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August 24, 2010

  • King’s Cross / St. Pancras Station
  • Russel Square
  • West End (Soho and theatre district)
  • Picadilly Square
  • Tartines

August 25, 2010

  • British Museum (crystal skull, ancient Egypt, etc.)
  • London Underground
  • Tower of London
  • Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
  • Tate Museum of modern art
  • Waterloo
  • Liverpool Street

London is another one of those cities that is easy to get lost in. A fact that I proved several times over.

On my first day, walking from King’s Cross/St. Pancras, I managed to walk about a kilometre in the wrong direction. I didn’t book my hostel beforehand and I wandered over to the tourist information centre to find out where I should go. I initially had one in mind that was around Picadilly, which is where the tourist office is, but I eventually settled on one near Russel Square (in Camden, the part of London not the city). Between my arrival in London and my checking in at the hostel, about three hours had passed and most of it was spent walking, particularly in the West End. All of this with a backpack and laptop bag.

It was either poor planning or maybe a part of me just wanted to suffer more.

I don’t know if the death march had anything to do with it, but I felt thoroughly out of place when I met up with Dimitri at his hotel. I’m sitting there in the lobby with my jeans, t-shirt and a warm coat and all the people who are walking in are wearing business suits – even the hotel staff are dressed formally. It felt more than a little intimidating.

I’m more used to staying in hostels where the definition of dressing up is to wear a collared shirt.

Dimitri and I wandered around the west end a little and found a place to eat. It was Belgium food and I had some tartines that I really enjoyed. You don’t normally have that many light and healthy meals on holiday, and it was a nice change.

I’m a little jealous of Dimitri because he has an exciting trip planned to Croatia, hiking and backpacking from town to town. He’s been working pretty hard lately and in his place I would probably prefer a more relaxed holiday, but he said he has couple easy days planned in there and I know he and Helene will have a great time meeting local people along the way.

Wednesday started off really good actually. I wandered over to the British Museum getting there just after 10am, and I spent the next 3 hours wandering from exhibit to exhibit. I’ve always loved old libraries and the great court is really an impressive sight for someone like me. The whole room is dedicated to the Enlightenment period, and is divided into different sections based on the key aspects of the enlightenment. The room has a high ceiling with a balcony on the second level, and old leatherbound books from the 1700’s and 1800’s fill bookshelves, protected by glass, that take up the entire length of the very long room. On the second level, some of the glass cases were open, presumably for researchers. On the ground level, shelves alternate between books and the artifacts acquired by some of the early collectors and patrons of the museum. I spent probably an hour just in that one room. Other exhibits on ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt were about what I’d expected, but I was a little in awe at the number of statues and artifacts that were on display. Especially since I know that what is on display is probably only a fraction of what they have in their collection.

As museums go, its probably the most impressive one I’ve been in. I have no doubt that I could go everyday for months and still not see everything.

The next spot on my agenda was the Tower of London. I managed to get there on the underground but by the time I arrived it had started to rain pretty heavily and it was already getting late in the afternoon. I opted to not go in as the 17 pounds and 2+ hours it would have taken would have kept me from seeing much else.

I decided to wander instead. Probably not ideal because I was getting soaked as I made my way over to the south side of the Thames. I found a few old neighbourhoods and outdoor markets on my way to the Globe Theatre. I stopped there for a hot chocolate and to dry off. My timing was not spot on because there weren’t any shows or tours that I could see.

I continued my wandering and decided to stop in at the Tate. In hindsight, I don’t really know why. Most modern art is really beyond my understanding and very little of it is beautiful in the traditional sense. I understand that art doesn’t really have to be nice to look at, and bringing out feelings or making you think are more likely goals, but when I looked at a few of the sculptures, photos and video my only thought was “why?” or “what the f**k?”

That’s what you get for being spontaneous.

I eventually made it over to Waterloo station (which is massive) before getting back on the underground to meet up with Dimitri near his job around Liverpool Street.

I was commenting to him that the people here must be very used to rain because there are so many covered markets and walkways. Unfortunately for us it was still raining (probably harder) when we finished dinner and neither of us felt too much like walking around exploring London in that weather.

Its good that I plan to return to London a few more times, because I really didn’t get to see as much as I wanted to.