day one - 40 hours awake and roaming around London

London Travel Blog

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Tower Bridge and London Bridge
Sleep? What's that?

And here I thought I was in for a lovely sleep on the overnight flight to my favorite place in the world. I settled in to my aisle seat, already wrapped up in the blue Air Canada blanket before the seat beside me could be filled. My surroundings had become all fuzzy and I felt like I was nestled in a bubble of warmth. Those Gravol sure worked fast.

I was all ready to conquer London upon landing. London, here I come! I thought with much enthusiasm as my eyes closed and I started to doze off...but the Fates would have none of that. "Kelly's not allowed sleeping on any flight to London!" they declared and promptly had two small children seated diagonally to me, one row back.
Parliament Building, Big Ben and St. Paul's Cathedral
They wailed throughout the entire flight and their parents became so annoyed, they ignored the crying children and pretended not to hear them with their Air Canada earphones stuck in their ears and eyes glued to the movie screen watching Beetlejuice.

I was not pleased. Okay, that was an understatement.

6.5 hours later, we landed in beautiful, bright and sunny London and though I looked and felt like something from Shaun of the Dead, I tried my best to meet London's warmth. 10 minutes and I was through Customs and another 15 minutes later and I was riding the Tube in to the City Centre where I would meet Erin at her office to drop off my bags and begin my quest.

Tower Hill. The sunlight was blinding as I stepped out of the Tube station and tried to orient myself.
London Eye and a Padmé costume at the Star Wars Exhibition
I consulted the little brown book I had prepared with directions and addresses and tried to find the office building Erin works in. It was about 10 am by the time I got there. I ended up finding the street right away and didn't even know it. I had to stop a few people for directions and despite what many people think, I was met with much friendliness. Must have been my lack of a snazzy accent, massive backpack and smaller pully suitcase. My appearance screamed 'foreigner'.

It was so nice to see her again. She kindly took my bags in to work and we decided to meet back after she finished to head back to her place. She had moved since last I visited and I had no idea how to get to her new place. Despite my fatigue, I was ready for a day of wandering.

A huge weight off my shoulders, I took a deep breath and turned towards the street to decide where to head to first.
Albert Memorial and Peter Pan statue in the Kensington Gardens
Tower Hill? What's around there? My eyes shifted and I gazed across the street and lo and behold, the Tower of London rose up before my eyes and the sunlight glistened on the water of the Thames like diamonds, beckoning me over.

My father always talks about "the moment", the one moment that can make a trip. It doesn't ever matter to him where he goes. Names and places may fade from memory with time but there are certain memories that cannot be forgotten. As I walked past the Tower of London (I went the first time I visited London) to head towards the waterfront, one of my "moments" faded in to memory. I recalled the first London trip when my mother, sister, and a family friend visited the Tower of London. After our tour, we bought sandwiches and scrumptious pastries from the small café just outside the Tower and sat together on a beautiful day, eating delicious food and just watching the people by the river.
Westminster Abbey
It was so peaceful and it felt amazing to just relax amidst the bustle of London on that hot summer day. A simple memory but one I cherish. I smiled as I stood next to the small café reminiscing and taking pictures of Tower Bridge.

I continued to walk along the river, enjoying the crisp autumn breeze and the sun kissing my cheeks. It was a weekday and people were walking to and fro in business suits. I passed London Bridge and chuckled to myself. I always thought the Tower Bridge was London Bridge. But no. London Bridge is just a simple bridge. There were a few tourists snapping pictures here and there. At one point I headed in and passed St. Paul's Cathedral, stopping to take a few pictures but not going in. Not this time. Maybe next time.

I took the Tube to Westminster and marvelled at the Parliament building and Big Ben as I crossed the Thames with the intention of going on the London Eye. I decided I would give it a whirl as it was a perfect day and the view would be amazing. Unfortunately, the line was a bit too long for my liking and the Star Wars Exhibition caught my eye. Oh to see Padmé's lovely dresses up close! I love pretty dresses. My inner geek squealed in delight. Awesome to see all those props and costumes in person. I just wish they featured more from Episodes II and III. Padmé's dresses were stunning in that movie and I'm sure my friend Jali would have loved to see my pictures. Ah well. It was still pretty neat.

My feet were starting to ache and my vision started to blur. Exhaustion started to take me over but I would not stop. I wasn't going to stop but I did want a bit of quiet. I headed to Kensington Gardens. Time seemed to stand still as I strolled down the long path towards the Kensington Palace. Mothers pushed their babies in buggies. Young children played on the pirate ship in the Diana Memorial Playground while their parents looked on with amusement. Some older kids were kicking around a football on the lush green lawn. Brilliant white swans glided across the large pond, long necks curving gracefully and bending towards the clear water. It was lovely. I snapped a few pictures of the exterior of the Palace and continued along the path, looking for the Albert Memorial. I saw my brother's pictures from his trip this past June and wanted to see the huge monument for myself.

The Gothic-style monument was commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her husband Prince Albert and was unveiled in 1872. It consists of a central pavilion with a golden statue of a seated Prince Albert immediately surrounded by four corner group statues of the industrial arts and sciences, and four corner groups representing Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa. I am a big fan of sculpture and so I marvelled at the artistry and great detail of the memorial. Some might describe it as a bit "over the top" but I really liked it.

My long walk in the Garden ended with another visit to the infamous Peter Pan statue before hopping on the Tube again to visit Westminster Abbey to actually go inside and not just snap pictures of the exterior as I did the first time I visited. I'm not Christian but I can certainly appreciate the architecture and craftsmanship of that amazing building, and having read the Da Vinci Code, I wanted to see Sir Issac Newton memorial and the pretty courtyard seen in the film. I'm nerdy that way. :) Oh the stained glass windows were also quite marvellous! I'm glad I was able to visit this time around. It was definitely worth it.

By 5 o'clock I was utterly exhausted and after I met up with Erin, we lugged my bags back to her new flat in East Dulwich. We changed in to our PJs, ordered pizza, watched TV, caught up, and spoke about my plans to move out to London next year. It didn't take much to fall asleep. My mind and body welcomed it, well used after a full day exploring the sights of London.

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Tower Bridge and London Bridge
Tower Bridge and London Bridge
Parliament Building, Big Ben and S…
Parliament Building, Big Ben and …
London Eye and a Padmé costume at…
London Eye and a Padmé costume a…
Albert Memorial and Peter Pan stat…
Albert Memorial and Peter Pan sta…
Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
photo by: ulysses