What to do when the Tube workers strike in London....and you have a flight to catch.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jenny had a lot she wanted to see and do in London.  And understandably, too, as this was her first trip to Europe!  For our last day, we had written up an itinerary and were so excited about crossing off all the "sights" on our list.  We were planning on having the most fun day in London yet.  We checked out of our hostel at 8:00 that morning with exactly 12 hours to spare before our flight to France.  We planned on checking our bags at King's Cross and then spending the day seeing the sights, as casual as you can be when you have a flight to catch later that evening.  Just a fun and fancy-free sort of day, you know?  And I'm sure our day would have been so fun and so free of fancy had the Tube workers not decided to strike that morning.  Because when the Tube workers strike, it sends London into a state of complete chaos.

The following picture shows the Tube right after the strike was announced, and all of London, basically, had one hour to make it home before the entire underground system shut down.

Jenny and I truthfully felt as though it was the end of the world -- or at least that an apocalypse-themed movie was being filmed in the streets of London.  It was like all hell had broken loose in the streets of Londontown.  People were pushing others out of the way to get onto the Tube, yelling, cursing, etc.  We ended up taking a bus to King's Cross, and the journey should have taken less than half an hour.  That day, it took over 90 minutes, and we were crammed in the bus like sardines.  Every bus that passed us seemed just as bad, too; completely hectic and packed to the brim.  Thus, our day full of fun was suddenly condensed to just one item: Romeo & Juliet at Shakespeare's Globe Theater.

Jenny, standing in front of the Globe Theater, had organized this whole excursion.  The Globe Theater is where Shakespeare's plays were originally performed.  We weren't allowed to take any photos inside, but when we walked into the open-air theater, I gasped at how cool it was.  It looks just like how you would imagine it "back then."  We had tickets for "peasant seating" (standing room only, but right in front of the stage) and really enjoyed the view.  

We had to leave the play early, though, in order to make it back to King's Cross and then take a coach to the airport.  Unfortunately for us, the streets of London had only gotten crazier.  We still had a full 3 hours until we needed to be at the airport, but the prospect of arriving on time was already looking grave.  We caught a bus to King's Cross to retrieve our luggage, but after sitting on the bus for half an hour and only having moved half an inch, we decided to make use of the original public transportation: our feet.  With the help of a single map, we walked/ran to King's Cross....which was pretty far!

By the time we retrieved our luggage, we realized that, judging by the traffic and chaos we had just witnessed, there was no possible way we could make it all the way to Gatwick in 2 hours; the busses just weren't moving fast enough and we had to catch 2 different busses to make it Gatwick.  Plus, the busses were so ridiculously crowded that we didn't receive many welcoming looking when we stepped on with our giant, oversized backpacks.  Thus, to prevent missing our flight, we paid an extra 8GBP and settled for the Gatwick Express (train), which allowed us to catch our plane with plenty of time to spare.

I love London, but I was happy to leave it on this day.  Tube strikes and crowded busses do not 'the most fun day in London' make.  Until next time, London!  And there better not be any strikes going on when I return, okay??

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