2nd July, 2016
When I woke up, my confused brain thought it was midnight, so I putzed around and let Nathan sleep in. When he woke up it was after 13.00, and he was confused about why I let him sleep so late. I guess this is how jet lag affects me–I sleep more than 12 hours and then think I just had a nap.
The late start meant we were refreshed and ready to go on “Frankie’s Whirlwind Tour of London.” I love planning whirlwind tours, and I took some care with this one. My plans usually involve as much free stuff as possible, so it’s unlikely you’ll find guided tours on my itinerary. I’d expected to start this whirlwind tour at around 9 in the morning, so I knew we’d have to skip a sit-down breakfast and make some adjustment to the plans along the way. Kind bars in hand, we jetted out to the bus stand.
Our first stop: the Tower of London. First off, let me just say that it was the most ideal of days–sunny, blue skies, a calm breeze. Not at what we’ve all heard of as typical English weather. According to Aedin’s KAM itinterary, her group was inside already. It was crowded outside, and we’d just missed a wedding. I was looking for the infamous giant ravens, decendants of the corpse-eaters in the days of hangings there, but the corvids I saw weren’t any bigger than the crows we have at home. (Aedin later told me they weren’t that big inside, either.)
From there, we walked across Tower Bridge to Southbank.
Borough Market was our first stop, and that’s probably where we spent the most time in any one place this day. I didn’t take a lot of pictures because it was very busy inside and I was salivating over all the great food choices. We ended up splitting a Scotch egg and a fresh venison burger (it’s in the background behind the beer). It was roe deer, which tastes pretty different than the whitetail that I’m used to, but it was still really tasty.
Then we headed up toward The Queen’s Walk, which runs along the Thames’ south bank from Tower Bridge to Lambeth Bridge. Basically the length of Central London. My plan was to walk about 95% of it, crossing back over at Westminster Bridge. Right off, it was clear that it would be a great walk. There were families out strolling with ice cream cones, lovers holding hands, friends laughing. There was an open amphitheater showing Wimbledon on a big screen, and people were enjoying their afternoon tea and watching.
Of course, being the nerd that I am, we had to make a stop at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I’d discovered the week before that tickets during our time in London were sold out, so it was more of a gift shop and photo op excursion than anything else. I took some time to giggle over the punny souvenirs, like the “out, damned spot” tea towels and erasers. But it was enough for this trip. (Next time, I’ll see a show AND go to the exhibition!)
As we continued down The Queen’s Walk, the sky opened up and rained buckets on us a few times, once so much that we had to take cover under one of the bridges. But after the rain comes rainbows!
Also, taking cover meant that we got to enjoy some street music before making our way down the rest of the walk to Westminster Bridge.
We later discovered that there’d been a large Brexit-related protest at Parliament earlier in the day. We’d seen some people with “I’m IN” stickers on their shirts, and others draped in EU flags, but had been too busy sight-seeing to catch the news about what was going on. We saw the aftermath of the protest in some of the signs around Parliament.
After seeing Parliament, our path got a little sketchy. We got lost and wandered through alleyways and residential streets that weren’t on our maps. Neither of us had working internet, so we had to go on intuition and best guesses.
Eventually, we found our way to my last planned stop, Buckingham Palace. The changing of the guard happens in the morning, so we’d long since missed it. There were just a couple of little guys in big hats hanging out near the doors.
After such a long walk, we were in desperate need of a pint, so we made our way to The John Snow. It’s not named for the Game of Thrones character, but Dr. John Snow, a pioneer in epidemiology and anesthesia.
You wouldn’t expect it, but everything closes early in England, even in London. It wasn’t 10 p.m. yet, but no pubs were serving food and most restaurants were closed. We lucked into a little Hawaiian fusion place in an alleyway near Picadilly Circus. The mahi fish fingers and fries were good, and so were the pints. By the time we made it back to the hotel, we fell asleep before our heads hit the pillows. And no wonder, too, if you consider we walked more than 10 miles around London-town!