Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Many Sides of London

A broad look at what I did during my first full weekend in Europe...

Our coach came upon London in the night, an exciting time, and we passed blocks and blocks of pubs, theatres, a KFC, and hundreds of people. It was a Thursday, and we only had the weekend to take in the largest, and richest city in Europe. The coach dropped us off at our hotel, our chaperoning faculty said cheers, and we were ready to explore the city. Except one thing…we were completely disoriented and lost.

But, as I find, being lost is the best way to find your way around. A few friends and I dropped off our bags and headed southish, towards Soho, a district full of clubs, pubs, casinos, and all sorts of "entertainment."

We walked, and walked, and walked…following the sparse and confusing bus routes as best we could. The thing to remember is that London isn’t a modern city. Streets don’t necessarily form neat, patchwork grids running north to south or east to west.

They curve, end, turn into new streets, and only half of them are clearly labeled. Regardless, after asking for directions several times we found ourselves in the heart of Soho, and many, many hours later made it back to the hotel…

Day two was a whole new adventure. Taking advantage of Harlaxton’s London trip, which gives you two full days to yourself (they offer transport and hotel), I set off with the mind to see Parliament, a few cathedrals, and whatever else looked touristy. A quick ride down the Underground got me there, and just a few blocks more I saw Churchill’s War Rooms, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, and dozens of statues (one of Abe Lincoln).

It was hard to take in, being miniaturized by the colossal and sprawling buildings and towers, so I went across the Thames and walked along the Queen’s Walk. I had fish and chips (a safe bet) with a view of Parliament, then went north towards the London Eye, the half an hour Ferris wheel.

From there I headed east and crossed London Bridge, which gave me a clear view of two warships anchored near Tower Bridge. Across the Thames again was the Tower of London, a more businessy district, so I kept on walking and soon found myself in Whitechapel, a group of streets where the infamous Jack the Ripper killings took place. I had an early dinner in the Ten Bells (very Rippery) and a pint or few, took the Underground again and that concludes day two. Well, the touristy, publishable part.

On day three I over-indulged a bit and got a balcony seat for Phantom of the Opera showing on the West End. I don’t want to brag or excite anyone…but it was spectacular. Afterwards I took a stroll through St. James’s Park and past Buckingham Palace, and (yeah, I know) stopped at the Apollo Victoria theatre for the later Wicked show. That, too, was just as spectacular.

Anyways, enough reminiscent ramblings. The point I hope to make is that you can do all of this and more in a weekend, and still go to the clubs in Soho or walk on Abbey Road or do whatever you want! London is gigantic, and everywhere is something to do, something to see or experience. I’d recommend comfortable shoes, a camera, and fish and chips along the Thames.

Oh, and don't worry about being a tourist. Everyone carries around a camera.

About half the people I met at the pubs were foreign. Here's some Russian dude who wanted to be in everyone's pictures, and behind him are a pair of Canadians.

-Brennan Girdler

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