“We’re currently leaving Las Canarias where it’s sunny and 32 degrees (like 90 Fahrenheit), and we’ll be landing in London about four hours where it’s raining and 8 degrees (46 Fahrenheit).” Oh, the sadness.
As soon as I landed in London, I was lost. There were no marked signs about where to go for which trains or anything, so I rn over to the nearest crowd of people I could find. Turns out they only spoke French, but at least they knew where my train was. Crisis averted.
Next problem: I found out the exchange rte from dollars to sterling is AWFUL. And everything here is more expensive. And the money is really super confusing. Bronze coins are either one cent or two cents (the two cent pieces are enormous, like silver dollars in the US), and then you have silver coins that are 5 and 10 cents (about the same size as a penny and a two cent piece), and then two more silver coins that aren’t round (they’re decagonal or something) and are 20 and 50 cents, then there’s the gold-colored one pound piece, and a gold and silver 2 pound piece. Notes start at five… But any country that puts Darwin on their 10-unit currency is okay with me!
I withdrew some money and got in one of the MILLION lines for the ticket machines. I got to one, chose to get a ticket, and it did this to me:
Windows XP, why you fail so hard?
The trains here go at least three or four times faster than the other ones I’ve seen. After one passed me going through the station, a Russian couple started laughing with me and remarked how incredibly fast it was traveling.
But I made it! I got off at London bridge which was close to where my friend heather was staying, with whom I would be staying for the next eight days.
My first picture in downtown London!
This is Tower Bridge. There are a ton of bridges over the Thames.
London looks every bit as London-y as you would imagine. Lots of brick buildings, sections of old city mixed in with contemporary buildings, lots of lights, tons of tourists, etc. The streets are always wet, it’s hardly ever sunny, and it likes to mist. A lot.
Anyway! Heather let me in to sleep in her “flat” with her “flat mates” and use the “wash closet.”
I went out to see a fireworks show with Heather and her fellow master’s students at the London School of Economics. It was really cool; cold, but we all walked together along the river to the Millenium Bridge and watched the show meant to celebrate Guy Fox attempting to blow up parliament. Does anyone else find it ironic that they celebrate this by lighting off fireworks?
Aw, the tiniest fountain in all of Europe!
Afterwards we headed to a “pub” for “chips” and I tried some cider, which was fantastic.
I spent several days working on applying for grad school and playing pokemon games on my iPad. I was living on jelly filled donuts, baguettes, Nutella… You know, the healthy stuff. Then I finally decided to get off my ass and do interesting things.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew what I knew about London. There was Sherlock Holmes, and Harry Potter, Big Ben, the parliament building… That was it. So I downloaded a map onto my phone (I don’t have a British SIM card so I have no cellular data or gps while I’m here… This will be fun) and marked what I knew on the map, then took the “tube” (the metro) to a place far far away from Heather’s place. First of all, there was a “Baker Street” stop, so I walked there and attempted to find 221 B. Right at Baker Street, I found a McDonalds, a KFC (what?) and a Starbucks. After a few minutes walking down the street though, I found…! The Sherlock Holmes museum. Blah. Sort of takes the magic away. I took a picture and noticed Kings Cross Station was within a mile away, so I stated walking that direction.
Saw this on the way. London, I’mma tell you the same thing I told France. CALM DOWN. YOU’RE TRYING TOO HARD.
At least London asks the right questions.
Super cool “Renaissance Hotel” next to King’s Cross.
As I got close to King’s Cross I was getting really, incredibly excited. Like way more thani should have been. My body was basically vibrating and threatening to move on to the next plane of existence without me. I guess I have this problem where I’m totally obsessed with the idea of seeing all the places from the Harry Potter films/books… Oh well!
Here’s platform 9…
And 9 and 3/4! These people in line for a photo are silly. I just got a pic of the wall and smiled a lot and kept walking.
It was getting dark, so I decided to head back and find more things the next day. Meandering southward, I ran into a lot of cool things!
Quintessential London street at night. Quite busy…
I found Big Ben!
And the parliament building. To go along with the whole Harry Potter obsession, I was more excited about seeing it from this angle and at night because it was in the fifth Harry Potter movie than the fact that it’s the British parliament building, but we’ll just pretend I’m not that shallow about British things.
The “tube” is, on some lines, tube shaped! It’s really expensive to get around London. Like, three to four times more expensive as Paris. Fortunately, you can purchase this thing called an Oyster card that cuts all your public transportation costs in half (and then it’s only 1.5 times as much as public transport in Paris). Getting an Oyster card requires a deposit of £5. Oh, did I mention I’m budgeting £10 a day while I’m here? Instead of taking public transportation everywhere, I’m limiting myself to one use a day. Despite walking the distance of a marathon in the past four days, my feet are doing surprisingly well…
Hahahaha. It was too good to pass it up.
London is separated into a bajillion little neighborhoods. In fact, it’s so huge, there are several postal codes in London denoting which section of it you live in. Like NW1SE2. I don’t think that’s a real code but they generally denote directions in the city and which zone you live in within that section. At least, as far as I can tell.
So I decided to tour Soho, the gay part of London. As soon as you step foot within Soho, you can tell you’re in the part of London that has money. Everything is shiny and new, there are maps on the street conveniently placed for people to navigate, there are lots of expensive stores everywhere, and the whole neighborhood is decorated for Christmas currently. I LOVE IT. It’s strange; you can almost feel the Christmas just emanating from everyone, the cafés, the street… I think if I had to pick a vacation spot for Christmas Day, it would be Soho. Grab a hot chocolate, throw on your scarf (code bufanda!), snuggle up with a friend, enjoy the atmosphere… It would be perfect here.
This dog didn’t have anyone watching it that I could tell but it was SO CUTE and just sat there looking sadly at people with this flyer about war in its mouth.
Look how wonderful it is!
More on London later.