We set out from the ever bleak confines of Intercontinental (after our ritual spit at Halliburton), the students rarin' to go (only a few apprehensive) and excited about the trip. I took the initiative to maintain order in the bar, just to be sure the students were getting adequate sustenance (thanks for the martini, Pat!). I managed to switch to an aisle seat and even better, managed to sleep most of the way to London. Didn't miss much as we were flying on Continental (feh). We arrived in Gatwick with a minimum of fuss and got our folks together for the two coaches. Then we began the interminable trip up to the city. No, it wasn't the traffic (although, yes, London rush hour is horrendous). No, the problem was our "guide" (we needed a guide?) who spent most of the trip speculating on real estate prices, complaining about her mortgage, berating the driver for not being able to afford a house (giving Sandi's students in Social Classes good fodder for discussion), and offering misinformation ("this is where Sherlock Holmes lived"). By the time we were driving south through Holland Park (an admittedly creative route to Bloomsbury) we were ready to club her.
We arrived at the spartan accomodations of the Royal National to discover that, with one exception, our rooms were ready, which was a nice surprise. We dropped off our luggage and went in search of lunch. Already suffering from a cold, I led a group to Thai Spice, figuring some green curry would help clear my sinuses (a few students frightened by the idea of the same, went to a pub). After that, it was time for the hop-on hop-off bus tour (our ploy to keep the students moving until late enough to get them over jet lag). Our job was to help students get a feel for the city and oriented to their surroundings, but after a nine hour flight, two and half hour bus ride, the last thing I wanted was to be sitting on another bus. I made it one circuit, then offered to lead a group through the National Gallery. A few others were eager to get off the bus (others continued half dozing in the back of the tour bus) and we ran through the rain into the NG. Curiously enough, a couple other faculty members independently decided to do the same thing. After some enjoyable wandering through the galleries, a few went back to the hotel, while a small group of us set forth to find dinner. We ended up at a nice pub in the Leicester Square area, where a number of us got our first taste of real fish and chips. We found that later another group had gone to the crypts in St. Martin's, another highly recommended experience.
Most students seemed over their jet lag by the next morning. We had a nother touristy event ahead for the morning, one which I admit, I had not looked forward to doing: the Thames River cruise. To my surprise, it was a terrific experience. Even given our grey day, it was just wonderful sailing down to Greenwich and back. Since the students were going to Greenwich later in the week, we all stayed on the boat and sailed back on our own private cruise. I actually took pictures! (to be uploaded soon).