Now that I am finally at home, changed, and fed, I can sit down and tell you all about my day.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, because the forecast said it would rain, but I’ve learned not to trust those apps/websites anymore, because the weather is just too unpredictable – anywhere in this world. I left the flat with a full bag: umbrella, water bottle, snacks, money, scarf, extra light-weight jacket, foldable shopping bag, etc., and was ready to begin my adventure.
The plan was to visit Westminster Abbey/Big Ben first, but I had to change my schedule last minute. It resulted in some wasted time (backtracking), but walking around was a lot of fun and I got to see more. Yesterday, I spent most of my day compiling research, looking at maps, websites, events, recommendations, and reading articles to plan my next 3 days. I also wrote meal plans and made a grocery list to save time & money from eating out. I’ve been doing way too much of that lately anyways.
For breakfast, I had Yeo Valley’s blueberry yogurt mixed with muesli (dark chocolate pieces, oats, raisins, crunchy grains) and a slice of toast with jam. I made a sandwich with 2 slices of gouda cheese, 3 slices of red bell peppers, and some pastrami. I packed some carrot sticks, 2 apples, 2 nectarines, and a granola bar. I’d say it was a balanced diet.
During Transit (The Tube)…
Lucky for me all the lines were in “good” service, so it was a quick trip to St. Jame’s Park Stn, via the Circle Line. I had to transfer twice and I noticed the trains on the Circle Line are a bit wider and cleaner. All of the Olympic signage seems to be up, and the Tube is actually pretty easy to understand. It’s only a problem when certain lines or part of lines are shut down or when it’s rush hour and there is hardly space to stand on the platform. Most people on the train do not talk. They either read, play games on their smartphones, or have their headphones plugged in. Everyone seems to mind their own business.
What I’d improve about the stations is probably introducing the 3 pronged poles for people standing (like they have in Singapore – but maybe the Tube is too narrow for it) and someone announcing when the doors will close. Today, I saw a man almost get stuck because he ran in as the doors were closing. I also ran through the doors today, but luckily they were open. (In Hong Kong, there’s a “nice” beeping noise and a verbal warning to “please stand clear of the doors…doot doot doot….” Since there are many garbage bins in the stations themselves (from what I remember) and there is limited space on the trains, bins on trains doesn’t seem necessary. Although I must say I was very impressed with the trains in Holland, Germany, and Switzerland.
At St. James Park Station…
Once you exit the train station, there are Tube employees waiting to help you with directions or questions. (It must be a tourist thing with the Olympics.) As I exited the station, I passed by an entire street of vans filled with police officers, until I soon realized I was walking past an officer’s brigade. After I turned the corner, I knew I was headed in the right direction, because there was a row of tour buses and people holding cameras.
Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guards (begins around 11:15). It really is not as interesting as the media portrays it to be. There are huge crowds and it’s pretty cool to see the marching band, but they don’t really do anything special. They literally march past you and maybe play a few pieces over a duration of 45 mins. Doing drill (from my days of cadets) was much more fun! I think I’d be more interested in watching that.
After two different strangers took my photo for me, I ventured to my next destinations: Green Park, Victoria Park, Westminister Abbey, Big Ben, St. Stephen’s Palace, etc. I even passed by a bunch of Institutes of Engineering (Mechanical and Civil). Parliament Square is pretty neat and there’s a big statue of Churchill and King George V, but that’s about it. The smaller church next to Westminster Abbey had service today and during the week it has free classical music concerts during lunch hour. I was tempted to attend both.
On my way to Knightsbridge & Harrod’s…
After walking around for a good hour, I had to navigate myself to the next Tube station – or area of interest on my map. With Hyde Park and Knightsbridge in mind, I somehow landed at Wellington Arch and Hyde Park Corner, where I sat down to eat part of my lunch. After doing some browsing (ok, and shopping) at House of Fraser, which I had no idea how I got there, I ate my delicious sandwich! I was really looking for a place to use their bathroom. Haha!
Nevertheless, I knew I had entered the “shopping district,” when I saw families, tourists, ladies, and lots of shopping bags. The neighbourhood in Westminster is absolutely gorgeous, and Foursquare told me that the area I was walking in was prime real estate. It was quiet, yet close to large department stores, trendy places, and restaurants. The streets almost looked like boulevards and were very clean. I was especially surprised at how clean the streets seemed to be, because I rarely crossed a garbage can the entire way there… (I noticed, because I wanted to throw something out and held on to it for longer than I wanted…)
If there is going to be an influx of tourists within the next 2 weeks, there’d better be more garbage cans in the city!
Cut me some slack. I haven’t really shopped in over 2 months and I mean in an actual store. Street shopping is not really shopping, plus I didn’t buy very much in India anyways. Other than shopping in Amsterdam and buying a sweater at Cambridge (in my jie’s honour), this was my second time looking at clothing or anything (for that matter) for myself.
United Colors of Benetton, Harrods, National Geographic. That’s all. Really… So what I missed was that Harrod’s has 5 floors! I only saw 1 + the basement. The way the store is designed is quite clever. There are few exits, many themes, different product lines, brands, and a plethora of goods which range in pricing. It is difficult to leave and there is almost a sensory overload. It is like a Disneyland for adults.
So I totally forgot to check out the other floors. Partially because after I bought everything – and I mean everything – I needed, I just wanted to get out. There were way too many people and after all that walking beforehand, in addition to my new (and heavy) goods, I wanted to sit down at a quiet place.
Lost my map….
At this point, I realized I lost my mini map and tried to use my phone to navigate. (I need to get Google Maps…) I continued with the mentality that I’d just walk and explore like I had been doing most of the day. I already discarded The Orangery @ Hyde Park for afternoon tea when it was 4pm. I finally located where I was when I sat outside the Victoria and Albert Museum. (They seem to have cool exhibits, but closed shortly after I arrived.) I never really went inside, but enjoyed sitting on the steps and the company of others who were quietly sitting there too.
I made my way back to Knightsbridge Stn and took the Tube “home.” And Home Sweet Home it is…
In other news…
A friend I met last year in Waterloo connected with me over Facebook – yes, FB – and we found out that we’re both in London. Alone. He’s traveling around Europe alone and so was I. We just spent the past hour putting together a comprehensive schedule for tomorrow, with options for rain vs no rain and timing limitations.
Hope you enjoyed this edition of #tywAmazingRace!