Saturday, July 28, 2012

London - Day 1 - Lost in History

I can’t even begin to explain how much planning I put into this trip, in fact, I really feel that I could land a career in the travel industry after this one.  Who am I kidding--the planning was half the fun, for every Saturday morning during the months prior, I spent researching where I wanted to go and why.  Learning the intricacies of everything in my scope of interest was awesome, and when that plane landed at Heathrow, all my preparation was ready to be put into motion.
I’m so grateful for having the ability to fall asleep anytime, anywhere--so having a long sleep on the plane for the bulk of the trip allowed me to end up on London’s time zone fairly quickly.  I think if you don’t make a concerted effort to do that, then you’ll end up messing up your first few days, and there was no room in my schedule for that!  
Before I left Canada, I purchased my Brit Rail pass--it came with two tickets for the Heathrow Express.  Brilliant--15 mins from the airport into Paddington Station--that’s a fast train.   True to its name, Paddington Station had a Paddington Bear kiosk, and when I arrived there I thought of my friend Tara who lived right near the station when she lived in London (how lucky was she!).  It was so easy to find everything, including the taxi that took me from the train station to my hotel.  The taxi ride was a little frightening to say the least--not only are they driving on the wrong side of the road, but everyone there drives like a maniac (I know that might be the pot calling the kettle black)--I’m pretty sure I had my hands over my eyes for a good part of the ride (mmm...similar to my passengers).   
The hotel was on Northumberland, which is one of streets that off-shoots from Trafalgar Square--a more than perfect location!  My hotel was awesome--thanks to the internet now, nothing should be a surprise when you arrive. I literally walked into my hotel room, did a quick check of place (it was fabulous, with good, usable bath stuff too) changed, threw my camera around my neck, and with my handbag over my shoulder, away I went for a trip down Charing Cross Road, heading for the British Museum.  Sounds easy enough, right?  

Lord Nelson's Column

As I walked towards Trafalgar Square with map in hand, I quickly realized that everything was WAY bigger in reality from what I imagined, and it didn’t matter which way I turned, there was something to take a photo of--it was wonderful but confusing at the same time.  Lord Nelson’s column, the Lions, The National Gallery, the fountains, and the ship in a bottle...all amazing!  I could not believe the amount of people around--New York has nothing on London.  Tourists could be spotted at every turn, and from all over the globe as well (the Italians really stood out with all their shouting and arm waving).  I also learned through experience that pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way there and more importantly, I learned to not copy what other pedestrians were doing--I was honked back onto the curb many a time.  
Once I left Trafalgar Square and made my way down Charing Cross Road, I soon discovered that there are no street signs anywhere--there may be an occasional sign on the side of a building, but that was it.  So naturally, within minutes, I was lost.  It’s not all London’s fault for not having proper signage--I will take some of the blame since all it took was me catching a glimpse of a bunch of cute little book stores on Museum Street, and I strayed from my beaten path quite willingly. 
Cute Little Pub

Even though the British Museum was my destination, I was getting a bit peckish for a bite to eat.  There is certainly no shortage of pubs in London--they are so full of character, adorned with gorgeous hanging baskets and merry people spilling out into the streets.  But they are also so full of food that seemed a little artery-clogging and anti-happy stomach for me.  I needed to be fit for my museum excursion and for the rest of the trip, so I promptly passed on the pub food and reach for my protein bar instead.
And alas, I arrived at the British Museum.  The facade of the gigantic building is fashioned after an ancient Greek temple, with Ionic columns and all--so once I took a few photos of the building itself, I headed inside.  I will say that my hat is off to London for making the entrance to many of their museums free of charge, and this one was no exception--what a great way to allow everyone to enjoy.  I had already made sure I had downloaded Rick Steves’ audio guide for the museum onto my iPhone and away I went. Apparently my agenda did not match Rick Steves’ agenda.  I wanted to see Egypt and Greece, two places that really resonate with me by way of history and culture.  So, after fighting with the audio guide out loud with a lot of “no, no, I don’t want to see that, I want Egypt” and after receiving quite a few odd looks from other visitors, I decided to abandon Rick’s voice and just wing it.  
Words can’t describe the things I saw--knowing how far back the artifacts, statues, carvings, etc. dated back to, and the history surrounding them--I was in total awe.  Now, there is a specific rule of “don’t touch”, and rightly so--who wants someone’s greasy fingerprints to ruin something that is thousands of years old?  Well, it took everything I had to not touch, even with clean hands, but I made sure I didn’t because I respected what I was looking at too much.  When you believe in the laws of energy like I do, you want to take full advantage of that concept when you’re with historically significant items, so instead, I got as close as I could without setting off an alarm or alerting security (those who know me would be surprised that didn’t happen).  I did however, manage to give a lecture to a family from France who were about to stick their little French fingers all over a statue of Sekhmet--not on my watch, mon amis.  

Column from the Erechtheion (Greece)

I had mixed emotions as I walked through the museum--much of what was in there didn’t belong there--the Parthenon friezes, the statue of Rameses II, one of the columns from the Erechtheion--they belonged with the buildings or the area they came from.  But I had to get past that--everything that was in there was well taken care of and there for people to learn and enjoy, and that made me happy.  The best thing of all was being so close to so much of the history that I love.  I also felt that I should have been made an honorary curator of the museum since I was able to gather a small crowd as I described how the Parthenon was built (I originally wanted to become an architect).  Somehow, it came to light with the group that my profession was that of a Financial Advisor and naturally another 5 minutes was spent discussing the global economy--the irony being we were standing in the Greece section.
Crazy lunatic M&M before the attack

After I took a few photos for other tourists outside the museum, I slowly made my way back towards Trafalgar Square, passing by Piccadilly Circus.  “Circus” is a British name for round-about but I can certainly see why it’s called a circus--very cool spot though--lots of people just hanging out and having fun.  I was chatted up by a few different locals and it was great--I’m such a sucker for that British accent!  I did make the mistake of stopping briefly in the M&M Shop, and was immediately attacked by a giant yellow M&M.  It took three people to pull him off me--I have no idea what the hell happened there--I know I am starved for male affection at times, but geez, that’s a bit much.
I soon found myself back at Trafalgar Square only to find that there were about six roads that come off of that supposed square (it looks more like a giant circle to me), and I knew my hotel was down one of them (remember, no street signs).  After a few tries, I eventually found the one that I needed, and up to my room I went.  I was going on a protein bar all day, so now I was ravenous but too exhausted to go out.  So, what did I find, but a great place called Deliverance.  Instead of a creepy redneck Burt Reynold’s movie, this was a food delivery service that delivers their delicious food right to the hotel.  I noticed that the British like to use peas in a lot of their food, so I ordered a few different items, most of which had peas in them, and scooted downstairs to the lobby once the giant bags of food arrived.  Needless to say, I had dinner for the next night as well.  I always request a little fridge in my room when I travel so I can do stuff like that.  True to the rumor that the food there is expensive (but plentiful), I paid the delivery guy and had a little pea-orientated feast up in my room while watching Chicken Run on the telly.  I recorded my voice notes shortly after (best way to track a vacation as usually there is no time or energy to write), and away into dreamland I went, only to wake up to another incredible day.
Stay tuned for Day 2 in London:  Kensington and Trouble with the Law at the Marble Arch.

1 comment:

  1. going to love this...great tip about the voice notes too!