Loading Map...

European Arrival

Written on: Saturday September 10th, 2011

It had been two years since I was last in Europe, the final months of a 'life-statement' sort of trip that had shown me places and taught my things I never would have imagined to be possible.  The current excursion was by no means on that scale, but would offer twenty five days of exploration and mild adventure.

I was meeting Liz, my girlfriend of South Africa bungee jumping fame.  Since she lived in Florida and I in Minnesota, our separate flights were scheduled to rendezvous in London's Heathrow airport only thirty minutes apart.

Tired, hungry and ridiculously sore, I popped a few more pills before joining the other sheep in the never-ending line at passport control.  As expecteded, I saw Liz enter the que about a half hour later.  Upon gaining admittance to England, we headed for the tube, Charing Cross our destination.

Having been to London a couple times in the past, combined with the fact that we only had one day to visit, I wasn't overly excited to hit the tourist trail.  However, Liz had yet to set foot in this city, so we planned a moderate stroll around town.  Utilizing the left luggage at the tube station, we hit the pavement unburdened by the carefully-packed 8.5 kilos that otherwise would have been on our backs.  First stop: a pharmacy.

Just two days before departure, I was the less fortunate participant in a head-on bicycle collision.  The relative velocity at impact was 35mph (I was travling at 10mph, while the other guy was cuising along at 25mph).  It happened quickly... a last mintue, unexpected turn by the other guy into our path; I swerved, he swerved; I swerved again, he countered accordingly; then BANG.  Blackout.  When I regained consciousness, I was on my knees, holding my nose, trying to understand where I was and why everything was red.  There were medical personnel all around me, but I still didn't fully grasp what had happened.  Fortunately, my cycling buddy, Scott, was there to help and comfort me throughout the ordeal.  An ambulance ride, hospital visit and two cat scans later, I had a concussion, twelves stitches in my lip, two dislocated ribs, significant neck trauma and three skull fractures.  Fortunately all my teeth were still in place, although using them would prove to be a difficult task.  About twelve teeth were loose, with significant pain being caused where the roots went into my now-fractured skull.  Any pressure on them caused intense physical anguish. Yet somehow, I managed to get hospital approval for the trip.  Which brings us back to London...I was in pain.  Serious, brutal, hurts-when-I-move-my-head-or-step-too-hard pain.  Fortuantely, Liz was a pharmacist who knew her shit.  She immediately went to the counter and ordered some painkillers stacked with codeine, assuring me that this was the strongest and best option, an option not available over the counter in the USA.

Codeine swallowed, we walked off to join the other hundreds of peeps on the typical London tourist trail.  We journeyed from Trafalgar Square over to Buckingham Palace, back toward Victoria Tower for Liz's (and so many others') favorite quote of the day, "Big Ben, Parliment".

Waiting at street level for Liz to drop down into a tube station to hunt for a WC, I took a few minutes to reflect on my previous visits to the area.  But soon a few minutes turned into twenty five, and I got worried.  Alas, she reappeared with a frustrated look on her face, readily admitting that her sense of direction was not the best, and that it took a few wrong turns to find her way back. Guess I'll need to navigate the rest of the trip.

Crossing over Westminster Bridge, we lingered along the South bank of the River Thames, over to the London Eye, the world famous ferris wheel.  The wheel was the tallest in the world at the time of construction (1999), and still serves as London's number one paid toursit attraction.  We were content to snap a pick and wander on by.

Contemplating where to eat for lunch, we found a pub and readily ordered fish and chips...and a couple pints.  It made me happy to learn that I could break the fish apart with my tongue against the roof of my mouth, a method of food intake that would prove vital over the next couple weeks.

Bellies more content, we hopped back on the tube, exiting at London Bridge.  From there we strolled through various neighborhoods, came upon local markets and snapped photos of the many sights of the city.  We did manage a visit to the British Museum, where our highlights included the Rosetta Stone and Hoa Hakananai's, more commonly known as one of the stone staues from Easter Island.  But soon our time and energy were running low, so we headed back to Charing Cross to reclaim our bags. A short ride north to Baker Street Station made for an easy walk to the Easybus, our transport out of the city, to Stansted Airport.

Our time in London was at its end, but the day was far from over.  We landed in Faro, Portugal at 23:15, eventually finding a bus that would take us to our final destination of the day: Lagos.  The darkness of the hour prevented us from what surely was a spectacular coastline view as we drove West along the Portugese coast.  Finally making it to town, we dropped off several other travellers before it was our turn.  And, sadly, the driver did not know of our hotel.  After a little assistance from one of the other passengers, as well as consulting the local maps we had, he dropped us at a deserted square, supposedly close to where we needed to be.  A couple blocks walk later we found ourselves in front of The Hollander, our home for the next three nights.

The door opened after the second push of the buzzer, a sound that, at 1:45am, I am sure the other guests didn't appreciate.  We were led to our quaint but clean room and given both the key and directions to the nearest ATM, which would surely be our first stop of the following morning.  But for now we were here, in our room, in Lagos. We made it!  After a brush of the teeth and a wash of the face, Liz crawled into bed, exhausted but content.  Smiling, I opened the second story window to let the cool air drift into the room before slipping under the covers myself, anxious to once again be sleeping on a separate continent.