Yesterday was a big day. And a really great day!
After a quick breakfast of tea and toast, we headed out to the train station. Gillian (who I’m staying with) told me how EVERYONE uses the train as transportation, even members of parliament! Good thing I got in some public transportation practice in Portland this summer. We took the train from Harpenden to City Thameslink station, about 30 minutes, and went outside to see we were right in the heart of London! (Actually, geographically, it might not be central at all, but it just felt so London-y.) There were double deckers everywhere… I learned that the double deckers with roofs were for real transportation, and the ones without roofs were predominantly for tourists. I also learned, though, that I really couldn’t make fun of the tourists AT ALL because I was the biggest tourist of the day. It was so great.
First we headed to St. Paul’s Cathedral. I was astounded at what a great view we had of it everywhere in the city, so Johnny explained that it has protected sightlines- basically, every other building cannot block the view of the Cathedral. Some buildings are even weird shapes and angles solely for the purpose of seeing it! So cool! The architecture was incredible, the building was huge, and there were so many beautiful details in the stone. We also went to the top of a nearby mall, via glass elevator with a view of the Cathedral, to see it from above and see more of the city skyline. One of my favorite things about London was the juxtaposition of old and new; in the evenings, the roof of this glassy, polished mall is a cocktail bar, with a stunning view of the Cathedral built in 1675. So crazy.
Next, after I made Johnny and Gillian take a picture of me in a telephone box (“No one even uses those anymore, except to go to the bathroom! Just don’t tell everyone how bad it smells.”) we walked across the Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian suspension bridge, to the South bank of the Thames. I quickly realized that basically all I know about London is from Harry Potter… All I could think about while walking across was how the Death Eaters destroyed it in the 6th movie. It was still pretty cool though.
We walked along the South bank, which had some cute little shops and buildings, toward the London Eye. This part of the walk taught me I have to remember to look down when I walk, not just up, because the ground is literally all cobblestone and I have a great tendency to trip quite often.
I’ve wanted to go on the London Eye for such a long time, because I love all things ferris wheel and this is probably one of the best in the world. We were super lucky with the weather, which was 31 degrees C (I just nodded like I understood this then looked up the weather on my phone to find it was like 88 degrees F) and made everything so clear and beautiful, and also the lack of a “queue” at the Eye. We got right on and got to look over the Thames for miles! London stretched as far as the eye (haha, the Eye) could see. In every direction there was some distinctively London landmark. Unfortunately, a lot of my pictures have glare from the bubble thing we were in, but it was still incredible!
We stopped at a little sandwich shop, Pret a Manger, for lunch, and ate in front of the Thames with a view of Big Ben. I learned that Big Ben is actually the name of the bell tower, but is always used incorrectly to refer to the clock instead. I kept calling the clock Big Ben anyway. After eating, we walked across Westminster Bridge (with all the other tourists) and took lots of fun pictures of Big Ben.
Next, we kept walking to Westminster Abbey. The Abbey was SO incredibly beautiful… the intricate details couldn’t even be captured in pictures, and the building was really huge. We couldn’t go inside (for free at least) so instead went in the adjacent building, St. Margaret’s Church, which was also very beautiful and peaceful. There was amazing stained glass art on the inside that was probably my favorite part.
I guess this is getting kind of long, so I’ll speed up a little bit. We walked to Buckingham Palace, passing some other really amazing government buildings and Downing Street (where the Prime Minister lives) along the way. The walkway to the Palace was really cool, with trees lining the street, paved red, and lots of flowers and gardens in front. Even the gates surrounding the palace were really intricate and beautiful! There were beefeaters (the guards in red with the big fluffy black hats) at the edge of the castle and policemen at the gates. I thought it was pretty funny, though, when the postman showed up and had to be let through the gates.
I took the tube for the first time after Buckingham Palace, towards Tower Hill. So fast and easy! There, we got to see the outside of the Tower of London and walk across the Tower Bridge. Both such iconic sights. I’d love to go back to the Tower of London and go inside; there’s so much history there. The Tower Bridge was also incredible- so large and magnificent! As usual, I took loads of touristy pictures.
After crossing the bridge, we took the underground again to King’s Cross Station. Unfortunately, there had been a remodel of the station since Harry Potter, so it didn’t look like I imagined it, but there was a really cool Harry Potter store that I could’ve spent hours in.
At that point in the day, hot, tired, and ready to go home, we took the train back to Harpenden. According to my Fitbit, we got around 20,000 steps in! But overall, an amazing amazing first day in London.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.