Merry Olde England was, meteorologically speaking, not merry. England in the summertime is tricky. In the cab ride (in the most spacious cab I have ever ridden) from the airport to London Town, the sun shone and shone…
Then as soon as you put your bags down and head back out into the English world…
The sun played a mean game of hide-and-seek most of the time I was in London.
Travel tip: The National Gallery is a MUST-SEE if you love art. I had to tear myself away – I’d spent so many hours in there, and all for a £1! And if you stick around, there are usually a few highly entertaining buskers performing outside the museum throughout the day.
On my first full day, I saw the calvary!
It’s amazing that a bunch of horses (including an official mounted policeman) clip-clopping through the middle of London is perfectly normal.
These horses were a sign that the Changing of the Guard was not too far off, so I hurried over to stake out a spot in front of Buckingham Palace.
(There were some mean tourists who were real buttholes to other tourists, jostling to get an unobstructed view of the procession. This otherwise genteel creature – I mean me, stop laughing – was tempted to chuck her guidebook at their heads.)
Naturally, on the day I spent the entire time sitting there not moving (didn’t want to lose my spot), the sun was harsh and relentless.
After all the uniformed furry-hatted men had passed by and when it was clear that I wasn’t gonna be able to see most of the actually changing of the guard, I high-tailed it out of there and dove into Harrod’s for food and air-conditioning.
When in Harrod’s, one must eat in the famous food court. From the looks of the
lines queues at the various stations (meat, seafood, rotisserie, etc.), I wasn’t the only one who felt the same.
Travel tip: Going alone is fabulous because there are always seats for one, seldom for two next to each other, and rarely for more than that.
This was the most expensive platter of fish and chips in all of England. It wasn’t that great either. DAMN YOU, HARROD’S AND YOUR OVERPRICED FOODSTUFFS!!
I did, however, have an interesting conversation with a businessman from Tel Aviv, which is, unbeknownst to me, the telecommunications capitol of the world or something like that.
And speaking of the Middle East:
The English are crazy about their Princess. It was interesting to see “I love you”‘s scrawled on the pages in what child-scrawl. YOU WERE BORN AFTER SHE DIED! HOW DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHO PRINCESS DIANA IS??
Anyway, it continued to be a beautiful day after I was done poking around Harrod’s.
It was a major sale season and the shopping crowd, local and tourist, was out in full force.
I hadn’t planned to do much shopping in London because I didn’t want to spend what little time I had stuck in stores, but I poked around English brands like Burberry, Ted Baker, Karen Millen (where I bought the fabulous dress I wore to my brother’s wedding, which is a story for another day), LK Bennett and Reiss (made famous by Kate Middleton), and Topshop (which, after currency conversion, wasn’t different in price than anywhere else in the world).
Travel tip: The basement of Harrod’s has a decent sale section – mostly Longchamp, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Kate Spade, and other cheaper designer brands – and I picked up a discounted fuchsia Longchamp purse that I use excessively to this day.
Anyway, I’m so glad to have stumbled across this pretty park because the crowds, countless cigarette-smoking Brits, and roaming harems of hijab-clad women toting expensive designer bags and that occupied entire sidewalks, all had me feeling stifled.
I strolled from one end to the other, enjoying this green refuge that seemed a world apart. To my surprise, I saw no canoodling couples on the grass enjoying the day, no families out and about, and only a handful of joggers – just a lovely break from the sensory assault.
I like the idea of a coat of arms.
My personal coat of arms would have a pen on one side and a chicken leg on the other.
The photo below has no significance except I thought it was funny. I still think it’s funny.
I also ran into the Beatles, who must’ve all been sick because they wore bandanas over their mouths.
That flu gets around.
On a different day, the sun refused to show itself. What a difference it makes to the temperature. I was freezing!
I stood here for a long time looking at the River Thames, the source of inspiration for so many famous poets and writers.
A source of inspiration for other kinds of writers and actors: The (recreation of) Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
On a weekday afternoon, groups of students (one French, another British) were dawdling outside, waiting outside and kicking around at the sculptures that line the Thames.
It’s funny to think that the original London Bridge looks like this:
It was here (well, not exactly here – more like at the ends of this bridge) where heads and limbs of traitors, including the infamous William Wallace (Braveheart, anyone?) were hung to scare the daylights out of the townsfolk.
I’m sure it would have been a more terrifying sight had those parts been hung at this bridge:
It’s pretty dang magnificent, the Tower Bridge.
How cute – it was decked out for the Olympics!
Right smack in the middle of the city, surrounded by tall, magnificent modern buildings is the Tower of London.
Inside this castle are riches beyond your wildest dreams… and a bunch of other cool stuff if you’re interested in life in Ye Olde Tymes, such as walking up very narrow, seemingly endless spiral staircases to end up in a tiny room that kept political prisoners who lived and died there. FUN TIMES!
Travel tip: I kid, I kid. It actually was fascinating to explore the grounds of the Tower of London and peer at fancy jewels with the monetary value of entire countries. I highly recommend getting the audio tour guide and jumping in on a live tour whenever you see them. The guides were both informative and hilarious. This place of interest is not recommend for people allergic to uncontrollable children.
I was more interested in the British Museum, which is home to the Rosetta Stone and other treasures of the ancient world, thanks to those damned English plunderers of civilizations.
(I kid, I kid. It’s very important to preserve historical treasures, which is why I get annoyed at tourists who ignore the warnings to turn off the camera flash.)
When I visited the British Museum, I had an idea of what I wanted to see and what could wait until a hypothetical second visit to London. The museum is so huge and filled with so many wonderful things, it would’ve been impossible to cover it in a day! (Plus, there were so many tourists whose sole purpose of travel is to hinder the movement of other tourists, that I went for what I’d wanted to see and then high-tailed it outta there.)
Elsewhere in London Town, China and England were dancing around the bright-red maypole together:
Do you think they’ve got enough flags?
I did not eat no crumpets, but there were scones. Big fat scones. Big fat average-tasting overpriced scones.
Because this post is pretty long as is, I’ll dedicate an entire blog post to all of the food adventures I had in England. It’ll be epic, you’ll see.
Finally, it wouldn’t have been a true London experience without a visit to the theatre.
It wasn’t West End, but it was all authentic British accents in an authentic British play written by a British author, so it was good enough for me! (It was also EXCELLENT. Well acted, entertaining, and so worth braving the cold for.)
London is a crazy-expensive city and the weather is unpredictable. I would like to visit Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, Kensington Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Tate Modern Gallery someday, but they aren’t too high on my travel bucket list.
On the plus side, getting around on the tube is a cinch, beer is cheap, and I was recently informed that one of the best bars for cocktails in the world is a train ride away in Oxford.
(And I just realized that alcohol comprises two-thirds of my reasons to go back to London. Nice.)