Wednesday 21 December 2011

Blog XV: London

London is one of the greatest cities in the world along with Paris, Rome, and New York and like all those other cities you either love it or you hate it. I’ve already been to London three times before the trip this year and during those previous trips I successfully did all of the tourist things (or all of them that I wanted to do): Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard, the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, the Tower of London, the London Bridge, the O2 (where Michael Jackson was going to perform), the London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe, Fleet St. and the old Bailey, St. Paul’s, etc. So when I arrived this time and was left to my own devices as my uncle worked (my mom isn’t arriving until today) I was at a loss for what to do. For the first couple of days I wandered around Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus, and Regent St. but all the Christmas crowds wore me out and I usually retuned to my uncle’s flat about half three and ended up taking a nap; I refer to this time as my Scotland to England train-lag (similar to jet-lag). But finally on Monday my energy returned and I left the flat at ten and made my way to Shakespeare’s Globe to check out the gift store and have a coffee. While I was enjoying my caffeinated drink I decided that I wanted to journey all the way to Canary Warf where my dad and I stayed the last time we were in London. So I started the two hour or so trek along the Thames. This was a bad day to go for such a long walk because not only was it cold and cloudy but it started to rain at about noon and didn’t stop but I wasn’t complaining the walk was nice and I got to pass the Tower of London and the London bridge. But as the time ticked by and the sky began to get darker and the business towers were replaced by residential houses I began to get tired. Finally at about two I arrived at Canary Warf, with no desire to walk back to central London, so I postponed my return to the flat with the logic that since I had made it this far I should just go all the way and return for a second time to the O2 which is also the area where they are beginning building for the Olympic Stadium. But the walk there would be far too long so I just got a ticket for the very convenient Thames Klipper, which is a boat that goes up and down the Thames and stops at multiple hotspots like the London eye, tower of London, London bridge, Greenwich, O2, etc. At this point I was so exhausted that when I boarded the boat I almost fell asleep. The O2 was less magnificent than I remembered, basically it is a giant round structure that has a lot of restaurants, a movie theatre, and primarily is used for concerts and other performances. Since I had nothing else to do I decided, after walking around the whole of the structure, to stop in the Starbucks and have a coffee. I left the O2 about half three and was back at my uncle’s flat by four.

Tuesday was Charles Dickens’ Day. The previous day on my walk I had noticed an add for the Charles Dickens’ house so I decided to make a day out of Dickens since the British Library has a display on him as well and since it is almost Christmas such a day seemed necessary. My first stop was the Dickens’ museum which wasn’t very good but like many authors Dickens’ moved around a lot so the majority of his belongings weren’t in this particular building (where they were I’m not sure). I finished that and then headed up to the British Library to gaze at the Magna Carta, drool over some of Beethoven’s original music sheets, and look in wonder at other original documents from literature, religion, and history. By the time I was done the sky had darkened outside, the warmth had withdrawn leaving cold wind and the rain was coming so I started to head back to the flat where I ended the day not with Dickens’ but with Charlotte Bronte.

Today before going to Paddington station to pick up my mom at four I was originally just going to hang around the flat to clean and tidy up and finish reading my book (because my mom has a tendency to talk all the time and reading is rarely accomplished). But I decided that I really wanted to go to the Freud museum and my mother probably wouldn’t want to go so I changed my plans and prepared for the hour and a half walk to its location at 20 Maresfield Gardens. The walk was one of the more interesting because I accidently went through the middle eastern part of the city (which is located at the end of Oxford Circus) which was really cool and I discovered that I can still read Arabic…a little. Though the walk began to get tedious after an hour had passed I finally arrived at Maresfield Gardens which is an absolutely stunning residential street that makes you feel like you aren’t even in London. The Freud Museum was absolutely phenomenal; it was located in the house that Sigmund Freud spent his last year in so all of his things are there like the rug covered couch that he would have patients like the Rat-girl and the Wolf-man sit, and two of the paintings that the notorious Wolf-man painted of his dream with the six wolves in a tree. The museum also had a very interesting video room that explained Freud’s life and how he ended up in England. After the Freud museum I still had time to burn before I needed to be at Paddington so I decided to go look at the major Mosque in London and walk down Baker’s Street to check out the Sherlock Holmes’ museum shop (already went in the museum) and get a coffee.

After this I decided it would be smart to start heading to Paddington since I didn’t know how far of a walk it would be, so of course naturally I arrived early. But it turned out that both my uncle and I arrived early because my mom didn’t arrive at the station until about six.

London is a fantastic city and it has so much more to offer than just the typical tourist stuff, the key is to just know where to look.