**Could not post for the past day as the Internet was not working in my London hotel...I will make up for it tonight!
It is now January 1, 2010 in London and what fun I have had the last 2 days. My journey began with a drive from Tallahassee to Atlanta (thanks Mark!) and then a delayed flight to Heathrow. The silver lining was I was upgraded to business class so my 8.5 hour flight was much more comfortable. This allowed me to eat well and get some good sleep so when I finally arrived in London I hit the ground running.
Before I ventured into the city I did have an unscheduled tour of Heathrow airport. Apparently we were so late getting into the airport they did not have a gate for us…so we parked somewhere far away (it felt like Gatwick!) from the gate and they brought stairs up to the plane so we could deplane then be driven to terminal 5. Customs was a breeze – seriously there was no one there and I was through the process and had my bags within 30 minutes! Kindof hard to believe in Heathrow! Luckily my hotel was in terminal 4 so my journey there was short.
I arrived in London to cold weather with no sun in sight but at least it was not raining or snowing. After I put my belongings in the room and freshened up, I bought a day pass on the Underground and started exploring the city. First stop was Lesicester Square where I scoped out the theatres and found a play to watch later – Avenue Q was my choice -- it was the only one with tickets still available. More about that later. (see picture 1 is of Lesicester Square and 2 of the Underground). After purchasing my ticket, I then got back on the underground and made my way to Harrods. Believe it or not they had great sales and I picked up a cute Christmas ornament. I made my way to the food halls in Harrods and enjoyed a margarita (cheese) pizza then explored the rest of the store. It is absolutely amazing all they have in there! Then it was back to the Underground to explore more of London. There was some festive Christmas decorations up (see the pictures) especially in Leicester Square --they even had a fun carnival type event there (pictures 3 and 4).
After wandering around town, I made my way to the Gielgud theatre and enjoyed a great performance of Avenue Q. (see pictures 5 & 6). The actors were amazingly talented and really put on a great show! The entire cast was 6 people and a bunch of puppets.
I wanted to try to stay out for the fireworks around Big Ben (You can see them on the following link http://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/view/4282) but I found my energy fading after my travels of the day before and over night and as I attempted to negotiate the crowds of very happy (some very drunk) people. All reports said there were about 200,000 people there. I think I would have felt better about staying for the fireworks if it was not so cold, if I did not have to get up at 5:30 a.m. for my flight the next day, and if travel back to the hotel was a little easier (the predictions were that it would take until 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. to get back to the hotel). As it was all of the underground stations around the area were closed to out bound passengers and I had to walk quite a way to find a stop that would get me out of town. Really the Underground was the only way to travel as all of the streets were blocked off the any traffic except police on horses and foot traffic.
After an hour and one-half on the Underground I found myself back at the hotel with 5 minutes to spare till the new year! I did watch the fireworks on tv in the lobby and they were amazing! I even toasted in the new year with a lobby full of people on holiday.
It was a great day and I look forward to my journey tomorrow to Qatar. Although I am there to lead a LeaderShape session the Qatar Foundation staff have built in some unique experiences as well!
I arrived in Qatar and it is now 12:45 a.m. here. After a full day of traveling I am ready to call it a night. More later!