London. What to say about a city that has so much to offer? From galleries, to royalty, from endless walking to big bus tours, from tons of versions of the English accent to foreign languages everywhere.
I arrived bright and early on Saturday morning and quickly got my bearings, finding my way into London from Gatwick. Grabbed an oyster card at Victoria and made my way to the hostel the long way round…. why follow the instructions the hostel sent when I could lug my stuff the long way round because I am too tired to conceive I might have received instructions. All that research and within a couple hours I was lost. Bodes well, eh?
Dropped my gear at the hostel and decided to combat jet lag with walking and sightseeing. And what better place to start than the south bank of the Thames? It was a sunny and warm day as I walked over the Waterloo Bridge, and listened to clock at Big Ben chime that I was really here.
From there, I headed past the London Eye and over Westminster Bridge towards Parliament and St. James Park. On the way, I lucked out and caught one of those London traditions, the Changing of the Guard at Horse Guard Palace.
Wandering along, I came to Trafalgar Square. Now that they have removed all the pigeons, it’s much cleaner, but it is also much busier. All the tourists in London had the same plan….
Not about to be daunted, I made it through the crowds and headed into the National Gallery for a bit. Just missed a tour, but made up my own for a little while. After that, I headed around the corner to the National Portrait Gallery, to see some of the newer works since I had last been there. And, to my delight, there was a whole exhibition on Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for 9 days during the time of the Tudors. (So why is she always referred to as Lady and not Queen?) I have read a lot about her since I first heard her story when I was about 9 and enjoy that time and place in history. No photos allowed in the gallery, but it was certainly a highlight for me.
I grabbed a quick lunch at a local sandwich chain that I love, and sat on the steps of St. Martins-in-the-field and watched people go by, one of my favourite London pastimes. And this is such a great spot to do it. People come and go from the vast space in front, from the sidestreets, nooks and crannies, from inside buildings, and from around the corner.
Deciding I need to relax a bit and maybe take an afternoon nap, I headed to St. James Park. After about 15 minutes it began to rain, and in true British style, no one was daunted. Within seconds, there were umbrella’s everywhere, and those without taking refuge under the trees, knowing that in London, if it rains on a sunny day, just wait 15 minutes and the weather will change. In the meantime, the band struck up and gave us some classical tunes to wait by.
A trip past Buckingham and back to the hostel to check in. Then, deciding to continue to combat jet lag, I headed back to the South Bank, this time heading for the Tate Modern and a walk over the Millennium Bridge. Once again, a quick rain storm came by, and like others, I too took refuge. Mine came with a great view.
Last time I was here, the Millennium Bridge was open for a few short days before closing and so I missed my chance. Not this time.
Exhausted, and beginning to get blisters, I finally headed back to the hostel for a night of rest. Ha. There is no such thing as a night of rest in hostel. In London. On a weekend. Good thing there are lots of parks to nap in.