Saturday, October 29, 2011

London Sightseeing

I am really glad that I had my handheld GPS with me in London. Not only has it provided a storage to remind me of places to see, but without it I don’t think I would have found my hotel. I spent three hours just trying to figure out how to get here. And after I found the train and got to Brentford, I didn’t know how to get to the hotel. That is where the GPS came in.

The train from the airport brought me to Liverpool street in downtown London. It was a little strange because outside of the station on some of the streets there were not really a lot of people. I began walking toward St. Paul’s Cathedral. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived there. I know it is a famous site so I wanted to take some pictures, but I also know that because of the global “Occupy Wall Street” movement it was closed for a while.

St. Paul's Cathedral as seen while approaching from the direction of Liverpool Street.
Protesters have been occupying the area for several weeks.
After finding the Cathedral I hopped on a bus which took me to Waterloo. From there I had a distant view of Big Ben, and the Eye of London. I took some photos and then went on the metro, eventually finding my way to Kings Cross Station. Unfortunately the station was very large so I ended up missing the Hogwarts Express. I haven’t found the Ministry of Magic yet.

When I went to platform 9 and asked an employee if there was a marker for nine and three quarters he looked at me and said, "You're from America aren't you."

Phone booths are more common in Europe. This one made me think of the Ministry of Magic.
I took a bus from Kings Cross back to Liverpool Street station and then walked a little bit until I found the Tower Bridge. I actually hadn’t really planned on seeing this but I am glad I did. There was an old fortress by it, although I did not pay to go inside. I ended up buying postcards and a keychain there. 

I continued walking on the Thames Riverside and crossed at London Bridge. For your information, it didn’t appear that it will fall anytime soon. I found the crowd here. There was some kind of market down along the river and it was full of people. But eventually I fought through the crowd and found Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Once again, I did not pay four a tour. The pound is very expensive. I brought 300 euros with me and the 250 I traded in only bout about 150 pounds.

By this time I was extremely tired. I had been walking all day and sight-seeing for about four to five hours. My back hurt and I hadn’t eaten. It was about 2:30 in the afternoon so I knew I would be able to get in my hotel when I found it. As I said, it took me another three hours. The metro system here is very large and confusing. It is the most difficult system I have been on. Luckily when I had to walk, there was some writing on the street, when it is not there I don't know which way to look for traffic. (Remember they drive on the left side of the road in England.)

In New York City there may be multiple routes for a specific color but they are at least labeled. Here they cross each other and twist and split. But there are no numbers on the map to specify which train you need. The only way to know is to know the destinations. Unfortunately there are so many places in London so that is almost impossible for me.

I ended up in Westminster. As soon as I came up out of the underground I was greeted by Big Ben. Not far behind was Westminster Abbey. I found both of them by accident, even though I had planned on visiting both of them.  I decided since that only left two more locations in the same general area I would go ahead and see the rest. So I ended up at the gates of Buckingham Palace to see the guards. There was no changing of the guards ceremony until 11:30 tomorrow morning so I may or may not get to see that. I have two options tomorrow: sleep in and then go back to London. Or get up early and go to Stonehenge tomorrow. It is a tough decision. I may set an alarm and see how I feel tomorrow.

I ended up missing my final destination which is fine with me. It leaves me something to do on my extra day in London. I don’t leave until November 1. I went back to Waterloo Station via bus and train. Then I went to the national rail after asking someone about getting to Brentford. I found an information booth and asked. They showed me the location on a rail map and I figured it was it because it was between the city and Heathrow Airport. (I need to find out soon how to get to Heathrow airport from my hotel. I don’t know if I have to go into London to get there by train or not.)
I tried a little geocaching by my hotel but was unsuccessful. I didn’t like the area I was in, and it was so dark I gave up. I may check again in the daylight tomorrow or Monday. When I got back to the hotel, I went to the in-hotel bar/restaurant. For about 14 pounds I had a soda, 3 lamb chops, a large salad and “chips,” as they call them but better known to me as “French Fries.”
Once again in the words of the English: Cheers. (Try to imagine a heavy British accent.)

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