London On Foot
You know London. Countless movies and TV shows have shown its famous sites. I’m not usually one to turn up my nose at the most touristy of sites until I’ve seen them for myself. Thanks to my hosts I was able to see most of the classics, but also got to enjoy some lesser-known spots. And despite being one of the largest cities in Europe, seeing many places is possible on your own feet.
The best way to travel is to make friends with travellers. You can’t beat free accommodations and a private tour guide. Thanks to the generosity of two fabulous human beings I had a fantastic time punctuated with only a few of the time-honored British tradition of drunken fights.
After 10 months in the EU, I finally made it to the United Kingdom right when it was deciding to leave. A lifetime is not enough to enjoy London, the largest city (still technically) in the EU. It’s so easy to walk over 20,000 steps in one day exploring. Our first place to wander was through Regent’s Park. The weather was characteristically cloudy, but the Queen’s fragrant roses were still beautifully in bloom.
Near the famous Big Ben and the palace we went to the secret Churchill War Rooms. This museum dedicated to the famous and beloved British leader is housed in the bomb shelters that were used by Churchill and his government during WWII. The museum is fairly new and is highly interactive. Through the rooms you can see where the British war machine was run. The walls are covered with maps. Aides painstakingly placed pins and colored yarn to mark the lines of various countries’ troops. They were constantly receiving information from the fronts and had to change the lines as they moved. You can hear and read the experiences of secretaries and aides and see where they lived during the bombings of the city. A second part of the museum is dedicated to just Churchill himself. It is interactive and thorough. You can learn everything you would ever want to learn about the great leader right down to his penchant for drinking brandy naked. (You’re welcome for that visual).
If you find yourself in London on a rainy day (which you will), a covered place to wait out the storm is the Borough Market. It is mostly under a bridge and in warehouses. Here you can enjoy sweetmeats and savory treats from all over the UK and its territories as well as foreign cuisine. There are also multiple booths to enjoy British beer and their beloved cider. This differs from American cider in that it is alcoholic and comes in sparkling and flat varieties.
The best part of the market is that you can see the famous London Bridge nearby.
We managed to visit the Tower of London on a rare sunny day. The tower is not really one tower so much as a collection of famous towers where much of the UK’s more gruesome history took place. Within the park area are housed the Royal jewels. You can also get some photos of the famous red guards. The whole area used to be a zoo, but the animals were moved because conditions there were considered inhumane. Now there are many sculptures of the various animals that used to live there. The only living animals still there are ravens who have no qualms about being near people and love to pose majestically for photos.
Another hot spot in the city is Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. You can watch the plays there in the pit like the common pleb that you are. I managed to get room near the stage to watch my favorite of Shakespeare’s comedies– A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The show was a magical, modernized, gender-swapped production of the famous play. If you are a Shakespeare purist, it certainly wouldn’t be for you, but I personally loved the reworked spectacle and no one could complain about the quality of the production or performance.
Split into three days, this walking is very doable. Here was my schedule:
Churchill War Rooms
Tower of London
Next time I hope to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral seen here from a spot near the Globe Theatre.
Barely in Bristol
After London, I went to Bristol to visit another lovely friend, but unfortunately we were having much too much revelry to take pictures. Bristol is a great college city where Arya Stark sightings are not too rare (we saw her, really!). Next time I go, I’ll try to remember to bring the camera out.
Cover Photo: Tower Bridge from Tower of London
For the month of July I’m taking a break from Europe to visit family in the United States after two years. I’ll be back in Europe to visit Iceland in August!