Notes from my London trip, June 2005:
Nearly 13 hours flight from Manila, our plane (KLM) landed at Schiphol Amsterdam airport. It was my 2nd landing in this airport. The first was18 years ago, in 1987, when I went to Amsterdam to study a short course in Marxism -- well, I was a full-bloodied Marxist-socialist then :-) Took a connecting flight to London, my final destination. I'm going there to be one of the panel speakers in the "Global Development Summit" (www.globaldevelopmentsummit.org) organized by the International Policy Network (www.policynetwork.net) on June 28.
This is my first time to set foot on this part of the planet, so I was really excited. Immigration process at Heathrow airport was short, but the queu was long. It took me about 25 minutes before I get to the immigration officer, which just asked the usual questions -- purpose in coming to the UK, see the invitation letter, length of stay, etc.
My hotel is in the city of Wistmenster. A friend advised me that the best way to see London is to walk. Which I did. Trafalgar square is a huge park with the very tall monument situated prominently in the center. The Buckingham Palace is really grand, fit for kinds and princess to live. The changing of the guard, those neatly-dressed Brit soldiers in red and black uniform guarding the palace of the royal family, the ceremony is accompanied by drums and bugles parade, and succeeding march of same-uniform soldiers riding horses, yeah yeah. Many people a-watching the ceremony.
The Covent Garden is cool. Lots of public performers, a public market, a theater, restaurants and bars. My feet were complaining already of the long walk, but there were many other beautiful places to see - "London eye" ferris wheel is prominently seen along the river Thames. The famous House of Parliament and its elaborate external architecture and artworks is just nearly and really fantastic.
There are just too many parks in the city. If you're tired and wanting to sit down in a quiet place, there are a number of such places to go to.
I took the tube (underground train) ride only once, from covent garden to heathrow airport on my last day there. This was 6 days before the tragic London bombings London is really a very open city to everyon, locals and foreigners, tourists and terrorists. There are no police or private security guards or x-ray machines screening people who go in and out the tube/subway (about 3 million passengers/day), the malls, the double decker buses, and other public places and utilities.
Once I saw PM Tony Blair getting out of a building (I think the PM's bldg) near the houses of parliament. The police just blocked all roads around the building minutes before Blair's car got out. I saw only 2 motorcycles in front and 2 back-up cars behind Blair's car, and he's gone. Here in the Phils., you know the president is around because there are at least 10 black PSG pajeros, a dozen motorcycles, and several other local police and civilian cars, making all those siren-wailings, waving all other motorists to get out of the way because "God" is passing by...