After weeks of planning and living towards it, the meet finally happened. Sunagan and I went on the plane and made the trip to London. It was a first for both of us, never having visited the country before (Sunagan visited the UK before, but never been to England). In short, it was something we were really looking forward to, not just for meeting up with the A-Pers and ISSUPians, but also to visit the metropolis.
For those only interested in the anime meet, feel free to skip the entire second day in this post. It’s purely about a sightseeing tour we both took in London and not about our little geek-meet.
Arrival and Day 1
Upon arriving at Stansted Airport, we took a coach bus towards Victoria station in London. By midnight we arrived there and went to the ticket booth to buy our day-tickets for the public transport. The journey within the city started off slightly troublesome, with the Underground ticket machines rejecting our tickets. Going back to the booth, the employee apologized and directed us towards the city bus towards Waterloo where our Travelodge hotel was situated. After some awkward direction-asking at the Waterloo station and a call to our lovely meet-up hostess Anglokitty, we eventually arrived around 1am. We met up with her, KiraRin, therik and a passed out Elscire, gracefully sleeping on Kira’s bed. The first night was fun as we chatted into the night with the bunch. Ever-important topics like upcoming anime movies, favorite shows and some personal chatter made the night.
Next noon we met up with the core group, everyone looking mighty fine, especially Elscire with his cat-ears, tail and bell around his neck. We went out for an English lunch slash extended breakfast after which we had to say goodbye to KiraRin, who had some questionable business to take care of later that day. The rest of us went on a little tourist / otaku shopping-tour for the day. We first visited the stunning Trafalgar Square where we took a group picture.
|Trafalgar Square with Elscire, Anglokitty and therik|
Next, we continued our journey to a tiny anime / manga store. They had a lovely collection of affordable cosplay outfits, manga volumes and anime merchandise, among which a white Mokona hat Sunagan tried on.
We then walked a bit through some shopping lanes, had a drink, rode a fair-attraction and visited a ‘cute things’ kind of store. Then, oh wow, we went to the geek-Walhalla. No, the Anime EXPO in London wasn’t until next weekend, we went to Forbidden Planet, a huge store with everything from comic, videogame, anime and manga merchandise, masks, replicas, you name it. And then there was the basement, filled with a large collection of (signed) books, light novels, manga, movies and yes, anime DVDs. Two hours in this store proved too much for our determination to keep a check on our wallets. A Haibane Renmei boxset and a GitS: SAC S2 boxset were scored for a cheap price (don’t quote me on it, but it was around 20 pounds for the two). Oh, and have a picture of me in my natural habitat.
Having sufficiently quenched our otaku-thirst, we visited an adorable tea store before continuing on to our final destination for the day: a Japanese restaurant, where we met up with Panta and AngelOfDarkness with binary-boyfriend. The food and sake was good and at a reasonable price, but they did take their sweet time bringing the food out. Nevertheless, we had a great dinner; what else could an evening with anime fans and Japanese food turn into?
|Japanese food with Binary-boyfriend, AngelOfDarkness...|
|...and cat ears.|
The rest of the evening was mainly filled with me and Sunagan trying to find our second hotel at Peckham road. What we thought would be a short 30min. of traveling took away most of our evening. By 0.30am, when we finally arrived and dumped our bags, it was already too late to catch up with the others. Nevertheless, a great day had been had.
Our second day started out fairly uneventful. We traveled back to Travelodge to check in for our third night and made it just in time to say goodbye to therik. Sadly, we just missed Elscire, but sacrifices had to be made for a half-decent night’s sleep (no hard feelings Elscire, we love you). After checking in, we headed out with Anglokitty and therik towards the Millennium Wheel to start our sightseeing tour across the Southern Bank. After saying our goodbyes, we realized a ride would cost us more than we were willing to pay (28 pounds each, to be exact), so we got little else than some photographs from the 135 meters high Ferris wheel out of it.
|The London Eye (or Mellennium Wheel)|
|The Thames from the Westminster Bridge|
|Quite a bit more imposing in real life than it is on the photograps|
Walking around the abbey, we came across a nice little square with the most adorable houses, the highlight being a building covered in red vine with an arched entrance. Inside, we found another square full of memorials, some dating back to the early 17th century.
We then walked back across the Westminster Bridge, grabbed some food and continued our trip across the Southern Bank. The attractions we passed were entertaining. From excellent living statues to horribly bad street performers, they had it all. After a while, we came across a picturesque café. It was full of small rooms chaotically connected to each other and terrifying tourist prices, but the one drink we dared to order there was worth it.
A brief walk later, we arrived at our next stop: Tate Modern, Londons famous museum of modern art. By our pleasant surprise, they only charged fee for their current exhibition, so the entire main collection was accessible free-of-charge. We went to one of the wings featuring surrealism and impressionism, and before we knew it one and a half hour passed. Since it was already starting to run into the late afternoon, we decided to continue our trip towards the Tower Bridge, rather than entering another of the wings.
The Tower Bridge was fairly impressive, although the purple bars on top felt somewhat out of place. Here we managed to find another couple who were willing to take a picture of us, with the bridge in the background. Since it was already around 6pm by then, the tower with the crown jewels was already closed from public, and sadly, so was the Tower of London situated on the other side of the bridge. We walked back a bit across the northern side of the Thames, looking at the purty structures from the outside. When we arrived at ‘The Monument of the Great Fire of London’, we concluded our sightseeing tour and went back to the Travelodge hotel. Next morning we went back home from Gatwick Airport (not without some minor problems with defect ticket-vendors, but we made it on time).
Long story short, London proved to be a fantastic experience. Meeting the A-Pers and ISSUPians was great fun, and we visited some of Londons geek hotspots. Anime related touring aside, it was also a sightseeing tour to remember. We had great time, and we can only hope future meet-ups will be planned in Europe. If at all possible, we will be there.