As soon as we left Nairobi and landed in London at 5:30 am we were officially homeless. We didn’t have hostels booked because of a lack of internet and unconfirmed flights, which was not a good situation to be in when Wimbledon is in full swing and Hyde Park is hosting Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday party. Every single hostel we could possibly find was fully booked through the weekend and the cheapest hotel the travel desk at the airport could find us was outside the realms of the underground and was still $150 a night. Then Matt came up with a brilliant idea: use his Marriott points and stay for free! We certainly didn’t need a Marriot though, in comparison to east African camping, pretty much any hostel with a bed and a shower would have seemed so luxurious. So we wandered into the Marriot lobby, in our complete refugee-looking status, for our two night stay in opulence. After two nights his points were used up and it was back to life in the backpacker style of cheap hostels.
Our indulgences didn’t stop at the Marriot though. We were told about this great store in London called Primark, it was everything they described and so much more. We really “splurged” buying new white socks (something I hadn’t seen since Cape Town six weeks ago) and unstained new t-shirts that weren’t stretched horribly out of shape from the African women hand-washing them in river water.
Being in East Africa, where the Lion King takes place, references to the movie were quite abundant. Everything from Hakuna Matata t-shirts, to finding “Pride Rock” in the Serengeti, to the sing-a-longs to the soundtrack on the truck brought up the Disney movie. Everyone on the tour said that the theater version is so good, so when it was playing in London, we couldn’t resist. It was really good, even with the British accents we weren’t accustomed to.
We went on a day tour out to see Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and the city of Oxford. Windsor Castle was impressive, but really what else would you expect from the Royal Family? Stonehenge was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as in seeing it once is more than enough. The stones are impressive when put into perspective on how they got there, but a lot of the mystery and intrigue is lost in the presentation. Wandering around the circular site surrounded by chain link fences with an audio guide doesn’t seem to do it justice. The city of Oxford was cool to wander around in and quite picturesque with all of the university buildings. The tour guide was extremely good, pointing out interesting tidbits along the way; such as the city where the original British version of The Office took place (Slough). He also explained why the British drive on the left side of the road: all knights held their swords in their right hands, thus driving on the left allowed them to defend against would-be attackers. The US drives on the right side of the road for no other reason than defiance of Britain.