Woke up early on Monday to take the train to London. I had already begun considering not stopping in York. I was tired and just had a feeling based on my trips to Stirling and Dunfermline that a few hours (which was about the max I could give) wouldn’t be enough to orient myself to the town and explore anything. Talking to one of the National Rail guys at Waverly Station more or less clenched it. The trains were very busy, the earlier trains would be better than the later ones. If I stopped in York, I’d end up on one of those later trains. So, I was on the 8am train out of Edinburgh and arrived in London about 1pm.
Made my way down to Piccadilly Station to get my travelcard for the Tube. And from there on to the Ace Hotel, which is a fairly new Hostel where I’m staying this time. It’s been far nicer than the Belford, which I’d rate as okay but not great (i.e. I would stay again but would choose somewhere else if something like the Ace exists there). The Ace is really new, and you can get dorm rooms that are ensuite. The dorm I’m in sleeps four, but there’s only two of us there. The other guy, Jason, is also from the U.S.A. – Florida to be a bit more precise. We’ve exchanged war stories, etc. Haven’t really had a lot of time to get to know him as I’ve so little time here, but he seems a nice guy. Planning to live and work here for awhile. As for the room, I feel pampered now. I can only imagine what it will feel like when I’m back in my house tomorrow night.
Yesterday, started to go try the London Eye, but there was a huge wait for tickets and then you still have to stand in line to board the darn thing. Add to it that it’s close to $20 USD… no thanks… Instead I walked up to Parliament and then to Trafalgar Square. I hadn’t forgotten the way in 6 mos – so proud of myself! I visited the National Gallery and tried to educate myself on good art – I’m sure I have a few friends who will be proud. I quite liked some of the Monet and Rembrandt’s I saw. I quite liked some of the JMW Turner landscapes I saw – enough that his name made an impression on me – that says something! Saw some DaVinci, etc.
Afterwards, walked over to Picadilly Circus and saw the sights. From there, back on the Tube over to Tower Hill station for the Jack The Ripper tour from London Walks. Loved it! Tons of information on the murders. There’s not a lot surviving from those days, but we saw what there was plus some colorful drunks and local figures who wanted to play for the tourists.
After that back to the Hostel for some sleep. Got a great long shower and went to bed after reading just a bit.
Slept later than I figured I would this morning. Had been getting up around 7am most mornings. This morning didn’t get out the door until 9am. Had lost too much time to see what the breakfast was like. Really can’t even say I had breakfast unless you consider a bag of Crisps (chips back home) and a coke as breakfast?
Went straight to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The exterior was covered in tarps and scaffolding the last time I was here. Most of the outside stuff is done, but they are still working on the inside – repairs after it’s 300th birthday. I had wanted to see it after learning about it’s history on one of the London Walks tours last time – There has been a St. Paul’s going back to Medieval times, but the current 300 year old structure built after the Great Fire that destroyed London is considered “New St. Pauls.” It was an ambitious building that took a generation to complete. I wish photography was allowed inside, but was not surprised that it was not. Most of the churches I’ve visited that were still in use prohibited it. I even climbed to the top. I’m not sure offhand of the height, but it was like 530 steps according to the guide. The first set of stairs takes you to the Whispering gallery at the bottom of the dome. Sound travels quite well there. The next two sets of stairs in the dome lead you to subsequent higher positions on the outside of the dome. I got some good shots of the city from up there.
The combination of my small breakfast and the gargantuan feat of climbing up and down, I had to sit a few minutes during my tour of the crypt. My legs were just jelly. Luckily the audio tour was almost over at this point.
As soon as it was, I headed to Covent Garden and checked out Covent Garden Market while eating. Lots of neat stuff but I used my willpower (there) and didn’t buy anything other than food to get my energy level back where it should be! Let’s all say, “YAYYY!!” for lunch!
From there, headed over to Westminster Tube for one last London Walks. This one is a tour of the last 1000 years of Westminster. Learned a lot about the buildings surrounding Parliament and Westminster Abbey. For instance, was not aware that Parliament is technically the Royal Palace of Westminster. It was originally a Palace. Very little of the original structure survives – most was destroyed by fire in the 1830’s. And it’s been hundreds of years since the Royals have called it home, but traditions here die hard. The guide showed us a lof the streets around there, some where 18th century houses still survive (and they are still homes). Saw Westminster School, where such notables as A.A. Milne (of Winnie The Pooh fame) went to school. All of this surrounded areas I had walked last time, but without a guide would not have known what I learned today.
That was pretty much the cap to the day. Afterwards, I wanted to find something to read on the plane tomorrow. In my infinite wisdom, I decided the one Star Trek Anthology that I had with me would be enough as I only read one story in it before coming here. Well, it lasted me until two nights ago. Last night I actually re-read a story in it. I was hoping to find a Transformers UK graphic novel I was missing. Didn’t have it at Borders – although I have to give them credit for having the biggest Graphic Novel section of any bookstore I’ve seen. Figured I’d walk over to Gosh! – a comic shop I found last time near the British Museum, rode over in that direction on the tube and started walking a different way than last time to get there… and found… Forbidden Planet! I’ve heard of this place before – actually I believe it’s a chain here. At any rate, wow! Two floors of comics and cult TV, toys, etc. I have to rank seeing a German guy happily holding a die-cast General Lee (Dukes of Hazzard!) as one of my odder experiences. They had some awesome stuff – most of which was expensive when you converted to the lowly USD. I did find the graphic novel I was looking for and went ahead and bought it even though it cost me more than at home. I found another Trade that was on clearance – so actually cheaper than full price back home! I also found a Transformers toy for myself and a gift for someone else (can’t say too much here!). So, that’s got to end my shopping!
Wandered back to Piccadilly for dinner and a little e-mail. Shortly back to my lodgings for the night to pack up and prepare to return to the U.S. tomorrow. I will be grateful to get home, have a chance to be in my own quiet little house for awhile, etc. But this is the second time I’ve left London, and each time my heart is heavy at this point. There’s still so much to do here. But I’ve proven that I can and will return.