“Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” – Samuel Johnson
Indeed! Despite being the first to get lost from my tour group at Buckingham Palace — that’s what I get for being too caught up in taking photos — until a kind, elderly British couple came to my rescue by lending me their mobile, I officially crossed London, England off my bucket list a few weeks ago. As always, I am reluctant to use the term “crossed off,” as London is a place I would love to return to and where many friends on my tour group said they could even see themselves living someday.
While I have a more general travel bucket list of countries I hope to see on Project Light to Life, rather than a list of specific bucket list-eqsue activities I hope to cross off in each city/country, I did have a mental list of sites/activities I wanted to pursue. Listed below are some of these sites/activities.
1). Stay in a hostel:
I was thrilled the first place we stayed in was a hostel. Sleeping on the top bunk (which included curtains, and therefore, reminded me of my own little club house), seeing international travelers around the same age group as me, and hanging out by the hotel bar, where every desperate soul sat hunched together, not speaking a word to one another, after finally acquiring Wifi, was an experience in itself.
2). Visit Tower Bridge:
Yes, it was exciting to visit the bridge where James Bond and the Harry Potter movies were filmed, but I became even more excited when our tour director informed us the Spice Girls movie Spice World was filmed there as well.
3). Visit Shakespeare’s Globe Theater:
Seeing this location made my entire trip! #EnglishMajorNerd
4). Visit St. Paul’s:
While we did not exactly go into the church and were only able to take a bathroom break there, it was still a beautiful place to see.
5). See Big Ben:
There’s something about seeing such an iconic monument that is exciting.
6). See Westminster Abbey:
While we did not go inside the Abbey, even just passing the place where Chaucer is buried was cool enough for me.
7). Visit Buckingham Palace and see the changing of the guards:
While I was disappointed the queen did not valiantly come to my rescue while I was lost at her palace, it seems as if her guards must have been alerted and came out to look for me.
8). Ride the London Eye:
Being at the mental age of five, I become instantly happy by the thought of going on any type of “ride.” While I have been on one of the fastest, tallest roller coasters in the world, Kingda Ka, I am normally terrified of Ferris Wheels. However, because the London Eye resembled more of an observation deck, all fear went away.
9). Cross Abbey Road:
I love the Beatles, so visiting this site also made my day. Although a bit unrealistic, I always pictured the road to be like an empty field, where visitors could simply pose as they wished, for as long as they like, until perfectly reenacting the Beatles’ stances. That would be nice, except for the road being an actual road! I feel for those poor souls who needed to drive along that road to get to school, work, etc, each day and are forced to take a detour route or who are probably tempted to run over the herd of tourists stopping in the middle to get a photo. #Guilty
10). Visit King’s Cross and Platform 9 and ¾
We were a bit disappointed to discover that this area was turned into a tourist destination, where people wait an hour in line to take their photo in an area that is not even the actual Platform 9 and ¾ location featured in the film. Rather than waiting in line, we took a few photos of random families (Harry Potter’s next new cast) standing in front of the cart, then ventured off to find the actual location. A conductor directed us toward the area it was filmed, which he said was actually located at Platform 5 (Gasp! Those liars!) and informed us they removed the sign because its proximity to the actual subway had started to become dangerous. When another conductor saw us standing there, he told us we could visit the actual tourist attraction (the fake!) upstairs. “Oh, we know,” I said. “But we’re just pretending.” After looking a bit disturbed, the man walked away.
11). Go on a pub crawl in London:
Free shots of Sambuca (that awful taste still lingers in my mouth) at every bar, signing one another’s t-shirts, and writing #SORandy in all caps on most peoples’ shirts, which our tour director informed us earlier that day was more than a name in London and that he was appalled people in the US and Canada are named that, summarizes the evening. Later on, two of my friends and I wound up joining the wrong pub-crawl and at an entirely different pub than where we were supposed to go. Getting lost seems to be a pattern with me.
12). Visit Oxford:
Everyone and their second cousins should go to school here! The campus and surrounding schools that encompass Oxford are absolutely beautiful. If only it were that easy. #SoCollege #MuchWow
Remind anyone of a fictional dining hall?
13). Visit Stonehenge:
While of course it was neat to see this historic site, I think I was most impressed by the bus driver who came to pick us up at the stones and bring us back to our destination. She not only deliberately continued swerving the bus in a zig zag motion, but shouted “Weeeeee! This is the weeee weee ride! Weeee!” and when my friends and I kept cracking up, told us that we were keeping her sane.
14). Take a picture in a telephone booth:
While cliché and touristy, I just had to. It’s iconic!
15). Watch the last game of the world cup in a London Bar:
While my theory on sports is that they’re all trying hard and deserve a medal, I’ll admit it was cool to see how excited everyone else in the pub seemed to be about the game, including all of the chanting. For a short while, I amused myself by observing two girls who continued weeping uncontrollably as they realized their team was going to loose and, along with a few other people, got some photos, until one woman commented that people taking photos of them was “Fucking disgusting.” While I would have felt like a terrible person if their fish had died or they were sobbing over something other than a competition, maybe it was a bit mean. Or maybe the woman had been rooting for Argentina. Either way, I envy people able to get so passionate over sports and enjoyed observing everyone.
And finally, like any great tourist destination, it was a must to at least browse some of the souvenirs:
I have always enjoyed this quote about travel:
“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves, and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again — to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.” – Pico Lyer
In my case, I’m typically just getting lost.
Has anyone else traveled to London, or, even better, live there? I’d love to hear about your experiences there!