Monthly Archives: March 2007

Things I learned while traveling

While visiting London, I managed to learn a couple things about traveling on my own that may come in handy for those of you who haven’t had the experience of exploring a giant city all by yourself before.

  • Bring a good backpack. While sightseeing, you’re going to want to carry a number of useful things with you, and you won’t want to risk setting that bag of souvenirs down and getting it stolen. Don’t buy a cheap backpack, either. It’s going to be bumped and banged around a lot and you don’t want it falling apart on you.
  • Bring food and snacks with you in your backpack. Buying water and snacks from food carts can be very expensive, and you can never find them when you need them. Buy cheap water and snacks from a grocery store ahead of time.
  • Keep important things like travel cards and your passport in a pocket all to themselves. That way you can find them more easily when you need to whip them out, and you won’t risk them falling out when you’re digging for that tour map.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes, even if you have to pay top-dollar. Nothing ruins a sightseeing trip like blistered feet.
  • Leave a couple extra hours between connecting flights, especially when going through customs. Having an extra hour or two of “cushion” will save you from making a mad dash from one end of the airport to the other to catch a plane.
  • Bring a map such as a Pocket Pilot along with you. They cost around $6 and are massively useful. The one I brought had a map of the heart of London with all the tourist locations mapped out, and it included a Tube Map that was crucial to find my way from one station to the next.
  • Bring a compass. It’s very easy to get lost in a city where none of the streets have signs, and it’s even easier to lose track of which way is north.
  • Don’t trust Google Maps. While they work some of the time, you need to learn where you’re going on your own without trusting a computer to tell you where to go. Google Maps told me the World’s End pub was just down the street from the Holborn tube station rather than in Camden, which wasted about half an hour of travel time.
  • Make sure you can get home. The tubes and the trains in London close down shortly after midnight, so if you plan on staying out late, make sure you can find a night bus or a cab that will take you back. Otherwise, say goodnight to your friends with plenty of time to get the ride back home before you find yourself stranded in a bad part of town in the middle of the night.

London trip: the aftermath

Waiting in line at customsI’m back in the United States now and just about done recovering from my adventures in London. The ten-hour flight across the Atlantic wasn’t all that bad. I got to watch a couple movies on the way, including Employee of the Month, which I’d wanted to see for some time. I had less than an hour, however, before my connecting flight to Houston, which I nearly missed due to the wait in going through customs. By the time I finally returned to Omaha, my brains were like scrambled eggs. I also caught a cold sometime during the flight, which made returning to work the next day even more difficult. After sleeping for around ten hours each night over the weekend, however, I seemed to recover just fine.

London Trip: Day Six

It’s my last day here in merry old England. I was up early this morning to go down to Maggie’s in Lewisham for an English breakfast with bacon, sausage, egg, beans, some “fried slice,” which is toast fried up and crunchy, and this stuff called “bubble,” which is like some kind of potatoes. I heading on down to Buckingham Palace to catch the changing of the guard. There was some special procession on horses marching around the palace, so I couldn’t see the guards right away when I arrived. I couldn’t even tell if they were “changing” properly or not, as they seemed to be marching about rather than standing still this time around. Dumb yank, I am.

I spent most of the afternoon checking out museums with Claude and Sincerely. We went by the V&A Museum first, which had a huge collection of all sorts of things from displaced Cathedral sculptures to samples of Indian rugs and samurai armor.

We went by the Natural History Museum next, which had some lovely dinosaurs and stuffed mammals to check out. It was all very educational. Afterwards, a reader of mine took me out for a pint and gave me the Hogfather on DVD as two AVIs, so I’ll have something to watch on the flight home tomorrow.

My trip is almost over, and I’m honestly quite eager to get back home!

London Trip: Day Five

It’s been another busy day of sightseeing in London, and boy are my feet tired! It feels like I’ve been walking all over the place. This morning I walked around Leicester Square again and checked out some of the celebrity handprints embedded in the ground. Then I walked up and checked out Buckingham Palace. I had missed the changing of the guards, but I might be able to see that tomorrow.

I met up with Neko and Lag from Comic Genesis and we hopped over to the Tate Modern to make fun of some of the “art” there. Then we stopped by St. Paul’s Cathedral for a peek inside before going out to dinner at a Japanese restaurant and then heading on to a figure drawing class to brush up on some drawing skills.

That evening I went Swing dancing at the 100 Club on Oxford Street and happened to bump into Simon Selmon, something of a swing dancing celebrity here in London. Sarah from the Omaha Jitterbugs had given me his book on swing dancing, so I just had to get a picture of the two of us to show her when I came home. At the end of the night, I wound up taking a night bus when I missed my stop on the last train home. London seems to shut down entirely after midnight when the public transportation systems all close. This is quite ironic considering I’m quite used to staying out well past on weekends with friends because I can always drive myself home on my own with my car. Their double-decker buses do seem to run 24-hours, though, so I got to see little parts of London from the second floor, which was very amusing at 2:30 AM.

And now for some sleep before my last day in England!

London Trip: Day Four

The comic convention is all done and over with now, but I still have a couple days left to enjoy London and see all the sights. Today, I went down to take a ride on the London eye. I took plenty of pictures and video while I was up there, but then it rained just as we reached the top, which was annoying. I had a great view up there for a couple minutes, but all things concerned, it really wasn’t worth the hour-long wait in line. On the way back across Westminster Bridge, I stopped to buy a gift for Vivian: her name made up in a piece of wire, courtesy of a street peddler right there on the bridge.

After the ride on the eye, I took the tube down to Camden Town to meet up with my comic friends to see a movie called Hot Fuzz, which was an absolutely hilarious cop buddy movie from the guys who made Sean of the Dead. I hope it comes out in the US so I can take my brother to see it. Before the movie, we got to pose behind a promotion cut out poster for Meet the Robinsons. Yet another chance to ham it up.

Afterwards, we went to crash a nearby pub called the Misty Moon. I had Shepherd’s Pie and chips, which was a tasty new English dish for me. There was a fair amount of tomfoolery all around before we all headed on home.

Two days left!

London Trip: Day Three

Mr. Bob, Neko, and Claude The Whole Gang

Today was the big day: the UK Web Comic Thing at Queen Mary University in Mile End. This comic convention was the whole reason our group from Comic Genesis got together in the first place, so it was a rather big deal. Those of us involved had prepared sampler books of our work in advance to sell, as well as badges, free flyers, and candy to give away. I had twenty-five of my own little books made up back in Nebraska and sold them for five pounds each. I also had business cards with my web site address and e-mail on them in case anybody wanted to look me up later. Above, you can see fellow web comic artists Mr. Bob, Ryan “The Neko,” and Claude horsing around. On the right is our group picture, which includes the whole lot of us.

Matt and Caroline eat Fish and Chips!

The most exciting part of the whole day came a little later when one special visitor came to my table. Back in the fourth grade, nearly twenty years ago, I had an English pen-pal named Caroline. We kept in touch over a couple years but then I had lost her address sometime in middle school when we moved and we stopped writing. I’d recently gotten back in touch when I knew I was going to be in London, and thankfully her parents still lived at the same address! She came to visit me toward the end of the convention and we went out for authentic Fish and Chips as recommended by Matt Rosemier, who sat next to me at the convention. I can’t tell you all what a thrill is was finally to meet this person I’d known for two-thirds of my whole life but had never seen in person. “Mind-boggling” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Platform 3/4

Caroline and I both wound up taking the tubes by King’s Cross before we said goodbye, and while we were there I just had to run upstairs to check out “Platform 9 3/4.” If you have ready any of the Harry Potter Books, you know exactly what this means. They even had a trolley cart embedded halfway through the wall!

It’s been an unbelievable time in England so far, and I still have three whole days left! I can’t imagine what could possibly follow all of this.

London Trip: Day Two

Me and my first pint! Dinner at a Japanese Restaurant

It’s been another busy day here in London! Down at the World’s End pub in Camden Town, I met several of my fellow web comic artists for the first time, including Komiyan, Neko, War, Robin Pierce, Laura, and Lag the Noggin, all of whom are frequent visitors to the Comic Genesis forums and IRC. I’ve known some of these people for a year or two and had never met them before in person, which was awesome. I also got to drink my first pint at a real English pub, which was terrific. Afterwards, we all went out to have Japanese food together at Wagamama.

All of Roy's Tickets

After dinner, we stopped by an arcade at the Trocadero to play a few rounds of Dance Dance Revolution. Claude’s friend Roy managed to win around 165 tickets at a quiz game, and he pulled a seemingly endless line of yellow tickets from a machine that he wore around his neck for the rest of our time there.

An Apple Ad No Busking Sign

It’s funny how subtly different things seems to be over here. For example, Apple has the same Mac and PC campaign, but they apparently have different actors to play the parts for the British. I’m not familiar with either of these guys, but they are supposed to celebrities of some kind over here, I think.

Vivian also asked me to come back with some local British lingo, so here’s some: busking! I saw a sign that said, “No busking” in Victoria station. I was worried for a minute because I had no idea what “busking” was. It turns out that busking is just playing music for tips in public thoroughfares.

Krispy Kreme at Waterloo Station

At the end of the night, we stopped for one last drink at a pub in Waterloo. I saw a familiar sign there and just had to stop and take a picture. This picture’s for you, dad.

London Trip: Day One

Me and Big Ben!

Greetings from the other side of the Atlantic! I flew across the pond late Wednesday night and have been spending most of my time today checking out the city with Gianna Masetti of The Noob Comic.

Standing by the Prime Meridian Tower Bridge

Our first stop was a quick walk up to the Greenwich Royal Observatory and got to stand next to the Prime Meridian. Next came a ferry trip down the Thames to see several noteworthy London landmarks, such as the Tower Bridge, the Globe Theater, the Tower of London, the London Eye, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, among other things.

Westminster Abbey Piccadilly Circus by night

We continued walking all over downtown London, checking out other such memorable locations as Westminster Abbey, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Soho, Chinatown, Oxford Street, and a glimpse of Buckingham Palace. I was able to see several landmarks in just a few short hours on my first day in London, and I can’t wait to get back and take a longer look around this historic city. Fortunately, I have five more days to spend here!

I’m off to England!

It’s been another crazy, busy week getting things finished at work and preparing for my big trip to England this week. I’ve also been spending loads of time with Vivian, seeing her just about every day last week. She has more details of the fun we’ve been having on her blog. In the meantime, you can check out some pictures I took from our time together on my Flickr account. Right now, though, I have to pack. I’ll take plenty of pictures and put them up here whenever I get the chance. We’ll see you all again in a week!

Another busy week

Next week is my big trip to England, so I was able to get some quality time in with Vivian before leaving the country. We went on a date on Wednesday down at La Casa pizza on Leavenworth, a cozy little Italian place with delicious thin-crust pizza. I’d originally wanted to take Viv here on our first date back in December, but it was so crowded that we couldn’t get a table. I’m glad we were able to come back. Afterwards, we walked off our dinner by stopping by Trovato’s, another little restaurant in Dundee that has a live band on the first Wednesday of every month. Viv and I got to do a little Charleston before taking a quick walk around the lovely little neighborhoods in this part of Omaha. It was pretty cold, so I gave Viv my hood to wear as we walked. Isn’t she cute?

On Thursday, Viv and her roommate Jenny drove down to Lincoln to visit my bible study, and we stopped by Sonic afterwards to get some banana shakes before the trip back to Omaha. Then on Friday, I joined Viv and our friend Eric “Onion Boy” to go to my very first fish fry at Mary Our Queen in Omaha. It was a unique experience of the Catholic lifestyle, and there was quite a crowd in line for the dinner. It wound all throughout the school building, and even though Eric and Viv managed to save a spot in line for me around 5:30, we were still waiting in line two hours later. The had beer, chips and salsa coming up and down the line to hold everybody over. The food at the end of the line was pretty good, too. They had the best tater tots I’ve had in my entire life.

That evening at JNO, our friend Misty got to have her birthday Jam. I was able to get to Viv out onto the floor to take a turn dancing with Viv and being the lead, and she did a great job. I even let Viv try leading me for a dance or two, which was quite a unique experience. I managed not to fall on my face, which was quite an accomplishment.

Saturday was our big day together. Viv drove down to Lincoln and I got to take her on a tour of the capitol building. Neither of us had been inside before, so we had a good look around at all the artwork on the floors, walls, and ceiling. We also took the elevator up to the dome to get a good look at the city all around us. Afterwards, we got some sandwiches at Jimmy John’s and it was finally warm enough to eat them out in Cooper Park.

Left: Looking up at me and Viv under the dome of the state capitol building.
Right: Newsboys drummer Duncan Phillips spins on his platform.

We watched the sunset together while we let our dinner settle, and then we made our way back downtown to the Pershing Center to see the Newsboys. It was a great performance! Viv and I were several rows back from the stage, and I was a bit disappointed that we might not get to see the band up close and personal like I’d wanted, but there was a walkway out into the middle of the crowd, and when a few members walked out during a few segments of the show, it was like being in the front row!

It was quite a night (and a week) to remember.