Keep Calm and Carry On

London Travel Blog

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The day began at 4AM. My clock was completely off its nut and I had no idea what time it was anymore (It was 11PM at home, and I was waking up?) Unable to get to sleep because of a loud party happening down the street, I decided to get up and bathe. It was then that I found out that they turned off the hot water at night. Now fully awake, I stumped down 37 stories to the front of the hostel to have a smoke, where I met a bunch of younger travels doing the same. We hung out for a bit, and then went our separate ways.

Several hours later, I struck out heading southeasterly. I had a destination in mind, but owning to the fact that it would be opened for another couple of hours, it gave me some time to wander and take a leisurely route. I walked down Regent to Pall Mall, which I followed into Trafalgar Square, passing Canada House on the way.

Form there I worked my way down towards the Thames, where I crossed the bridge on foot before turning back for the prerequisite photograph of the House of Parliament and clock tower. Next, I stopped briefly at the Waterloo train station. I would be leaving from their for Paris in a few days, and knowing where it was and how to get around set my mind at ease about the departure going smoothly.

I reached the museum still quite early, and took a stroll around the parks outside. There was  Russian memorial to their soldiers and civilians, and a lovely Peace Garden, based around Tibetan Buddhist symbology and dedicated by the Dali Lama:

"We human beings are passing through a crucial time in our development. Conflict and mistrust have plagued the past century, which has brought immeasurable human suffering and environmental destruction.

It is in the interest of all of us on this planet that we make a joint effort to turn the next century into an era of peace & harmony. May this Peace Garden become a monument to the courage of the Tibetan people & their commitment to peace. May it remain as a symbol to remind us that human survival depends on living in harmony & on always choosing the path of non-violence in resolving our differences." - The XIV Dali Lama of Tibet, May 13, 1999

There's also a piece of the Berlin Wall, with the hopeful yet cryptic entreaty to 'Change Your Life'.

By this time, the Museum was opened and I could go in, once again marveling at the freeness (this trend would end soon enough.) It was the Imperial War Museum, so obviously my nerd bits were tingling and erect.

The collection was stunning, and I was brought to tears many times by among other things the Tamzine (a small pleasure craft used during the evacuation at Dunkirk), a large-scale model of Auschwitz (the production line nature of that hell on earth was never more clear) and in the personal correspondence of people who landed on D-Day in a special exhibit for the pending 60th anniversary. It was a pleasant couple of hours.

I took my time heading back, the grabbed a quick shower and headed back out. I was going to meet a couple of my squadies from the BKB (Black Night Brigade) from World War II Online (the video game that ultimately precipitated this trip.) We spent a good couple of hours pounding back Guinness and then stopping by a little Turkish restaurant which was entirely too delicious.

On my way back to the hostel, I ran into the kids who were out front having a smoke the night before. They insisted that I go out with them, and we trundled out into the London night looking for the elusive after hours. We didn't find them, and we missed the last tube back, so we ended up splitting a cab back to Piccadilly Circus, where I went to bed as they stumbled off looking for beer. I had a big day coming up.

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photo by: ulysses