Oddly enough, I woke up early in the morning, which according to my internal clock, should have been probably around 11pm. But having thwarted jetlag by not sleeping on the flight, I was pretty much calibrated to GMT.
The weird thing about a modern city like London is how things are still set to an era gone past in the US. Most museums, some restaurants, and other attractions don’t even open until 10am. Then many of them close at 5pm or later on at 7pm. Even the Waitrose markets close at 9pm. Some bars and restaurants are open at 11pm, latest. London is not much of a 24 hour culture yet, though there are some places that are open this late.
Setting out for one of the places in the area open this early, I had my Osprey Daylite pack, map, (compass, just in case), water bottle full to the top, and some snacks for the walk, just in case I got hungry. Included was also my Columbia windbreaker. Being a Colorado boy, I don’t take the weather for granted. And since this was London, I was ready for the famous rain everyone warned me about.
It never rained while I was in London. But I did carry that damn jacket all over the city.
At just after 8am, I found my way to Arco’s, a diner which appeared on Yelp! as a fine eating establishment, serving the full-English breakfast. I arrived, ordered the Full-English and a cup of tea (because when in Rome?). I have learned since the the tea culture in the UK is not the same as we have known. Tea consisted of a bag of tea in a mug of hot water. Cream was available upon request. So was sugar. It cost slightly less than a flat white or an Americano.
Since I didn’t have a data plan for the UK on my phone, I had to rely on jumping on to wifi’s whenever I could and checking the maps. My Lonely Planet map that came with my England book just sucked. There was a bus/tube station map, but none of the Tube stations appeared on the city map. So, I started taking screenshots of my Google Maps on my phone so I could refer to them later in my Photos.
Arco’s was one such spot with complimentary Wifi.
Breakfast arrived and the portions were epic. Two fried eggs, slightly runny, two sausages, two nice pieces of bacon (which is more like a ham here), sourdough toast, and Heinz beans. After finishing breakfast, I tried to get my bearings and headed East. According to the map in my backpack, taking Knightsbridge road would lead to…well, it doesn’t matter. Since there are rarely any street signs, I soon got lost. Eventually, my road took me to a high wall and a trio of women who appeared from a heavy wooden door in full dressage gear. I could hear horses, smell manure. I followed along a rough section of pavement. Ironwork gates revealed nice Landrovers, motorcycles. And checking my map briefly, I discovered I was on the south end of Buckingham Palace Gardens. Working my way back up, I found Buckingham Palace. And I got my obligatory tourist picture!
Since I was still leery of the tube system, I followed the Mall and wound up in Trafalgar Square, then up to the British Museum. On the way, I got to see Lord Nelson on his column.
Already, my feet were hurting, as I had walked at least 3 miles on uneven pavements. I knew I was at the right place because of all the buses lined up outside the building. Otherwise, it wasn’t marked very well. To my eyes, I was looking for something old, neoclassical, and in this city, everything looks older than most of what I’ve seen most of my life.
In the British Museum, I was first met with the sculpture of Shiva, which appears in every history/geography book every published. That was what really started to bring it home for me.
I wandered through the museum for at least three hours. Towards the end of my visit, I had to sit down every once in a while. My feet just aching from all the walking, but my eyes were hungry for more. Celtic brooches, the Sutton Hoo helm, Oliver Cromwell’s death mask, Mayan artifacts, statues from ancient Greece. 10,000 years of human history under one roof. From the Venus of Willendorf to the Rosetta Stone.
I could ramble on and on about it. Really, it is something that needs to be experienced first hand. This was day one at the British Museum. I’ve posted pics throughout to illustrate some of the things I got to see.
I went to the Russell Square tube station and was greeted with 175 steps down into the bowels of the city. Down, down, down winding in clockwise circles down a spiral staircase until I finally found the train, and then the reason why there were so many lifts at the top.
I rode the Piccadilly Line back to Knightsbridge. Got lost on the way to my AirBnB, but it only took ten minutes to find my way home again, instead of the 30 plus minutes of the day before.
After a long nap, I woke and decided to go to a real English Pub. So I looked one up in the neighborhood. I found a place called “the Grenadier.” I wound my way through the streets again until I found it. A little hole in the wall place, tucked away behind a Circle of nice upscale homes. The Grenadier was a whitewashed pub from a past era. I found it because of all the other tourist types either being brought in and dropped off in black cabs, or walking there in their nice cocktail dresses and blazers. I ordered a Camden Hells lager. A full pint, for £10. Yes.
I was dumbfounded as to how anyone can sit and drink in a pub. This place, rife with Americans, French, Ukrainians, and the Dutch, was undoubtedly a tourist spot. I walked back towards home, the lightweight that I am, hardly even feeling a buzz. Along the way, I stopped off at a Waitrose, five minutes before close and picked up the first of many loads of junk food.
British junk food is unparalleled.
I got fruit jellies, Walter’s Sweet Chili and Thai crisps, and a Cadbury Twirl bar. I chatted with the woman in line behind me. The cashier. Even five minutes before close, I hadn’t found anyone yet who wasn’t friendly. I started on the bag of crisps and before I knew it, I had eaten the entire bag myself. I was lucky I only got the one bag.
The fruit jellies became my addiction. Flavored with real fruit juice, they included black currant, pear, lime, mandarin orange, etc. You won’t find “grape,” “cherry,” or “watermelon” in these candies.
The Twirl bars were amazing. Like two sticks of chocolate truffles. Amazing, if not sufficiently rich.
Throughout my time in London, I discovered that the best way to figure out the neighborhoods was to get lost and try to find my way back to the AirBnB. Eventually I worked my way back to Brompton Rd., then back to my room.