Posts Tagged ‘ Travel

London: Sightseeing via Tube

After I mass I set out to explore what was near the cathedral. Victoria Street had boutique shops so I putzed around there for a while ’til I grew tired of the price tags. Calling this area done, I proceeded back to the station (after grabbing some tea at a Starbucks–couldn’t help it!). After consulting my maps, I decided to go check out those Parliament Buildings and took the Tube from Victoria to Westminster.

When I arrived at this station I got out and gasped. The Thames were in my view and to my right was none other than Big Ben. The place was packed with tourists but I didn’t mind, being one of them, and it felt like I really had arrived. I text Ryan forgetting the time zone difference and wandered around taking photos of the big clock and the Parliament Buildings. I then noticed a sign to Westminster Abbey and walked in that direction until I got to the place, recognizing it from the Da Vinci Code :P. The place (like the others around it) was beautiful but closed inside due to it being Sunday. Regardless it was pretty exciting to walk around and see the sights.

After some time here I headed back to the station. It was getting cold outside and I needed an indoor excursion, so after consulting my book, I opted for the National Gallery. I took the Tube to Charring Cross, by now getting around was easy. (I really do <3 the Tube.) There I spent part of the time checking out stationary stores looking for a Moleskine London City Notebook only to be told that I could find it at Borders, hah. Eventually I found my way towards the National Gallery.

When I reached it, it definitely was a sight to see, its building overlooking Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column, another postcard sight. I realized I was hungry again and looked around for a place to eat. I ended up finding a Cafe which was held in an old crypt. It was very busy inside and food was served in line cafeteria-style. I got the special: chicken, potatoes, and vegetables. It was mushy and bland, as I told the food would be, so I checked that off my list.

I then proceeded up the steps to the National Gallery and was delighted to find that the admission was suggested donation. I looked around. It really was what all the books said it would be like. It was quite surreal to stand in front of my favorite pieces by Monet and realize I was staring at an original or searching out the Van Gogh sunflowers to see the paint’s texture. I even did the audio tour and the detail it provided was very engaging and gave me a chance to sit and rest as the narrator explained the peculiarities of each painting. Later after I had passed through many galleries, I started to feel the effects of jet lag and needed to lie down.

I set off to find my hotel and found that I would need to transfer at Oxford Circus. However, this was actually convenient as that’s where the nearest Borders was. So yes, I took a separate trip just to locate that notebook I wanted. Oxford Circus was lively and full of shops and I think it’s my favorite area of London thus far. Finding the notebook was easy, I looked around at stores there for a while, going some shopping before finally heading back.

Feeling exhausted, I looked at the clock. It was a little past 5PM.

London: Arrival

I arrived around 5AM GMT, feeling surprisingly rested from my flight from Chicago. After retrieving my bag from baggage claim, I proceeded to the Heathrow Express where I exchanged my online voucher for a train ticket to Paddington Station. It was very quick and easy ride into the city and there I met a woman from New Jersey who happened to be heading to Prague. After talking to her for a while about the time zone difference, the ticket taker came by and she soon realized she had just missed her stop.

We arrived to Paddington Station, I wished her luck and I got off the train. Determined to figure out the Tube I proceeded to the underground entrance only to see the gates closed. It was still very very early in the morning. So, figuring I had intended to take a London cab ride at some point, filed in the queue (yes, queue) for one. Soon the black cars pulled up on the left side of the road and one by one we said where each person said where they were going and clamored in. There was some confusion because an Asian woman was in line behind me and they assumed we were together, but that cleared up quickly. The ride itself was neat, like everyone had said it would be, but my cab driver seemed a bit on the grumpy side and didn’t speak much. But again, it was early and the sun was not up yet.

When we pulled up to my hotel, someone came to open my door and take my luggage. The doors spread open and a sweet perfume smell filled the air. And suited men and women stood to greet me behind shining black marble. The lobby was extremely swank, but in an overly aseptic kind of way–felt like I walked right into a design magazine. That aside, I was lucky and able to check-in early and proceeded to my room to unpack and shower.

By this time, it was around 8AM and I decided I should follow some advice and take an hour nap before attempting to start the day. However, as you can imagine this was difficult as I laid thinking of what to do first, watching the light begin to come through my window curtain.