At long last, the wrap-up to our circumnavacation! I am finally getting down to the business of transcribing the record of our last day in London. Steve and I were feeling overwhelmed by all the traveling we had to do, but we had it in us to do one last day of sprint-sightseeing! We caught another quick breakfast with our Airbnb host, and took a combination of bus and Tube into town.
First on our list was Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column. It was certainly a grand and impressive plaza, but very little to actually do. We noticed some cleaning personnel pushing long-handled brooms around the bottoms of the large fountains in Trafalgar Square, clearing it of green mold, which certainly brings these historical monuments back to mundane reality. Our next two stops were Horse Guards’ Parade (where, predictably enough, there are guards on horseback standing at attention) and further down the same street, 10 Downing Street, where the British Prime Minister (currently David Cameron) typically lives. Eventually, we made it to Big Ben just as it struck noon, and Steve and I hung about Big Ben (which is attached to the Houses of Parliament) for a while, taking in the sights. Just across the street from that is Westminster Abbey, looking very grey, august, and full of gorgeous stained-glass windows. We ended up having lunch in the grass outside, enjoying the scenery, and after a lengthy debate, decided to pay the ridiculous fee of eighteen pounds per person (about $70 USD altogether!). Then we got up and started walking down the line outside Westminster Abbey, and my heart just slowly sank as we figured out the line was well over an hour long. After looking at each other, we nearly wordlessly agreed that while it was definitely worth seeing, it wasn’t worth sacrificing half of what we had planned for the rest of the day. We thus walked a little bit more around the Houses of Parliament, then moved on. Continue reading London, Part II: Tea, corgis, and art.
The last few days of our world trip were a whirlwind in London, the capital of the United Kingdom. On second thought, there’s a good chance it was always going to be a combination of desperate last-minute sightseeing and window-shopping while wondering if we could fit more presents into our luggage for family and friends. But London, like Paris, has no end of historical jewels (figurative and literal) to dazzle the common visitor, and I had never been there before! The only saving grace is that there were no must-try restaurants, because no one is going to pretend English cuisine is the height of gastronomy.
We took the National Express bus down from Cambridge, and as soon as we got into Greater London, it became obvious that the last 1/4th of the trip would take as much time as the first 3/4ths did. We managed to badger the driver into dropping us off at an earlier stop than Victoria Coach Station, and took the Tube up to Camden Town, where we were staying. After a nap and shower, we took ourselves out to visit Hyde Park and the Serpentine (a long pond). It was green and pleasant, with rowboats and some stately looking swans. And giant too — it easily took a good 45 minutes to walk diagonally from one corner to another. At one corner, opposite Royal Albert Hall, we found a monument also dedicated to Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, which looked like the British take on a Thai Buddhist temple. In other words, gold, baroque, and unappealing. After some quick dinner, we called it an early night, in preparation for two mad days of sight-seeing in London. Continue reading London, Part I: Bridges across the Thames.
Written on the East Coast Line
King’s Cross, London, England to Waverley Station, Edinburgh, Scotland
Monday, July 14, 13h40
Two days ago in Paris, Steve and I embarked on the last leg of our trip, little knowing that it was going to take a good 36 hours longer than we had bargained for… since we’ve been traveling for about 10 months now, I had thought we were justified in giving ourselves a few pats on the back, being old hands at this travel gig, and getting ourselves from one place to another with a minimum of fuss. Well, hubris never pays. Travel mistakes this half of the world are more expensive to boot!
Our plan was to take a carsharing trip from Paris to London (Eurostar trains making the same trip costing well over 250 euro for the same privilege), and then catch a train in the evening heading up to Edinburgh, which would take us about 5 hours. This covoiturage (or BlaBlaCar as it’s called in other countries) deal is usually pretty good. You pay a pittance to travel in a carpool with other people, and go distances that would usually cost hundreds of euro on a train for less than 50. Our covoiturage trip was amusing enough, as we packed in 7 people in one minivan, and received strange glances from both the French and English authorities, but man if it wasn’t a circus show when we tried to make the Channel crossing. Continue reading Planes, trains, and automobiles.