Holiday Travels, Part III: London, England

London Bridge at night

For our third city, the theme song was “All the Umbrellas in London” by The Magnetic Fields, one of my favourite bands. As we only had two days and three nights here, it was a whirlwind tour, and I definitely have to return to London when it’s warmer and get to know the city better. Or move there, who knows? Since Canada’s got the sweet Commonwealth deal it would be a lot easier to get a visa to live there than to get into Austria. But I digress.

More importantly, The Magnetic Fields are awesome:

December 27th

When we finally found our seats on the Eurostar train to London, we were magically in first class –- a surprise from our online booking! That meant that we actually got some food (it being France, it was a tiny cheese, a tiny piece of ham, a tiny date, and a little bottle of red wine, all adorable) for the grueling 2.5-hour journey. I didn’t even notice when we went through the Channel Tunnel (or Chunnel, as they say), as it was dark out, but I’m sure it was awesome.

We got into the London station around 10 pm and took the underground to our hotel on South Lambeth Road. This hotel room was even tinier than the last–more like a hostel room, really. Thus far, our room progression in each location had been like a series of Russian dolls: each room could fit into the one before it. All five of us were in one room (bunkbeds!) and the bathroom looked like a pod on a spaceship. We scavenged for a 16-pound dinner at a corner store and Laur got all nostalgic about eating English food like block cheddar and fun cereal, since she’s been living in France for the past four months and feeling rather deprived of variety for certain foods.

December 28th

We started our London experience with a Full English Breakfast at a little restaurant on our street, and then took the Tube downtown, where we booked a Big Bus Tour and traveled around the city for a couple of hours.

Upon stopping at the Tower of London, we disembarked from the bus for a few hours to check it out:

Tower of London from the Thames

The first part of the fortress/castle was built in the 12th century or thereabouts, which is impressive. And now, as with most awesome and/or old buildings, it was teeming with camera-toting foreigners intent on absorbing the local history in a couple of hours (us included).

Tower Guards switchin' it up

As part of the original bus tour, we got a River Boat cruise down the Thames at sunset in order to see the fronts of the buildings facing the riverbank -– including the Tate Modern Museum, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and the London Bridge.

A string of typical London hotspots ensues:

Modern buildings along the riverbank
Big Ben!

Dave went to meet his friend Gilbert, whom he met in Los Angeles last year on exchange, and we went to see Buckingham Palace and the gardens around it. We ate fish and chips and drank beer at a Pub nearby – completely stereotypical, completely delicious – and then Laur and I found Dave, Gilbert and Jammy and we wandered along the Thames in the mist. We stopped at a Pub called Doggett’s for some beer and mulled wine, and then took the long route back to the tube so we could see St Paul’s Cathedral all lit up along the way.

London is beautiful at night:

The London Eye

December 29th

Fueled by another Full English breakfast near Victoria Station, we walked across the Millennium Bridge and fed candied street nuts to the pigeons. We went to see the outside of the Globe Theatre and visited the Tate Modern, an amazing museum, and then went to meet Mom at the Victoria and Albert Museum and had tea.

Globe Theatre, the only thatched roof allowed in London!

We went to Harrod’s, the famous department store that has a tribute to Princess Di in its atrium, and walked around Picadilly Circus, although all of our shots of it are too weirdly blurry to post. [Full disclosure: a lot of our photos are really blurry; I like to think that this factor enhances the photos with a sense of mystery and/or excitement and/or spinning in circles.]

A definite highlight of London: Laur and I went in Westminster Abbey and stood on the tombs of various famous English authors and government types — standing on T.S. Eliot’s tomb was a little surreal. After all, I love the guy:

What a charmer

Westminster is imposing yet beautiful:

It can spidey-sense your sins

True creatures of habit, we ate dinner at another English pub, and then walked around Leicester Square, Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square. Laur and I went to a seedy bar near our hotel and got cider from a man named Sam with a wicked accent and exactly three blackened teeth remaining in his bottom gums. We only made it to the bar after being scared by drunken hobos twice in a tunnel near our Tube Stop and mistakenly almost going into a transvestite strip club — Sam and his sketchy patrons seemed rather tame in comparison. Dave got home from visiting Gilbert just after we did, but had forgotten his camera at Gilbert’s house, which is basically on the other side of the city from where we were traveling to in the morning, Heathrow Airport! Dun dun dun…

Cliffhanger! Does Dave get his camera in time for the flight?

Until next time, London. I’m quite enamoured with you.

So superior to those lame one-level buses
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