England Summer Trip 2013 – London (part 1)

This is the continuation of my summer 2013 trip to England that I started writing about in this post. Here are all of the posts. [update: I started writing this post months ago but I keep procrastinating. My goal is to complete this series of posts before the anniversary of the trip.]

London

When we last saw our intrepid traveler is was relaxing comfortably in the Park Lane hotel in London while a summer rainstorm thundered outside. OK, enough attempting to make this post novelized this. I am sincerely sorry that it has taken my lazy butt this long to get back to writing about my trip last August.

The first night

After my afternoon nap during the rainstorm I decided to chill in my hotel room for a while. There was no air conditioner in the suite which I thought was odd but maybe that is common in English hotels. The room was a bit stuff so I started to open the  windows hoping to get a nice breeze and fresh air. I then took some time to reorganize my luggage and photography gear. I also relaxed and surfed through the TV channels. I believe there were about 100 channels where the majority of them represented individual countries around the world. Around eight or so I started to get hungry and I figured I would just try the restaurant attached to the hotel named Citrus. I took a quick shower in the enormous bathroom (I should have taken a picture) and got dressed. When I arrived at what I thought was the entrance to Citrus it looked fairly busy but I was ignored for a good five minutes as I stood there. I caught the waitress’ attention and asked to be seated outside as the weather had cleared up and there looked to be prime people watching from the outdoor seating. The rain had cleared out but the temperature had dropped but I really wanted to enjoy the night air. I was again left alone for a while which I found quite odd. When the waitress finally addressed me I ordered an appetizer and dinner and enjoyed watching all of the people walking along the side-walk. The people seemed to come from all walks of life and culture. Many clusters of people who were probably heading out to a club or pub in the area. I would smile at anyone that made eye contact and most would smile back. I finally got my entrée around 9:30pm and it was good. After I finished eating I again had to wait quite a while for the waitress to bring my check. The temperature had either dropped more or the breeze had become more brisk as I started to get chilled and wanted to go inside. But as I waited a couple of women, I think of Mediterranean or Middle Eastern descent stopped and chatted with me. I had seen them earlier and smiled getting a smile in return. They asked if I wanted to go to a pub with them. I thought for a second and declined as I was tired. I failed to represent the WWGCD (What Would George Clooney Do?) philosophy. I should have taken them up on the offer and seen what the night had in store but I chickened out.

After paying I went back up to my room and was a bit stir crazy and a bit kicking myself for declining the offer to go out. I threw on a fleece and went for a walk along Park Lane. Not that I hadn’t done a ton of walking that day already. Anyway, I made my way all of the way to Piccadilly Circus at which point it was getting pretty late and I decided that the week was going to be long enough and I needed to get some rest. So back to the hotel I went and right to bed just after midnight.

Day #1

I woke up the next morning, after sleeping in a bit, and got my stuff together for a long day of sightseeing. My first stop was a chain named Pret A Manger which to me seems like a cross between Starbucks and Panera Bread. I had a Diet Coke and a chocolate croissant. The Breakfast of Champions! I had researched ahead of time but I consulted my handy-dandy guide-book and determined at least my first stop of the day which was the changing of the cavalry guards at the Horse Guards Parade. It was very difficult to get any “clean” shots of the guards without other tourists and their cameras getting in the way. It was amazing to watch the ceremony that happens twice daily and even more amazing how many people show up to watch the ceremony.

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I then started to meander through St. James Park. An asian girl who seemed very frantic was going to various people asking for help but it was apparent that she didn’t know English and had somehow lost her group. When she came to me I did my good deed for the day and I helped her to the best of my ability. She needed to go to Buckingham Palace and although it was very close I didn’t know exactly how to explain it to her so I pulled out my phone and showed her where we were and where the palace was on the map. She then frantically ran in the general direction of Buckingham Palace. I continued in that general direction taking my time to enjoy this amazing park with its abundance of birds and flowers.

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Buckingham Palace is a rather austere building on its own but with the large sculptures and the famous guards it stands out. There were a ton of tourists loitering around the statues and near the fence keeping the commoners away from the palace. As I was arriving so was the Calvary Guards on their horses. I didn’t realize that I would beat them to the palace but here’s the proof.

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And here are some other photos from the palace.

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After watching the guards march and stomp my stomach told me it was time to leave and grab lunch. I lucked upon a neat little pub that was set below street level called The Old Monk Exchange. I thought it was named The Old Monk but either the name changed or more likely I’m mis-remembering. Anyway, I sat in this small vaulted area which had skylights and it was pretty neat. The food was ok.

After lunch I considered hitting Churchill’s War Room but there was a long line. I then just decided to explore the area. Here’s Westminster Cathedral which is not the same as the Westminster Abbey, the former being Catholic while the latter being Anglican.

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I continued to explore and passed through many little parks such as Grosvenor Gardens where there were many interesting statues including “Alien” by David Breuer-Weil.

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I made my way back to the hotel and cleaned up a little and went to dinner at an Italian place called Spaghetti House which I couldn’t tell if it was a chain restaurant or not but seemed to be staffed by Italians. The food was good but a little expensive. After dinner I walked around a bit more but my feet were killing me so I made my way back to the hotel and to sleep.

day #2

I woke up refreshed and knew that today I was going to hit more sights. First stop was a little convenience store across from the British Museum where I bought a pastry and some water for the day. I ate my breakfast on the lawn in front of the British Museum and then I proceeded inside. All of my humanities classes came flooding back to me as I walked through history.

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This bird caught my attention as it’s the same type of bird that I saw in Kathmandu in 2011.

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Game of Thrones has nothing on this iron throne!

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I think I could easily spend days at this museum. If I was a London resident I would definitely have a membership. It is an amazing museum and I spent way too long in it including lunch which I purchased from the cafe in the atrium.

After a couple of more hours in this wonderful museum I struck out to hit the National Gallery. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment. When I got to the National Gallery I had very little time (I think less than an hour) so I flew through the halls trying to absorb as many works as I could. My body was fighting me as my legs and feet were done walking for the day so I had to stop often to rest. Luckily, in galleries there are typically places to sit. I was gently urged to move on as they closed each gallery hall. This is definitely worth another visit. Here are some photos I took after exiting the gallery.

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My feet and legs were killing me so I decided that I might as well get dinner before continuing back to the hotel. I saw a neat Thai place that seemed to be set up with seating meant for people watching which seemed very cool to me. Once I entered Busaba Eathai I realized that I was probably under-dressed for this trendy place but at that point I didn’t care. The food was really good and I found a plug to charge my phone :-) while I ate.

After dinner I choose to walk back to the hotel so that I could explore more but that was probably a bad choice because my feet and legs were already on fire. I had to stop in many squares and parks including Leichester Square, Chinatown, Soho Square, Golden Square, and Neal’s Yard (my mom asked me to visit this one). Finally, I made a hurried dash through Green Park after dark which was a little bit scary as I didn’t know if I was going to be mugged or not (it reminds me of Central Park in Manhattan). It seems like this park is used by couples to have some “time alone” in the big city.

And that ends my second whole day in London. Watch out for part 2 (hopefully sooner than later).

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