So yesterday, as anyone who follows our blogs can attest, was kind of an odd day. A day in which we were here in body, but exhausted in mind and spirit from the grueling overnight flight and our individual physical issues.
So basically, everything we did in London was in the same area (roughly) as our hotel. The closest we got to iconic London yesterday was shopping a bit on Oxford Street.
Then this morning we got up and visited three of the many famous London markets – Petticoat Lane, Brick Lane and Old Spitalfields. Very interesting – especially Old Spitalfields, where Pete had to gently remove me from the lovely scarves, ruanas and assorted lovelies made from yak fur, cashmere and other soft and beautiful yarns. The food was amazing, too – we (sadly) weren't hungry, so we passed up steamed dumplings, Ethiopian food, fresh donuts, Italian pastry, and many other delicacies.
Note to self: next time, arrive at Old Spitalfields Market hungry.
Fascinating as they were, those markets honestly could have been in almost any European city. We have seen ones very like them in Rome, Barcelona, Athens …
So it made me wonder – where was the iconic London?
We were exhausted, so we napped before our sojourn to find the London of the tourist, the London of the picture postcards, the London of my dreams – the London we'd seen many times before, and that I seemingly couldn't rest until we found again.
We started our second half of the day journey by traveling by London Underground to Embankment, a stop on the Thames River. We crossed the river on the Waterloo Bridge, and then wandered around the south bank and the semi-permanent festival that exists there.
We passed the Coca-Cola London Eye (remembering when it was the British Airways London Eye), the Tate Modern Art Museum, and a bundle of other touristy things, on our way to Westminster and the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. It was crowded with lots of visitors – we have the misfortune to be visiting during the summer bank holiday (Monday) which effectively feels like Fourth of July weekends back in the States. Eventually, we got to the Westminster Bridge, crossed that with a million of our new friends, and walked past the scaffolding enclosing Parliament and Big Ben, both apparently being refurbished.
We stopped there to take a picture of ourselves by a classic London phone booth –we've taken this same picture every time we've been in London, we think. Classic.
We were headed towards Horse Guards and St. James Park, and decided to walk through the park and enjoy the beautiful day. At the end of the park was our next objective – Buckingham Palace and the golden Queen Victoria Memorial. We walked around there for a bit remembering two years ago this month when we had a memorable tour inside the beautiful palace.
Then we had to decide which direction to head. At stake was walking through another park – Green Park – to Piccadilly, or down The Mall toward Trafalgar Square. Since our journey later in the week will certainly draw us to Piccadilly, we decided to brave the long walk to Trafalgar. Once there, we decided to head toward Tottenham Court Road, which is somewhat close to our hotel.
We walked from the National Portrait Gallery, a part of the quadrangle around Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, north on Charing Cross Road – iconic in it's own right, but notably famous for booksellers of all sorts (Pete put the kibbosh on too much book browsing and any book buying), and through part of the famous “West End” theater district, stopping to eat at – of all things – a “genuine” New York pizza place (it was delicious). Eventually we wound up at Tottenham Court Road, and so “home” to our hotel, collapsing into our tiny room – we had walked 24,901 steps and 10.73 miles according to my iWatch. What a day!
However, we did see “the” London – some of the parts that make it such a favorite of ours, and certainly parts that are unlike anyplace else in the world.
Stay tuned for more wanderings in and about!