London, United Kingdom
Today has been a busy one with a lot to cover, so makes yourselves comfortable and let’s get on with it. Follow along on the map (at the bottom of the page) !
We walked out of the hotel (1) into beautiful sunshine, which turned into rain even before we made it as far as breakfast. Welcome to the beautiful Melbourne, er, London weather… ready to keep you on your toes, and your sunglasses, jackets, umbrellas, and so on, and so on. But it’s all part of the fun – it’s not going to rain on our parade, even if it does literally rain on our parade.
There’s not too much exciting to relate about breakfast, but I enjoyed pancakes with bacon and maple syrup – yum!
A brief wander later and before we know it we’re in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. (2) It’s certainly understated when compared to Times Square – but still more than enough neon, even during the daytime.
After that it was time to get on to some more mundane, but very important, practicalities. First up – laundry. We were all very much in need of getting some laundry done – and the folks at the hotel helped point us to the closest laundrette, which was still a 10 minute walk away. Still, that’s ten minutes of walking down streets wed probably never walked down before, so off we set, bags of dirty clothes in hand, on our washing adventure. OK so it wasn’t at all adventurous – we walked down the street and put some washing in to get done. There’s not much I can do to talk up something so unexciting. However when leaving the laundry place and walking down one laneway, we chanced across the one-legendary home of all things sartorial – Carnaby Street. (3)
Now I’m no expert of professor on the history of London by any means, but I don’t think any of our Intrepid Travellers know of its former significance. Looking at it now though, you wouldn’t know … it’s a really quite unremarkable street with a bunch of high-end high-street clothes shops having long replaced all the ‘it’ boutiques from the sixties and seventies. The closest thing I think it comes to trying to retain any of that spirit was the under-construction ‘Pretty Green’ boutique – Liam Gallagher (that’s him out of Oasis, yeah? With me? Ok good, carry on…!) ’s fashion label. Maybe there was more to it, but our Carnabetian Army marched on, not dedicated followers of it’s now-faded fashion. (Here’s some context: https://youtu.be/KXaO3zgaf5Q )
Then it was on to the other mundane but important issues of being on holidays for a while – getting a haircut. We were all getting a little fuzzy so it was time to tidy up – and having a hairdresser just a few doors down from the hotel came in very handy. For the none-too-princely sum of only £8 I now have freshly buzzed and definitely-not-fuzzy scalp once more.
With the mundane stuff out of the way, time to get into some sightseeing. So we started walking – first point of note was Drury Lane. (4) Do you know the muffin man? (The muffin man?) The muffin man! He wasn’t on Drury Lane, but we did find a nice spot to grab coffee and rest our feet for a bit until we carried on.
Next point of interest was reaching the Thames. Hundreds of historians, poets, storytellers, songwriters have written about far better than I ever could. So, like, it’s this big river, and we like walked over a bridge and that? Yeah. And stuff. It still does afford some very pretty views though.
Our travels brought us to Southbank and the London Eye. (5) I missed it on my last (very brief) London visit 10 years ago so it was great to get the opportunity to go up and around today and see the sights. Great sights, too! A comprehensive view of London and its surrounds, thought it was hard to not just keep taking photos of Big Ben (St. Stephen’s tower if you want to be pedantic) and the Houses of Parliament. It was about a 45-50 minute trip on the Eye, but really it felt like it was all over within about 10 minutes.
Having given London a good seeing-to, next stop was across the Westminster Bridge (attention nerds, this is the one the Daleks went across on telly in the 60’s), which leads us right by the houses of parliament and Big Ben. (6) It’s always nice to hear Big Ben toll for real – yep it sounds just like it does on the telly.
Walking on (and on) past many lovely old buildings brought us to St James’ park (7) , home of beautiful trees, geese, swans, ducks … and squirrels (yay!). It reminded me of our time in Central Park two years ago – squirrels are cool, end of story.
At the end of St James park is another tourist must-see: Buckingham Palace (8). What a lovely big old building, the spiritual home (kinda) of a lovely big old institution. The Union Jack was flying above the palace – I can’t remember if that means the Queen is in or not… (and the internet here is so ridiculously slow it would take me half an hour to find out), so your homework assignment today is to find out if she was in or not. Either way, she didn’t invite us in for tea which I felt was a bit rude 🙂 Surrounding the palace are lovely ornamental gates from current and former lands of the realm – Australia, Canada, West Africa … I’m sure there were others but those are the ones I saw at the time. There’s a lot of significance embodied in every detail of the palace and its decoration – from the aforementioned gates to the Victoria Memorial and everything in between. Google will be able to tell you a lot more about it than I could – and today’s entry is already plenty long enough as it is.
Having taken plenty of photos (And thanks to a random passer-by for taking a photo of all of us) it was time to move on, and I think by this time it was nearly 2:00PM so time to start thinking about lunch. We continued our walk, this time through Green Park (9) – (aptly named of course), with the aim to get back to the hotel.
On the way was passed The Ritz – and no we didn’t stop there for lunch. We settled The Cambridge, one or two doors down from the hotel, or near enough. We had delicious late (nearly 4PM) lunch, helped along by good beer and a cheerful barman. To call my lunch a chicken burger would be to do it a disservice – it was tender slices of perfectly grilled chicken on a delicious bun, piled high with salad, delicious sauce, and served with coleslaw and chips. And don’t forget, washed down with beer. Just the thing after a massive trek across London. We checked our watches / phones / FitBits and came the conclusion that in this day so far we’d covered about 14 kilometres. Good work, good work-out!
But the day is not yet over – we still had to pick up the laundry we dropped off this morning, so it was another ten minutes back to Marshall Street to pick up the washing. To cut a long story short … we thought ‘hmm, the bag feels maybe a little lighter than it did?’ for a moment but carried on walking. We got back to the hotel (another 10 minutes) to find that I had only one t-shirt, no shorts, and Perry was also missing shorts, shirts, etc … so this wasn’t the happiest moment. So you’d never guess how we spent the next ten minutes. Yep, back we go yet again, despite not having any receipt or paperwork, crossing fingers that things would somehow work out, despite the sign out the front that says “unless you have an itemised list of every item of washing, there can no disagreement about the number of items after washing is returned”. As luck would have it someone at the laundrette had a good memory, and was able to locate a whole bag of clothes – at least half of what we’d originally put in. So phew, crisis averted lest I’d spend the rest of the holiday with just one t-shirt. (ew!)
With that mission finally accomplished, it was time to enjoy one of the nice features of this hotel – free cheese & wine every afternoon. Sweet! It hadn’t been that long since lunch so can’t say I was too hungry, but there’s almost room to some nice camembert and a glass of red. Nice hotel feature – gets you out of the little shoebox for a while, and a chance for free booze. What’s not to like? The cheese and crackers was basically dinner, after the huge late lunch.
Still, the day was not yet over, and there was still work to be done. Out for drinks, first at the famous gay club “G-A-Y”, which was equal parts loud and empty, so we quickly moved on to one of the pubs recommended by the Londoner we met in Mykonos. The Duke of Wellington was much more relaxed with a good vibe. We stayed there for a drink. Compared to Sydney, its great to see just how many venues are open and active even on a school night.
Finally, at last, thank goodness, this day has finally drawn to a close. After 23,407 steps, and 18.29 kilometres walked, I think we put in a pretty good effort, and it really is time to (wrestle with shocking internet to try and upload a few photos, and then) get some rest. Goodnight!