A Travel Journal
—London is pre-eminent in the culture, communications, politics, finance, and arts of its country, and has considerable influence worldwide. Alongside New York City, Paris, and Tokyo, London is often listed among the four major global cities. London has the greatest concentration of major attractions in Britain and boasts four World Heritage Sites. 238 attractions that are free to enter, so there's nowhere else in the world where you can see so much for so little. Choose from the classic British Airways London Eye to museums and galleries, or head outdoors to one of London's many parks.
After a one hour delay in Winnipeg, two annoying chatty kids sitting behind my father and I for six hours, three lost pieces of luggage and a two hour airport shuttle ride due to a lorry (truck) fire, we were settled into our room at the Regent Palace Hotel in Piccadilly. Please note, there are shared bathroom facilities, meaning you have to call down to room service to have them come unlock the shower for you. There are six shower and toilet complexes on each floor; all have two showers and two toilets.
The hotel was a quick walk to the National Gallery (admission: free.) On our walk there I couldn't believe how alive the city seemed compared to the almost sterile Canadian cities. The National Gallery houses one of the greatest collections of European painting in the world. To stand before a real Cezanne or Botticelli is an incredible experience. Some were so huge and realistic I felt like I could just step right into them. As I stood there staring at the real "Sunflowers" by Van Gogh my dad came by and appropriately quoted Mary Poppins, "...close your mouth, we are not a cod fish."
Still no luggage, the poor guy at the baggage claim office in the hotel must be sick of seeing either me or my father. Today we decided to take part in an Evan Evans Tour of Stonehenge and Georgian Bath. This is an all day tour designed to allow you more time at Stonehenge and in Bath so you can really enjoy what they have to offer, whilst getting you back into London early evening in time for dinner (Adult: £56.00 Child (3-16): £46.00.) The tour guide on the way there gave us a lot of information on the surrounding areas and some interesting history of Stonehenge itself. You can no longer go right up to the rocks due to deterioration, but they are still impressive from 20 feet back. After we were done at Stonehenge we got back on the bus (which is air conditioned) to head to Bath which was stunning. Everything in the city was built out of the same stone. We toured the roman baths and temple ruins. The city just oozes history. Upon visiting the Bath Abbey I was touched to see a tourist who had taken time out of their vacation to kneel at the alter and say a prayer.
Next we traveled by underground (mind the gap) to Abbey Road. That is Mecca for Beatles fans like me. The wall outside the studio is covered with hand written tributes to the fab four. They ranged from "Lennon is living in the Canary Islands with Elvis and Amelia Earheart" to "Lennon is a genius living in every pore" to "George is my favorite." Of course I couldn't help it, I absolutely had to cross Abbey road just like my favorite band and have my father take my picture while I did it. We had lunch at St. Paul's Cathedral. They have turned part of their crypt into quite the little café. At the time we were the Cathedral was undergoing extensive restoration so a lot of things were covered by scaffolding making it worth touring. Though most of it should be gone by now.
The collections are divided between two departments: The Department of Early London History and The Department of Later London History. The coolest exhibit in my opinion was on the Great Fire.
We finished the day at with a walking tour of Whitechapel. More specifically we took the "Jack the Ripper Walk" with the Ripping Yarns Walking Tour Company. We met the tour across the street from the Tower of London. Being absolutely fascinated with the Jack the Ripper mystery I listen incredibly closely hoping to catch our guide making a mistake
Our guide was incredibly well versed in the case and incredibly easy to listen to. A unique feature of the tour is that you pay after the whole tour is finished and if you didn't enjoy the tour you don't have to pay (cost: £4.00 for adults and £3.00 for students.) Due to the nature of this tour's content, it's unsuitable for children.
Today was our last day in London and our exploring/shopping/National Portrait Gallery day. The only thing on our agenda was the portrait gallery (admission: free) which had a wonderful mix of portrait photography, painting and mix media.
One of the best portraits was of James Watson, the man who co-discovered DNA. It was his DNA in a Petri dish mounted on the wall. A whole section of the gallery was dedicated to royal portraits and royal family photos which would appeal to any royalty watcher.
After the gallery, we found ourselves in Covent Gardens which is a shopping and entertainment complex in central London. It was teeming with shoppers, buskers, and vendors. I bought the most wonderful pair of rainbow striped knee-socks there.
Also while we were there we saw a reproduction of "The Last Supper" in chalk on the side-walk and a vintage store with the slogan, "Don't follow fashion, buy something that is already out of date."
Our day ended with a walk through Soho where I found the most wonderful rugby store. We finally had dinner at a wonderful little Italian restaurant in Piccadilly.
We needed to make an early evening due to needing to be up at 4:30 to get to Heathrow so we could fly to Berlin, Germany, where we would continue the second leg of our trip.