended up doing and seeing a lot more than we envisaged and liked it all.

Good night for now.

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