David Bailey once said “If you’re curious, London’s an amazing place.”
I must say, London certainly delivers. Today was an amazing day – and even involved a Royal sighting!
Today was commemorating the Bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, and there was a special ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral. Early in the morning while in Trafalgar Square, I witnessed the Royal Motorcade come through with Camilla in the back of the car.
Later in the day, traffic was a bear, so our bus tour got jammed up, but that worked out quite nicely, because we saw Prince Charles exiting the Cathedral with Camilla. There were also lots of other famous people I am sure that I didn’t recognize.
Since I was no longer suffering from Jet Lag and sleeping on a plane, I decided to use the 2nd day of my bus tour to take the tour with live commentary – which was a treat – even if it took forever because of traffic and special events. I loved the view from the top of the bus.
For me, the most prevalent observation I made all day was how London really is a Juxtaposition of the old and the new.
It started as I walked up to the Tower of London, a beautiful structure with more history than I can even begin to write about in this post, and noticed the Shard, a modern skyscraper in the background.
This theme continued as I explored the city:
Cranes all over the city signaling new construction.
Video Screens on Old Stone
This “new” security system – 🙂
This building, now being used as a Public Toilet House
and, finally, this spin on a Phonebooth – a wifi hot spot on the street.
London is absolutely beautiful, and I enjoyed exploring it more today.
Here are a few of my favorite pictures:
Ok, so all that know me know that sun is not exactly kind to my fair skin – even when I apply sunscreen regularly, so in an attempt to protect my skin – I did don a hat for some of my exploring today:
However, at about 14:00 (2:00) I realized that I needed to go inside for a bit or even with the hat I would be lobster-esque so I decided to take in some artwork at the National Gallery. I am not exactly a “connoisseur of art” by any means, but I very much enjoyed getting lost in the rooms of the gallery. As I had not really “planned” to hop in, I was pleasantly surprised at the beautiful works I stumbled across. van Gogh and Rembrandt were my favorite collections. I love that they have such a complete website, where you can explore the artwork from anywhere in the world.
I went into the portrait gallery after this, and they were STUNNING, but no photography is allowed. I loved this stop – it was such a great overview of important people in English history (and pop culture).
One stop I had planned was attending Evensong at Westminster Abbey. There truly are no words – the Abbey itself is breathtaking (and I’m sort of glad photography isn’t allowed inside – the entire experience is one you really just have to see to believe). I wasn’t one of the first in line, but as I was being seated, the one of the Vergers asked me if I would like to sit in the choir stalls – he had one seat remaining. WOW! To sit in that place, and experience worship in that space was absolutely remarkable. The organ, the choir, the Scripture being read and the Cantor all gave me chills – and to join responsively in the Lord’s Prayer and Apostles Creed were just amazing. I am still in awe of the entire experience – If you are ever in London – Trust me – make plans – it is totally worth it!
Dinner with Some Locals
After all this exploring, I thought I might as well have some dinner. I used Yelp to find a pub close by, in hopes that it wouldn’t be too touristy based on the reviews. The restaurant was St. Stephen’s Tavern, and it was DIRECTLY across from The Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) and the Houses of Parliament – so stunning views. I sat in the bar, because the wait for a table upstairs was more than an hour, and I am so glad I did!
They offered general pub fare, for a reasonable cost – for less than 15 pounds I got a fish and chip platter with all sorts of fixings, and a pint of some really great locally brewed beer (Badger Beer).
The food was good, but the ambience and atmosphere were even better. There were lots of government employees having dinner engaged in lively debates, and the table next to me was no exception – I enjoyed their debate about London and its standing in the EU, and what they each thought about it. Obviously – not something I know much about – but it was interesting to hear their pros and cons.
I strolled back to the Hostel after that, and funnily enough, must have looked like I knew where I was going, because an older couple with what I am assuming was German accents asked me for directions. What is even more impressive is that I actually knew where they wanted to go (Westminster Pier) and was able to give them directions.
Back at the hostel I met my newest roommate – a girl from Korea who speaks very little english – I won’t even try to butcher her name by typing it, but as we were trying to communicate – very rudimentary, mind you, I gave her one of my packets of instant coffee (she was upset they weren’t serving any in the bar), and she shared with me a Korean rice cookie – it was very sweet, and quite interesting!
Today was a lovely day – Tomorrow I will be headed to Bath. 🙂