While I very much enjoyed being part of a Charles Dickens scene this Christmas, I sure did miss NY. To fill the void Azzy and I went South to experience the hustle and bustle of the overcrowded streets of London. While there was no Rockefeller Centre tree or horse and carriage rides in Central Park, there was crowds, tourists and overpriced stuff. I was home…
We trooped down there on Megabus (the easyjet of UK buses) and took the ‘grand quickie’ tour. Arriving around 10:30 am on Monday morning we got right down to it and began our marathon. In the first day we saw, in order, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Westminister Abbey (I went in this time), Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, a cute little cafe that sold pizza by the slice (not NY quality) and the London Eye – where we took a very expensive but worthy ride.
We then walked along the river bank and the Millenium Bridge at sunset to make it to a singing service at none other than St Paul’s Cathedral. We thought this would put us in the Christmas spirit (like we needed help) but the young boys sang slightly too high to understand a word coming out of their mouths… that’s if it was even in English. Even so, the atmosphere was peaceful and it was worth it to sit and stare at the interior of the cathedral (for free)! We then continued on what became our night tour and visited Tower Bridge, Tower of London, and other bits of that end of the River. Quick stop for appetizers and beer… continuing on we walked to Trafalagar Square and listened to comprehendable caroling, Piccadilly Circus and finally Harrods. It was closed, so back to the tube and up to Bayswater to pass out in our ghetto style but bearable room at the London House Hotel which we shared with two Americans from Kansas.
Day two was slightly calmer. We walked back to Harrods to explore the
inside of this shopping palace via Hyde Park to take pics of touristy
things including Kensington Palace. Inside Harrods we were eyed up and
down and I was now allowed to carry my Jansport bag on my back. The
perfume spraying ladies wouldn’t even offer us perfume. We reeked
grungy, broke traveling student! Oh well. We also missed the live ice
skating performance they had in the window of the store – I’ve never
seen that at Saks Fifth Avenue… hmmmm…
I then stopped in every store nearby that had a sale sign and shoes in the window. I was successful – I bought some cheap cute Englishy looking boots. 🙂
With my shopping mission complete we continued on to Leicester Square where we ate overpriced pizza at a diner in the centre that had great people watching. Then continuing our trek we walked to Convent Garden to meet Goni, an old friend from Notts, and enjoyed a cup of drink at a coffee shop down the road from the British Museum run by a grouchy woman. It was nice to catch up and see a familiar face in the crowds of crazys. It was then off to the British Museum to see an exhibit on Persia (Azzy’s half Iranian) and wander around the mummies and Greek sculptures.
By the time we left it was dark… and where do you go the week before Christmas at night? OXFORD STREET! So off we went to window shop and get knocked over by people. Ok, there was definitely just as many people on the streets as in NY but there was one major difference. The people in London DON’T KNOW WHERE TO WALK! I have a theory – hear me out. In America we drive on the right and pass on the left, right? So, naturally we tend to walk on the right side of a walkway and pass people on their left. It makes sense and prevents collisions. Now in England they drive on the left, yet they don’t tend to walk on the left like one would expect. Now combine this confusion with the fact that 75% of London is not English and you have a lot of people who don’t know what side of the road to walk on. It’s not pretty boys and girls – pick a side! Either way we couldn’t afford to shop so we moved on to the Museum of Natural History to watch the people ice skate. Did you know you could book ice skating ahead of time? They were sold out through Boxing Day. Wow!
That brings us to the third day of our grand tour. We decided we needed to get to London like a local so if was Camden Markets next. We walked and bought cheap scarves and hats and stuff till we realized we didn’t need any of it and couldn’t afford any more. We stopped for lunch at a diner run by what looked like Harley guys. We were the only people in the place and the meals were two for one so it was perfect!
By this time we had just enough time to hit Starbucks and enjoy the solitude of Russell Square. I love little parks in the middle of cities – it offers peace in the middle of the city bustle. (note: Bryant Park beats Russell Square)
And after I had my first Starbucks (a caramel mocchiato) we paid the overpriced £11 to collect our bags from storage at the Victoria Train Station and boarded Megabus to move on to our next destination…
till then folks…