A Weekend In London

I have never lived in a place where one could hop a plane to London for the weekend. I didn’t even realize how possible that was! Our flight cost each of us 60 euros. For any of you who want a conversion, well, you will have to figure it out for yourself, as I have found that in order to protect my mental health it is best to forget dollars even exist.

We flew Ryanair out of Pau on Friday afternoon. There is a flight from Pau to London every day, and one that returns as well. Ryanair was an experience in itself. The airline is extremely cheap but I felt very secure and safe. Of course, there is no drink or food service of any kind. They have a menu that you can pick up when you enter the plane, and if you wish, you can spend Euros or Pounds and buy yourself something to eat or drink.
It is very expensive, and not very good. The airline is also constantly selling you things. Flight attendants will come through the aisles offering perfume and jewelry, as well as scratch cards that you can only play in international airspace. It is most annoying, unless one has some headphones to keep themselves occupied.
At any rate, the flight lasted just over 2 hours, but because of the time difference we arrived in London just over an hour after we had left Pau. My friends and I then paid 12 pounds to take a bus to the center of London, where we could find an underground station and our hostel.

The 6 of us stayed at a place called the Dover Hostel and Bar in London. After what seemed like an hour checking in and signing forms and paying money, we were escorted to a simple but nice room with three sets of bunk beds and one window. We didn’t ask if the sheets had been changed, we just smiled and threw our bags on the bunks, assuming they had been. (I tried desperately NOT to think of the time a friend of mine, whose name I will not mention, got fleas from a hostel bed…..)
The hostel was actually very nice. The bathrooms were disgusting of course, and I made a snap judgment call that I would be cleaner if I spent the weekend WITHOUT showering. On Friday night we took the underground down to Piccadilly circus and stared at the lights before finding a great Mexican restaurant at which to eat in Leicester square.
On Saturday we did almost everything you could do for a day in London. We took a hop-on hop-off bus tour that let us stop at all of the places those of us who had never been to London should see. We saw the London Bridge and the Tower Bridge and took a walking tour that led is to Buckingham Palace in time for the changing of the guards. We went to the Tower of London, saw St Paul’s Cathedral, and ended our afternoon at Madame Trousseau’s wax museum. How much fun!

At first, I was a bit overcome by the whole operation. I had envisioned a museum with different characters standing in rows that you could take your picture with. However; it was not like this. The place was set up with many different rooms that one could walk through, and each room had a theme. The first room was by far the most interesting and also the strangest! It was set up like a club or a party in some large city. The statues were standing and sitting in various places around the area, and people were milling about with them, taking pictures and standing in groups talking. The lights were very low, and because of the set up, many times you didn’t know that someone was real until they moved, and when you gazed across the room and your eyes fell on a group of people, it might take you several moments to realize there were also FAKE people in that group. It was crazy!
However; I DID get my picture taken with lots of famous people! In the next room, I have pictures of myself being taught by Ghandi and, my personal favorite, mooning GW. (of course, its only a PANTOMIME moon, in case any of you (or members of the CIA attracted to this email because of the sudden mention of our president) were wondering).

After the museum, we visited a half price ticket booth and found tickets to the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s “Complete Works of William Shakespeare – abridged” which was a VERY funny play. The three American and Canadian actors performed the plays of WS all at once, and in a very funny manner. The three actors were hilarious, and I laughed till I cried several times. And get this – they mentioned something that nearly all of you are familiar with! During one portion they said “Its time to take a break from reality, from John Thune and Jennifer Lopez” It took me several moments to realize what I had heard!
I think its amazing what a small world it is that I can go all the way to London and hear the name of that guy! John Thune, what an amazing thing to have heard so far from home. He is the senator who won over the head of Tom Dashcle, the Senate Minority Leader. I have often shaken my head at the stupidity of my home state, who gave up the power that was a Senate minority leader for a newcomer, no matter how his conservative views might line up with their own. However, that is for another email!
Also, during a part in the play which included the recitations of several elements of tragedies, one line was read that blew me away. The man looked out into the crowd and for a moment seemed to even catch my eye, as he proclaimed: “49 million idiots re-elect the VILLAGE idiot” and again I had to laugh until my sides hurt. Later that night we went to a discothèque and even later we returned to the hostel. The trip home on Sunday afternoon had us all quite tired.

It IS a small world; isn’t it? The comment about John Thune was only part of it! Earlier in the day, during our walking tour the guide was asking members of the group where they were from. Two ladies in the back shouted out “South Dakota!” and I shouted back “Hey! I’m from South Dakota!” It turns out that one was from Rapid and one from Sioux Falls. I wish I had had time to ask more, but the ladies disappeared from the group before I could find them to inquire as to why they were in London and figure out if we knew anyone in common. For I know that we would have! Isn’t that just how the world works?
You can be an ocean away from home and hear news of your own politics. You can be in a group of people looking at old statues and awaiting the Changing of the Guard and hear people shout that they are from your state. You can come halfway around the world and catch someone’s eye as they talk about the president in perhaps the same manner that you would have. The Earth might cover an awfully big expanse of space, but it is really very small when you think about it. The best part is that we never know. We never know who shares our views or who might be cousins with the neighbor up the road.
We never know when we will run into people who went to our school, or who took a random hike through our neighborhood. The best thing that we can do is keep our eyes and ears open for the coincidences that serve to show us that we are all related. We are all cousins, as my great grandmother used to tell my mom. And when we visit each other, no matter how far we go or what relatives we see, we are cousining. Sometimes we are even cousining when we don’t mean to.

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