touring London all day and departing for Paris at night
London Travel Blog› entry 63 of 68 › view all entries
I slept well from 4:00 to 9:00am and then went downstairs to the dining hall for the included breakfast. Only grain products available, I ate two bowls of cereal and seven slices of toast before heading back up to take a shower. Although I was checking out, I padlocked my backpack in one of the empty cabinets in the room (001) to lighten my load while I toured the city. The rooms all used keypad entry codes, so I kept my combination safely in my wallet to ensure I could find it by the time I returned for my bag.
While walking in search of the (i), I found one of The Original Tour double-deckers, which happened to be going my way and the thickets were cheap, so I bought one and climbed onboard the flashy red bus. The HO-HO (hop-on/hop-off) is a great value because the routes go everywhere and one ticket is valid for any bus all day. Hopping off first at Piccadilly Circus, I felt energized by the busy crossroads stirring with traffic and pedestrians.
Before touring the city, I visited several travel and tourist offices to further explore my options for commuting to Paris affordably. Along the busy streets, foul belches of sewer gas permeated the air. No one office kept the rates for every method of transportation and although the few prices they did have varied depending on whom I asked, not one of them was economical. Finally concluding the arduous task of asking answerless agents who directed me to other answerless agents, I finally found an almost reasonable rate. My coach ticket on Eurolines was ₤56 (~$86) and it would be an overnight trip. Sleeping on the on the ride would mean I would waste no daylight hours in a bus and I could save the cost of renting a bed for the night.
On the next Original, I met a nice Aussie girl, Vac.
Touring afloat showed us a lot of the city over a short period. Looming above the skyline, numerous cranes stretched their booms, hoisting materials as new structures were being erected. Also from the river, we took looks at many of the icons for which London is known. Among some notable were:
- The London Eye, the tallest Ferris wheel in the world (at the time)
- Big Ben (officially, the Clock Tower)
- House of Parliament (also known as the Palace of Westminster)
- Saint Paul’s Cathedral
- Tower of London (formally, Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress)
- Tower Bridge, the most attractive bridge in London
- HMS Belfast, a town-class cruiser of the Royal Navy, which serves now as a floating museum
- The world famous, yet starkly simple London Bridge
- Cleopatra’s Needle, an ancient Egyptian obelisk dating back to 1460 BC and created during the reign of Pharaoh Thotmes III.
Back on dry land across the river from County Hall Gallery, Vac remained on foot while I hopped another bus and continued my tour. Past Little Ben and Queen Mother Gates at Hyde Park, I got off at Madame Tussaud’s around 6:00pm only to find the museum had already shut 30 minutes earlier. Discouragingly few attractions in the UK (or Ireland) remain open past dusk, so the best thing to do is get an early start. London is huge, but the combined bus and boat tours were an ideal way to hit the important spots with only a day in town.
Taking a bus back to Generator, my concern began to grow over leaving my bag in the room all day. It had been eight and a half hours after I checked out and I felt a bit nervously standing at the door to punch in the code.
While making a daypack of essentials to take, I met three of my backpack’s roommates, one guy from Colorado, another from Switzerland, and one girl from Canada. Thoughtfully, Canadian gave me an all-day tube pass that she no longer needed along with a few tangerines. All three hostellers were cool to chat with; and if they had been there a day earlier, we might have hung out, but I had to get going to catch my coach.
At Virginia Coach station, a sweet Parisian girl, Anaїs, granted me a French tutorial. Departing together on the 21:30 coach, my lessons continued. Soon into the ride, we were disturbed by a very rude and inconsiderate woman listening to annoying auditory pollution on headphones loudly enough for the driver to rap along. To the dismay of several other passengers, the obnoxious rider flatly refused and flaunted her urban-black attitude when asked to reduce the volume.
Into Dover, a giant, silver ophidian swallowed our coach along with dozens of busses and cars.