Friday, 10 May 2013

the streets of london

With still no news on the actual start date of my new job I decided to  head down to London for 4 days the other week. It was the perfect opportunity to see the sights over several days in a row so when I go down again I can just visit with people and see a few things. And so the whirlwind solo tour of London began! Stay tuned for a loooooooong post.

Training on down to London Town
I started my trip around the Monopoly board by arriving at Kings Cross Station in the early afternoon. After a bit of wandering around I decided to negotiate my first trip on the tube and go to Camden. With a bit of help from attendants that were around I made it.

Shops in Camden with cool art on them
More shops
Crazy shoes
Camden is an area that would have been heaven for my 15 year old self. Markets full of all things I would have loved and people in alternative dress everywhere. I wondered around the markets and ate some delicious Mexican food that was super cheap.

One of the markets I went to
Where I ate my delicious food...on a scooter!
Markets, lots of things similar to Bangkok!
I came across an awesome second hand shop where I bought 3 authentic WWII magazines. Not sure what I'll do with them but they are awesome.

WWII magazines like the ones I got
When I was done I decided to head to Shepherd's Bush to meet Kris who I would be staying with. This is when I had my first experience of the tube being closed due to "people under the train". Not something I had expected to hear! However, this happened several times over the few days that I was in London, and is apparently fairly common.

Waiting for the tube
I met up with Kris and went back to his place where I would be a fellow dosser for the next few days. The house is full of Kiwis and Australians and has a constant stream of visitors sleeping in the lounge. A typical London flat!

The next morning marked the beginning of my full days of exploring. I started off by watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. I got a prime spot right by the fence and everything happened right in front of me. It was really interesting to watch and I can't believe they do this everyday!

The crowds for changing of the guard
Band marching in
Guards marching
Me outside Buckingham Palace
After that I walked through St James Park down towards Westminster and Big Ben, which I had seen when I came down for the Waitangi Day Pub Crawl. I tried to have a look at Downing Street but I didn't realise it would be completely closed off like it was so that was a fail.

The gates to Downing Street
Big Ben
The changing of the guard had taken a much longer time than I thought so I grabbed a sandwich and kept walking to Trafalgar Square, where I ate it while sitting on the edge of a fountain. I checked out the National Gallery, although I seem to enjoy looking at buildings a bit more than actual art, and I thought this one was pretty cool. No photos since I got told off straight away when I tried to take one...

Lunch spot in Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square
It was a short walk from there to Piccadilly Circus. I'm not sure what I thought a "Circus" would be. But turns out its basically a major intersection.

Famous screens at Piccadilly Circus
I decided to make my way back to Hyde Park. On the way I looked at the New Zealand War Memorial which isn't that old. It was pretty cool seeing the different designs from home on the black crosses in the middle of London.
War Memorial

After much drama I finally got a bike and cycled around the places I have read about in books, Rotten Row, the Serpentine, Kensington Palace. It was surreal to imagine the "ton" used to come here to exercise their horses and see and be seen.

I thought the dirt on the left was unfinished garden, but it's for horses!
The Serpentine
Kensington Palace
Biking down Rotten Row
My last stop for the day was Harrods. I wasn't sure what I was going to do here but I ended up really enjoying myself just browsing the floors and seeing the people who were actually buying things there. I picked up a scarf that looked nice and quickly put it down again when I saw it was 300 pounds! I did manage to afford some delicious salted caramel fudge  and mini cupcakes from the Harrods Food Hall however, so I can say that I shopped at Harrods!

Top of the escalators at Harrods
Harrods Food Hall
The following day started with a trip to the British Museum. I could have spent my entire 4 days at this place. It is HUGE and has so many interesting things. I chose a few things to see and was impressed nonetheless. It is amazing the things they have acquired; The Rosetta Stone, ancient Greek statues and Egyptian mummies.
Outside the museum
The Rosetta Stone
I found an exhibit on the amount of drugs two people took in their lifetime really interesting. The woman took twice as many drugs in the last 20 years of her life as the first 50.

Pills taken in a lifetime - a man on the right and a woman on the left
I walked down Fleet street and the Strand and tried to see an old church where knights are buried, but struck it at just the wrong time when a service was on. This is the sort of legal area of London, and it was interesting seeing some young people who were probably law clerks going out for lunch, one day it might be me! This time I ate my sandwich for lunch on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral. St Paul's was really impressive. I really enjoyed the audio tour and  I climbed all the way to the top to check out the views over London. Sometimes its hard to comprehend I'm really here!

St Paul's Cathedral
My view from the steps while eating lunch
View from the top
Me at the top
View over the Thames
Crazy tiny staircase
St Paul's
I stopped for a tea and then checked out the Old Bailey, and the former Newgate Prison site. It was a short walk from here across the millennium bridge to see the remodeled Globe Theatre. I then when to the Tate Modern, where I paid for a useless audio tour and I cant say I was all that impressed by some of the art.

The Millennium Bridge
Looking down the Thames towards the Tower Bridge
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
Some actually decent art at the Tate Modern
View from the Tate Modern of the Millennium Bridge and St Paul's
Jess had friends staying that week but we arranged to meet in Leicester Square when she finished work. We had a look at M & M world, which is similar to the one I have been to in Vegas but with a few British icons thrown in, and strolled around Covent Garden before finding a pub to near Trafalgar Square to eat dinner in. My first pub meal in London!

M & M World
M & M Guard
Taking the underground
Pie at the pub
Me in Trafalgar Square
Cool houses near Covent Garden and Seven Dials area
On my final full day I started out at the Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill. As it was a weekday not all of the stalls were up, and I seemed to be a bit early. It was a beautiful little area though and I loved ambling around looking at the different things and finding the sites from the Notting Hill movie.

The door to Hugh Grants house
The location of the travel book shop
Pretty coloured houses on Portobello Road
Stalls on Portobello Road
Antiques area of the market
It started to rain to a holed up in a cafe for some breakfast while deciding what to do. There wasn't too much left on my list, just the Tower and the Tower Bridge mostly, although I had seen the bridge in the distance when I walked across the Thames the day before. I decided to flag due to the rain and go and see a show. I had inquired about matinees the day before and I knew there was a Rock of Ages matinee that wasn't too expensive. With my now pro tube riding skills I made my way to Leicester Square again and bought a ticket for a couple of hours later. I spent the time in between having a more thorough look at Covent Garden and the Seven Dials area, plus eating some delicious food.

Inside Covent Garden Market
Delicious cookie goodness from Ben's Cookies
Seven Dials
I loved the Rock of Ages movie when I went to see it with my Mum last year, and the musical didn't disappoint! It would have been much more fun with my Mum there though of course :(.

My first London show!
Since it was Friday night we decided to go out and another Kiwi in London, Renee, came around with her English friend and we had an awesome night.

How to get from the door of the house to the door of the liquor store without getting your feet wet...
At The Mouse Trap
The next morning I didn't have time to do anything except visit the Jumbucks Aussie Pie Shop for some supplies and head back to the train station to get back to Edinburgh.

My beloved V 
I had an awesome time exploring London and seeing all these places that I have read and heard so much about throughout my life. I ended up liking London a lot more than I thought I would. But I can understand why people say it takes about 6 months to get used to it when you live there. It it just HUGE and there are so many people all the time! I was quite happy to get back to Edinburgh which feels like a town in comparison! Even when I was living in Wellington I used to feel the need to get out of the city every few months, and I loved going back to Feilding or Palmerston North for a visit! Maybe I'm just a small town girl at heart :).


1 comment:

  1. :) so glad you finally got to go around the 'Monopoly Board'.Still lots more exploring to do on your next visit there and more shows too. Love the pictures and the read. xo