Me at the sign for Abbey Road, right across from where all the magic happened, on my first Beatles pilgrimage this side of the Atlantic.
Tag Archives: london
A nice view of Tower Bridge from the Tower of London, Bloody Tower.
A political protest that was going on across from the Houses of Parliament.
A nice view of the Parliament Houses, the “Eye” and good old Big Ben.
At St. James Palace, standing with one of the famous British guards. (Check out my tourist-ey Tevas! I’m stylin. . .)
I pretty much saw everything in London today.
I got up and had a nice continental breakfast at the hotel while I read the London paper. Lots of lunchmeat and cheese and pastries and fruit for breakfast, and good bran flakes with yogurt. It has been strange to read the news and watch TV coverage of what’s going on in New Orleans, while being here. It feels surreal to hear other people commenting on what’s going on in your own country when you aren’t there. All the editorials here are lambasting us for being such racists, since the majority of people who got out of New Orleans were white, and the majority who are stuck there are Black and Latino. An accurate and critique worth thinking about, I’d say.
We had a big guided bus tour that started at 8:45, and our cheeky, middle-aged British lady tour guide took us around to all the sites — Prince Albert Hall, St James Palace (where we got to stand next to a stone-faced guard in a red jacket with a bearskin hat), Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Picadilly Circus, Soho, Trafalgar Square. . .you name it, we drove past it in a bus, and if we were lucky, we got out and took pictures. We ended the tour at the Tower of London, where our admittance was prepaid. So we ventured in a for a bit, saw some torture chambers, the Crown Jewels, etc.
Then a group of us decided to venture across the Tower Bridge and we walked along the Thames to see Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (the third one, because of that damn fire-attracting thatched roof) and ended up at the Tate Modern. What an incredible museum. I guess I’m used to the Carnegie International being the most art I get, so this blew me away. They have an amazing Mark Rothkoe room, and the galleries are arranged by subject, rather than time period or artistic movement — I particularly enjoyed the “Landscape/Matter/Environment” and the “Nude/Action/Body” sections. We picked up a few more people in our little sightseeing group, and after I defended the value of modern art against Victorian pictures of little boys and boats and puppies, we walked back across the Thames on a cool pedestrian bridge and found the nearest Tube station.
We bought all-day Tube passes for £4.70, hopped on the Circle Line, and ended up at Covent Garden. It is a cool, hip place to eat and drink and shop and walk on little cobblestone streets, so we wandered there for a while before finding a pub to crawl into. I had an amazing amber ale — London’s Pride — that was the best beer I’ve had thus far in Europe, and we hung out for a good while. It was the first time I felt like I was at a pub drinking with friends, rather than random people I met for study abroad, so that was a great feeling. It was me; Zac from Pittsburgh; Tina; a girl named Megan who goes to Gannon in Erie; Becka, from Minnesota; John, from Lubbock, TX; and Mike, from Austin, who has great music and film taste (he brought up Matthew Barney and Cremaster at the pub!!) A nice little clique with a good dynamic.
After the pub, we got back on the Tube and decided to ride to a random stop and explore there, so we ended up a few stops up at Goodge Street, a kind of technological center, it seemed. I convinced the group to hop on the Jubilee line and go to St Johns Wood with me for my Beatles pilgrimage of London — Abbey Road. They obliged and we walked across the zebra-striped street, posed next to the scrawled-on street sign, and I marveled at the EMI Studios, “where it all happened.”
We went back to the station to head down to Chinatown for dinner, but there was a power outage and the Jubilee line wasn’t working. So we got on a big red double-decker bus instead, and rode to another station to connect with another (functional) Tube line. We ended up in Chinatown and ate at a dingy restaurant and had big plates of beef and vegetables and rice for about £7. Not bad. We stopped at a convenience store on the way back to the Tube and I got a £1.49 can of Stella Artois for the ride; went to the internet cafe across from the hotel and wrote some emails, and now it is time for bed.
It was a good, busy day. I like London, and would enjoy spending some more time here, getting to know the place, driving around on the country routes, if you will. Perhaps someday. . .
I am in London. “The Borough of Kensington and Chelsea,” specifically, in my 14th floor room at the Holiday Inn-Kensington Forum. I’m watching some HGTV-type show with British people (surprise) buying antiques.
Everything about my journey thus far has been incredibly novel. All of Britain is novel to me. Charles Darwin is on the back of the £20 note. Right now I have these coins: 1 penny, 2 pence, 5 pence, 10 pence, 20 pence, 50 pence, and 1 pound (which, incidentally, is much smaller than most of the other coins, but weighs considerably more). You have to put your room key in a slot by the door and leave it there in order for the lights to function. You have to hold the toilet flusher in for as long as you want it to flush; not push it once and have it flush everything down like in the US. These types of things.
I got on my British Airways flight at 9:20 last night, Chicago time, and arrived at Heathrow about 11:30 this morning, London time. (I think we are 5 hours ahead of home here.) The flight was surprisingly enjoyable; it went quickly; it was the most comfortable and posh flight I have ever been on. I rode in economy class, of course, so to get to my cabin I had to walk past First Class, where each passenger gets his/her own private compartment, and some kind of “Club Europe” class, where each passenger gets a special reclining seat and footrest. But in my cabin, my seat was equipped with a little TV screen in the seat in front, and a package laid on the seat that contained a pillow, a British Airways blanket, a pair of headphones, and a little pouch with socks, a toothbrush, toothpaste and eyeshade. (I have never felt like more of an easily amused American than when oogling over my plane care-package.) I watched the BBC World News, a terrible Ashton Kutcher movie that was filmed in Silverlake (it was pretty cool to recognize scenery in a movie), and listened to the new Bruce Springsteen and Aimee Mann albums on the in-flight radio while I dozed off a bit. We got dinner sometime during the night — beef lasagna, a salad, a roll, a little bottle of white zinfandel, and a little piece of chocolate chip cake. In the morning, we got a little breakfast pouch with orange juice, blueberry yogurt and a blueberry muffin.
So, we got to London, got our luggage, got our passports stamped, and got in a funny 9-passenger VW van and drove, on the wrong side of the street, to our hotel. I rode all the way from Pittsburgh with a kid named Zac, who is from Pittsburgh and goes to Mercyhurst in Erie; my roommate here in London is a girl named Tina who goes to school in Austin, Texas; they’re pretty much the only people I’ve connected with so far. We got checked into our rooms, Tina got in the shower and I went downstairs to touch base with Mom and Dad and Jut. (We were told not to use the phones in our rooms because they charge £1 a minute or something.) But by the time they connected me with Mom and Dad, my phone card had gone from 180 minutes to 37 minutes — absurd! So I talked to them for a bit, called Jut and unknowingly got him out of bed, forgetting it would be 6:30 am in New Mexico. By the time I got back up to my room, Tina had gone, and Zac wasn’t answering his door. So I got in the shower, washed off the airport dirt, and decided to venture out on my own.
I suppose I should be able to manage on my own in London for a few hours; I am an adult. But I was particularly proud of myself, just meandering around the neighborhood, getting used to Europe. My goal was to get to the bank a few blocks down to change my dollars into pounds, but I took the long way and got to see lots of cool old apartment buildings, cafes, pubs, shops, and Brits. Everything is very light here; even the smaller side-streets are wide and bright because of the nice, white-painted houses lining them. It definitely feels more open and vibrant than other cities/neighborhoods. I didn’t get hit crossing the streets because at each sidewalk crossing, the words “LOOK LEFT” or “LOOK RIGHT” are painted on the ground. I guess the British get confused, too? I did have a bit of trouble navigating because the street signs are posted low to the ground on fences in front of houses, and are sometimes obscured by shrubbery. So, I peeked in a few coffee shops, found an internet cafe that charges £1 for 20 minutes, perused a used bookstore, and ended up at the bank. I got $60 changed into £31.25 by a nice Asian lady who didn’t charge me commission because I am a student. She also offered to get me some Czech crowns before I leave for “a good deal;” I think I’ll just wait until Praha.
I decided to find a grocery store next, so I wandered into a small mall-type conglomeration called the Gloucester Arcade, and found a Waitrose supermarket. I think I walked around for 20 minutes just looking at prices, figuring out what I wanted to get, how to get it cheapest, working up the nerve to go to the cash register. It definitely felt like a foreign country, although I’m not sure why. I finally decided on a small loaf of Irish stone-ground wheat bread, a package of English cheddar cheese, and some bananas — all for £3.37!
I was hungry and wanted to find a nice park or bench to sit and eat my bread and cheese, but this is a pretty densely concreted area, with the exception of Hyde Park, which is quite a few blocks North. So I started walking back toward the hotel on a side street and came across an awesome old stone church — The Parish of Saint Stephen or something. It had a little courtyard and a bench in it, so I sat there and enjoyed my own private pocket London and a snack. I was kind of glad I lost track of all my “new friends,” because I needed that time to just get my bearings here, go out on my own, fend for myself, and get a personal taste of London.
I’m still at the point where I want to remember every single thing that happens here, write it down, tell it to everyone back home. I’m sure this will wear off.
We have a meet-and-greet-and-have-a-few-drinks with the rest of our group at 6:00, and I’ve been relaxing in my room, watching BBC, and writing for the last half hour or so. Zac came back and wanted to go get something to eat in a bit, so I will probably walk around some more then. He walked up to Hyde Park this afternoon; something I definitely want to do tomorrow. We are doing a 3-hour sightseeing tour in the morning, which ends at the Tower of London. I think I want to walk down the Thames after that, see the Globe Theater and go to the Tate Museum of Modern Art (which is free, I think!). Then perhaps hop on the Tube and go up to Hyde park, Bloomsbury. I want to just walk around and explore and be a tourist, but my own tourist. This is a cool city, not obnoxious (at least not in this part), and I’m excited to see more of it.
I might take a nap now, to get over my jet-lag a bit and not be anti-social at the gathering.