An American in Europe! (London, England- Part One)

(Since so much happened while in London, I have decided to split the posts into two parts, just like with Glasgow. Enjoy!)

Hey, there! 🙂

After a week of traveling throughout Ireland and Scotland, I was ready to set off for England! First up: London! 😀

Caught the morning bus from Edinburgh, and for the next eight, nine hours I was in transit, traveling all the way down the country of England down to London, where I was to stay for the next four nights.

Arrived at Victoria Station close to 21h00, bought my Tube pass (a whopping £37, or €50, or $54. The pound currency is not very forgiving to tourists…), and took the Tube to my hostel. However, I had made a mistake when purchasing the pass; I had assumed that my hostel was located in Zone 2, and so I opted for the pass that covered Zone 1 and 2. However, my hostel was actually located in Zone 3, and so I ended up paying an extra £3 to get to-and-from the city center every day that I was in London (an extra £12- not worth it!). Anyway, I’ve learned to forgive myself…considering that the city is crazy expensive to begin with!

Any case, I got off at my stop, and for the next half-hour, I was wandering the area (and a bit of a sketchy one as well) trying to find my hostel. Even had to go into three grocery stores to ask the grocers for directions. London is so confusing…my God.

Eventually, I found my hostel, impatiently waited in line at the check-in counter (there were two women haggling with the receptionist about some confirmation problems. Sucks to be them, but after traveling all day, getting ripped off with the Tube pass, and getting lost at night, I didn’t have time for their antics), and finally checked in. What I had failed to note when I had booked the hostel was that I had to pay the rest of my booking- in cash. Seriously?? In previous hostels, I’ve been able to use my credit card, so why is this hostel being different? If anything, it gave me worries about security…but apparently, it had said on my booking confirmation (I had checked), and so thankfully I had enough pounds to pay for my stay. Finally, after a long and frustrating day, I settled into my dorm (where the lockers were small as hell and I could only put my bags on the shelves, which again, worried me about security), freshened up, and turned in for the night.

Woke up early the next morning, and went to the grocery store next to the hostel to purchase some food for the next few days (saves money, rather than having to go out and eat everyday). Had breakfast, then set out around 8h30 for the city center. Took the Tube to Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, where I wandered the grounds for an hour before heading to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guards ceremony.

Queen Victoria Statue in front of Kensington Palace.
Queen Victoria Statue in front of Kensington Palace.
Hyde Park.
Hyde Park.

At 10h00, I rushed over to Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guards ceremony, a huge hit with tourists who want a slice of British royalty. There was already a sizable crowd in front of the gates, as well as on top of the Queen Victoria Memorial, in order to get a glimpse of the guards when they enter.

Buckingham Palace (crowd already there!).
Buckingham Palace (crowd already there!).

However, I had made a mistake: the ceremony wasn’t to start at 10h00, but rather at 11h30! And I wasn’t going to wait ninety minutes for that when I could check out some other attractions nearby, so I left Buckingham Palace to go to visit Parliament Square, where many of the big-shot monuments (Westminster Abbey, St. Margaret’s Church, Palace of Westminster, and the Elizabeth Tower, aka “Big Ben”) were located. Incredible that they are all there, within feet of each other!

St. Margaret's Church and Westminster Abbey.
St. Margaret’s Church and Westminster Abbey.
Palace of Westminster and the Elizabeth Tower, aka "Big Ben."
Palace of Westminster and the Elizabeth Tower, aka “Big Ben.”

Went back to Buckingham Palace close to 11h30, but by then the crowd had gotten even larger, and so it was impossible to see the guards marching above the people’s heads. Saw glimpses of the procession, heard the fanfare, but otherwise couldn’t capture anything on my camera-phone. Tried to squeeze through the crowd near the palace as well, but again, it was impossible- I should have just stayed and waited there at 10h00.

In the end, I gave up and decided that it wasn’t worth being crammed with the others for the ceremony. Left, and went back to Parliament Square, then past to Westminster Bridge (crazy busy with tourists and buskers) where I saw the London Eye. Crossed the bridge, and made my (confusing) way to the Shakespeare Globe, along the Thames. Took a photo of it from the outside, but wasn’t willing to fork over £15 to get in to see an empty theatre (I would have, if it costed less). Until then, the building’s exterior will suffice:

Shakespeare's Globe.
Shakespeare’s Globe.

Walked along the Thames, and came across the Tower Bridge, which I believe is the most fantastic thing that I have seen while in London, architectural-wise. Day time or evening, it nevertheless looks amazing. At least that’s a positive thing that I can say about London!

Tower Bridge in the daytime.
Tower Bridge in the daytime.
Tower Bridge in the evening.
Tower Bridge in the evening.

Was planning to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral, but by then it was close to 14h00 and I also wanted to visit Keats House, located in north London, considering that it would only be opened on that day (and closed thereafter for the holidays), from 13h00 to 19h00 only. Decided to skip out on St. Paul’s Cathedral and head straight to Keats House. Passed by the Tower of London, but could barely see any of the castle grounds from outside of the fortress (again, need to pay over £20 to get in- not for me!). Took the Tube to Hampstead, then walked over to Keats House. Admission was £5.50, which isn’t too bad for what was inside the house.

As you know, I am a huge fan of poetry, and I adore John Keats. Love his poems, and especially enjoy the biopic Bright Star that recounts his life with Fanny Brawne. If anything, I went to satisfy my literary cravings; the same goes for Shakespeare’s Globe, Canterbury Cathedral (Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales), and the white cliffs of Dover (Shakespeare’s King Lear)– the latter two after London.

Now, the house itself is not very big, even though it’s two stories: very narrow stairs, as well as narrow passageways and rooms- then again, John Keats itself was tiny, being only 5 feet in stature! But it was interesting to peer into the rooms and see how the famous poet lived back in the early 19th century. After touring his house, it re-inspired my love for writing and poetry. ❤

Keats House.
Keats House.
John Keats's room.
John Keats’s room.
Parlor in Keats House.
Parlor in Keats House.
Fanny Brawne's room.
Fanny Brawne’s room.

By the time that I left Keats House, it was 16h00 and getting dark. It was the perfect time to go back to the city center and catch the London Eye light up- which is what I did!

The London Eye!
The London Eye!

Finally decided to head back to the hostel, after being out for almost ten hours. Returned, showered, cooked myself dinner in the hostel’s kitchen, and chilled out for the rest of the night. Day One of London…accomplished! 😀

More on London (as well as my day trip out of the city) later. Cheers!

— The Finicky Cynic

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7 thoughts on “An American in Europe! (London, England- Part One)

  1. Pingback: An American in Europe! (London, England- Part Two) – The Finicky Cynic

    1. Yup, super expensive! I didn’t spend a lot on personal expenses (i.e. souvenirs), but things like transportation and food quickly added up! Thankfully, I have heard that the rest of England isn’t as pricey as London itself.

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