1st January 2016
“There is so much that I want to achieve in this year… I want to travel and get away, have a holiday with the girls, see places that I have never seen before, revisit places that I have fallen in love with.”
30th July 2016
You were a welcomed day trip, a birthday celebration, an indulgence to the highest degree. You were a day that I will remember for a long time to come.
It’s 9am on a Saturday morning, my best friend and I are getting ready to see your wondrous sites. We’ve made it to Piccadilly station and are boarding the train to Euston. To the left of us we have a mother and daughter chatting lightly about their plans. The daughter was travelling for an audition; she mustn’t have been any older than 14 but had prepared herself fully, she chatted to her mum about what they will do before her audition. To the right of us were those that made that train journey equally hilarious and frustrating. A family had been split up on the train and were running back and forth to one another. I lost count how many times I had a backside in my face as they tried to squeeze by. This lasted the two hours, my best friend immediately held her head in her hands and uttered the words “I’m going to end up knocking them out”. Ah, the good ol’ Geordie banter, we ended up being able to laugh at it though.
Once we arrived in Euston Station my Geordie and I set off to Camden Market.
What an atmospheric place Camden is. As we walked towards the center, the streets became more colourful, the alleys were lined with street art, blaring out freedom of expression. People lined the streets watching the talented performers on their way into the markets. At this point I was beaming, everywhere I turned there was something quirky to see. Camden is famous for its over the top high streets, many of the shops are lined with caricatures and themed art. I was transfixed. I have never seen anything like it. My Geordie was able to pull me away from your expressive streets and we headed into the market itself.
At once I was hit with the aroma of street food and the hullabaloo of fuddy-duddy market-goers, I looked around and took it in. Camden was a place where eccentric people were welcomed. After being jutted out of my touristic, mouth-open, wide-eyed stance, I was immersed into a crowd with a Geordie on a mission. She wanted to find a vegan place called Cookies and Scream. It took us a little while but we made it, there we got fantastic desserts and I would highly recommend them!
After we had exhausted Camden Market, I thought it would be a great idea to find some Bansky art. You’re famous for it right? I had figured out that we should be able to find one in the canals, so we walked and walked and…well there was no Banksy. But, what there was, was a fantastic community project. A wall that stretched down the canal had been painted with chalkboard paint and they had left chalk for people to contribute. It was phenomenal and there were some amazing pieces.
No Banksy but I was certainly not disappointed.
Once we had finished seeing Camden and finding our way out of the canals, we headed back towards your center, you know, to do the tourist thing. On our way we passed many famous landmarks, such as the Charles Dickens residence, St Pancreas International and the peace gardens that are dedicated to helping those that suffer from natural disasters. It was a lovely walk, but yet again we took another detour and unexpectedly found ourselves at the British Museum. I had been told that this is one of the most interesting and most architecturally beautiful buildings that you have and I have got to admit they were not wrong.
The Geordie and I checked our watches and decided that we had enough time to have a quick look inside. This was one of the best decisions of the trip, it was truly breath-taking. I walked inside and the entire space opened up revealing a beautiful dome ceiling and marble floors. As we passed through we found many of the hidden treasures of the world and were educated on how those lived before us. This museum is so interesting and I am sad that I did not have more time in there. If I ever come back I would most definitely revisit!
After a disappointingly short period of time in the British Museum we rechecked our watches and realised that we couldn’t possibly stay any longer. We completed the maze of leaving the building and after re-orientating ourselves, we headed in the direction of Covent Gardens. Now London…I have a confession. I had not researched, nor seen anything about Covent Gardens…the name is deceiving. As in fact it is not a garden but a square filled with high end boutiques, fast pace shoppers and some of the best street performers I have ever seen. My naivety and lack of prior knowledge let me experience this place with awe and wonder; I thoroughly enjoyed it. We stopped for a while to watch some of the performers and thought it might be an idea to get food. However, at this point the Geordie and I realised it was 5 o’clock and 5 o’clock London of course means…cocktails. After food and cocktails it was onto Trafalgar Square in aim for the Palace.
We walked past the National Gallery and headed in the direction of St James’ Park, the crowds were thinning at this point and as we approached we found that there were barriers in our way. Now I am not complaining, I am not the biggest fan of crowds so when I found that in the most touristic part of the city there were only a handful of people, I did do a little jump…until… I found out that there was no way around the barriers, and they were blocking our way to Westminster and the Palace. The barriers were outlining the annual woman’s bike race, which is all well and good but my jump did have a lack luster effect after I heard the news. However, Geordie to the rescue. My Geordie has fortunately been in the city before and knew that we could take the long way around to get to the Palace, we would still pass Big Ben and make a few unexpected stops along the way.
So off we went, we walked and walked and the detour probably added an extra hour and a half onto our time, yet it was totally worth it. We passed Downing Street, Parliament and headed towards Big Ben, where we stopped and admired the view. Big Ben was a lot smaller than I had expected, however the overall design of the clock is faultless. I also hadn’t expected it to be attached to the Abbey but I was pleasantly surprised. Once we had finished looking at your most famous clock we curved our way around to Buckingham Palace, where alas the crowds had reformed. As we approached the Palace I could see the changing of the guard inside the gates, we of course could not get anywhere close so we decided that it was best to do a wide shot. We followed the gardens around which were an array of red, white and blue flowers. (Well done on the patriotism London.) I took some time looking at the palace and thinking about the monarchy, how different Britain is compared to it’s Eastern counterparts. It was interesting to see so many tourists from around the world gathering trying to get the best picture of the Palace. What attracts so many people to the monarchy, what is it that people love about the Queen? Questions I should probably go and research or ask some of my overseas friends.
I was jolted out of my thoughts by my Geordie jumping into a picture I was taking, she suggested that we take a load off and head to St James Park. We did just that, we went into St James’ park and watched the world go by, we soon realised that this was a place for couples, many of which were playing Pokemon Go, but we don’t judge. They were laughing and the sun was breaking through the clouds. This London is where I felt most at home in your city, sitting by a tree, legs outstretched listening to the sound of a vibrant city. After the park we sadly had to make our way back, we danced through the streets to the music and cheered on the cyclists as they zoomed past, laughing as most of the people coming our way doing the same.
We wondered back through the streets of London taking our time, I looked at my watch and we had a spare half hour before the train, just 5 minutes away was a Peace Garden that we had passed earlier, we spent those last precious minutes sitting quietly in the Peace Garden taking in the day, there was a Spanish guitarist sat a few benches up from us providing the calming music to relax us after a busy day. The Geordie and I spoke of the things we had seen and London, we truly did experience the wonders that you had to offer us. The train journey home was less exciting and as I watched the sun set and the sky fade to black I sat in silence and enjoyed the ache in my feet for I knew that it was well earned.
Thank you London for a wonderful trip, I do hope to see you again.
Links to my other “A letter to” posts: