L&R 2014 – Day 2 : Seeing London

Fell asleep too quick last night to write about Day 1 craziness, and what our lodgings in International Hall are like (in short: small room, horrid shower design, but cheap). So I’ll fill Day 1 in later, skipping to Day 2.

6:55AM GMT: Woke up feeling more rested than I thought. Entire building is a bit humid and rather warm, even with the window open all night and it was supposed to get pretty cool overnight. Lynn organizing yoga at 8:15, may do that, then shower. Checking email now.

8:08AM GMT: Or not… Fell back asleep, Lynn just knocked saying no on yoga, but yes on breakfast as we had thought there wasn’t meal service on the weekends.

8:40AM GMT: Back in room, about to hit the shower and change to meet up and leave at a bit after 9. Breakfast was a buffet: fried egg, hash browns, croissant, slice of ham, banana and OJ. Free with the room.

9:19AM GMT: About to head to the Buckingham Palace area. Katie and Bethany are in the hall computer room, trying to get tickets for themselves to a performance of Wicked tonight. Made some plans to go with a small group over to a book district and then the Imperial War Museum (and Churchill War Rooms) tomorrow.

12:41AM GMT: Back in dorm room. Been back for about an hour but been relaxing from the day and sorting through photos and the like. Plus, chugging lots of water because it’s been a nice temperature (75’ish? F) but humid enough that I’ve sweat a bit more than expected.

So the day started with a short walk from the dorm building to a local shopping district. Nice little mix of shops, wide range of goods they cater to, the stores were just opening as we got out there around 9:30AM but the area already was smelling great from the falafel cart that was setting up in the middle of the area.

Mall shopping area by lodgings
Mall shopping area by lodgings

We were stopping so Meg could get her UK phone setup so we would always have a way to call her if needed. She’d meant to do that before we showed up but her schedule had been too busy on the day, and she showed up a little early for us.

While she was doing that a lot of the group went shopping. A clothing store with apparently fantastic shoes and a great dress selection was found. M replaced a pair of pumps she’d left behind and got some boots, Bethany got a dress and had to flee to avoid buying more, Meg got a sweater (I think, pretty sure that was a new sweater she was showing off).

Meg on the left, Lynn on the right. Celeste's phone and Bethany's coffee made it in as well.
Meg on the left, Lynn on the right. Celeste’s phone and Bethany’s coffee made it in as well.

After that we were heading towards the bus line to get to the Westminster stop. Along the way to the bus stop Meg stepped into a Waterstones (book store chain, think British Barnes & Nobles) and picked up maps for us all.

We also passed Br? College. It’s apparently the historical predecessor to a lot of what Marylhurst does, founded upon the principle of letting a working class person study at night to better themselves.

Motto translates as "Study by Night"
Motto translates as “Study by Night”

The bus ride itself was great, on a bright red double-decker London bus. I was wondering, at first, why Tri-Met didn’t have such things before I remembered that London appears to be relatively flat and Portland has a fair number of hills that a top-heavy double-decker bus would not be good for. Partway there the bus terminated, which meant we all had to get off and wait for the next one of its number.

London Bus, door on opposite side. (Something I forgot when taking this photo.)
London Bus, door on opposite side.
(Something I forgot when taking this photo.)

Lynn struck up a conversation with a man named Julius on the bus ride. He’d written a thesis paper about how technology restricts the way we communicate and was amused at the group of people on the bus (us) who were all waving around their electronics (cel phones) instead of talking (which he was with Lynn).

We walked from our eventual bus stop (Westminster) up along Horse Guard Road and then turned and walked down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. We managed to get there with only a few minutes to spare before seeing the guard march out of the palace back to their barracks. So missed most of the pomp and circumstance, but we also hadn’t been interested in showing up hours early to get close enough to have a good view.

Second set of guards, marching back along The Mall.
Second set of guards, marching back along The Mall.

After that we waited a bit for the crowd to disperse before heading up to the Palace and taking photos of it from up close.

Then we walked back through St. Jame’s Park. By this point it was approaching noon and a lot of us were either starting to get hungry, or needing a bathroom to pee. Because all the restaurants right around there were really quite expensive we walked a ways off back into the city to find a place to eat. We ended up going to Pret a Manger, which was a nice little sandwich shop and are even more ubiquitous around London the Starbucks are around Portland (though there are Starbucks here, the local chain seems to be Caffe Nero).

After lunch, it was back on the bus and to the Tower of London. The Tower, as it turns out, is far less a tower and more properly an entire castle. (And I am going to have to re-watch Doctor Who now to see where exactly the UNIT entrance is to the Tower complex, since I believe it is their HQ (or I am sleepy and messing my DW trivia up horribly).)

We made plans to meet up back outside at 5:30, it was barely 3 then, and I separated off from the group just after we got inside. I am enough of an introvert to need some time to myself, moving constantly as a 12 person group tires me out bit-by-bit during the day so moving on my own, even though I rarely wasn’t surrounded by rude strangers) was refreshing and something I was badly in need of at that point.

Saw too much to talk about here, that’ll get an entire post of it’s own at some point. Maybe the thing that struck me the most though wasn’t even in the Tower itself, but was an art installment outside.

A few of the poppies.
A few of the poppies.

Visually beautiful, but also a very real way to make the losses of the First World War be visually depicted with a sense of scale as to how many were lost.

After the Tower we travelled a bit longer together before Katie and Bethany split off to see Wicked (Bethany said when we saw her later, “I am a better person now.” Not seen Katie yet to ask her.)

Along the walk back to dinner we went through Convent Gardens, a big glass covered shopping arcade.

Convent Gardens arcade, with random people from crowd
Convent Gardens arcade, with random people from crowd

As we left through the far side we came upon a contortionist street performer who was putting a tennis racket (no string, just the frame) down over his body including dislocating one of his shoulders early on. He got a kid from the audience to help, and had a hilariously witty streak of humor the entire time, mocking both himself and joking with the audience.

At the end, he had a hat out to collect donations and had a running commentary that the last person to donate always magically turned out to be the prettiest person in the crowd. Jonathan went to donate (and was almost the last) but then had to fumble out his wallet and ended up standing next to the performer for a bit and was the butt of a handful of quick jokes.

Jonathan and the contortionist at the end of his act
Jonathan and the contortionist at the end of his act

A few more minutes of walking brought us back past the Two Brewers Pub from dinner on the first night, to this little hole-in-the-wall Italian place which had a nice set meal dinner, 11.95 for pasta/pizza + mixed green salad + glass of house red. I had a Beefeater pizza (which seemed fitting after seeing the Beefeaters on guard at the tower) which was cheese + sliced grilled tomatoes + minced beef + green onion. Delicious food, nice house red, mixed greens salad with maybe a little too much balsamic dressing.

After dinner it was a short a walk back to the hotel. We were near where we’d gone to eat the first night so I was familiar with the are and outpaced the group to get a moment to myself, walking through Russell Square, before meeting everyone back at the dorm again.

Fountain at the center of Russell Square
Fountain at the center of Russell Square

I’d just started to settle in for the night when Krista invited me to join a group of them that were headed back out on the town. I met up with Krista, Celeste, Sarah, Jonathan and Robert outside and we headed out on a walk. The less said of the excursion, the better. I ended up walking back with Krista and Celeste, and then we all worried when the rest of them hadn’t made it back two hours later.

Ended up being nothing to be concerned about, but I think we were all still a little jumpy from the Day 1 drama, and because of the people involved.

All in all, it was a long tiring day. About to crash for the night and then get up and go to Mass in the morning. (A sentence I will likely only type one more time in my life (and that will be next week in Rome).)

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