Maybe it’s because I’ve only been here for two days, maybe it’s because this city is HUGE (I mean HUGE…my legs are so tired!), maybe it’s because I feel like my pockets have been lit on fire by this country (I officially hate the British pound), or maybe it’s because I’m just beginning to feel a tad bit lonely (yeah, I know…already??!).
I arrived yesterday morning after a short train ride from Bath (about 1 1/2 hours), a ride on the London Underground (getting lost only 3 times after poor directions from a Brit – man, I knew I should have trusted my own instincts!), then a few minutes walk from the tube to the “B&B” (a room in the home of a VERY stuffy English woman, with poor taste, and a poopy attitude).
Upon arriving at my destination, my greeting by my hostess Lee was less than thrilling. I was immediately criticized for carrying a backpack vs. a suitcase, and then asked to promptly remove my pack so I wouldn’t “knock all the frames off the walls” of her home… my dear! After a few more minutes of awkward greeting, I dropped my bags, and high-tailed my way into the city.
With no clue of where I was headed (the maps I have are a bit confusing) I decided to make my way towards the theater area to see if I might be able to catch an evening show. After viewing the ticket prices I figured it best to wait til’ Monday to save myself a few pounds. I bought the cheapest ticket I could get my hands on for Monday night’s showing of Billy Elliot and I can’t wait to see it!!!
I continued on foot to Buckingham Palace, snapping a few photos of its golden gates, and the surrounding areas. I was tickled to know that the Queen herself was actually “home” signified by the royal flag hanging at full mast above the front doors. I continued on, walking The Mall and then through St. James Park. After a couple of hours of wandering, I fell upon Westminster Abbey right before dusk which was ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL.
Steadily becoming more, and more disappointed that I had yet to find Big Ben, I turned to my left and voila!: there he was…all big, and tall, and stunning! What a sight! From the second I laid eyes on Ben I knew I was going have to break my husband’s only rule for this trip: to return before dark (okay, not really a rule, just protective husband wishful thinking).
As the sun touched down, Ben began to glow radiantly against the cloudy sky, and was a perfect contrast to the London Eye (a gigantic ferris wheel across the River Thames). I returned back to my room feeling quite accomplished, and incredibly privileged to get the opportunity to be on this trip and see these monuments that I have dreamed about seeing since I was little.
The golden gates of Buckingham Palace.
There are these amazingly fantastic entrances all over the city…one of my favs so far. Just beautiful.
Me and Ben.
The London Eye. Only 18 pounds a ride (approx. $28 USD)…YOWZA!
View of the River Thames..the London Eye on the left, Big Ben on the right.
Ben after dark.
House of Parliment and Big Ben.
Day 2 in London, actually began quite hilariously. As I entered the kitchen for breakfast, I was greeted very pleasantly by this adorable older couple (Ben and John who appear to be in their early to mid 60’s I presume and are American – although John says his parents are English, and he speaks with an accent) who are occupying the room upstairs. After a bit of chatter I reached across the table for a croissant and began adding jelly to it. At that point Lee swiftly moved into action by bringing over an additional plate with a croissant and slice of bread on it stating that I had taken one of “their croissants” (never mind there being 5 of them in their basket) and then abruptly stealing the one off my plate and dropping it into their basket…I couldn’t help but want to laugh out loud! I can’t do right by this broad!
After breakfast, Ben and John were kind enough to invite me along on their stroll to Portobello Market (a Saturday market with a bunch of antiques and such in Notting Hill) and since I was already planning on heading that way I decided to tag along. It was nice to get the chance to speak with a few Americans and not feel so alone in such a large city. It helped that Ben and John are incredibly entertaining…finishing each other’s sentences, pointing out the history of the city, and even sharing with me how Ben is “a medical miracle” – surviving a massive brain hemorrhage 8 years ago…quite the story!
Portobello Market was such an intense and exciting adventure for me! For someone who usually isn’t bothered by large crowds…this crowd became a bit unbearable near the end, so much that Ben and John said their farewells, and took a side street away from all the hustle and bustle. I continued on in search of the perfect antique to bring home, and was very proud of myself for waiting for the perfect opportunity, and bargain.
After roaming the streets of Notting Hill, taking in all the beautiful homes and colorful paint choices, I decided to head south for Kensington Gardens, Knightsbridge, and Belgravia for a bit of shopping. After only a few moments of window shopping, I became acutely aware that this would not be an afternoon of extravagant purchases, but rather a “look but don’t touch” type of experience instead. All of the beautiful fabrics, designer labels, and fantastic accessories were all too tempty for the fashion junky : )
A couple of fun tidbits to share:
1) I’m officially using and thinking to myself in a British accent…it’s true! First, I can’t help it! AND second, NO one appears to understand my American accent – often giving me a puzzled look and then stating “Oh! You mean…such and such.”
2) There must have been a civil rights movement of the dogs, by the dogs, for the dogs, because I have yet to see a single pup on a leash. They appear to have a complete life of their own: often crossing heavy traffic on the green walk sign (I’m quite serious), running either far ahead or far behind their owners, and rolling around in the silky grass of most of the parks and gardens I have visited. It is so much fun to see them frolicking through their city!
3) The most hilarious part of traveling alone is that you immediately become the resident photographer for ALL of the other tourists. No joke – every 3rd person I cross on the street requests me to take their photo…I laugh a little everytime it happens cause I can tell exactly when it’s coming…they get this crazed look in their eye and then pounce on me. I actually don’t mind it at all, BUT no one ever offers to take my picture!
T0morrow…on to Hyde Park for a stroll and possibly a tube ride to Wimbledon for my Dad…then plans for a Sunday afternoon of tea, coffee, sweet treats and reading. Until then…cherrio!
Quintessential Notting Hill, just a few blocks from where I’m staying.
Colorful Portobello Road.
A few of the fantastic antiques along Portobello Market. Wish I could take them home with me!
The one and only doggie I have seen thus far on a leash. He was so cute up on his tubs selling antiques, that I just had to snap his photo.
A prime example of one of the adroable little pups doing their own thing. This guy was my favorite.
Kensington Palace: where Princess Diana once lived.
A shopper’s delight: Harrods Department Store.