Today we’d be walking throughout London, taking in as much of this beautifully large city as we could! We arrived my train just outside the newly finished Shard which stands as the highest building in England. The building was built to resemble a shard of glass. Inside this building you’ll have offices, restaurants, luxury apartments, as well as England’s first 6 star hotel. I didn’t even know the stars went that high… of course after my trip to Manchester I couldn’t help but wonder if the architect on this building also resided somewhere high up above us on a floor he specifically designed just for himself.
We crossed over the London Bridge into the heart of London. While crossing this bridge we could look down the Thames River and spot the famous Tower Bridge off in the distance. This would eventually be a destination of ours. On the other side of the bridge we came across a monument that allowed people to take the spiral staircase to the top. The Monument was built in 1671 to commemorate the Great Fire of London and to celebrate the rebuilding of the city. More importantly, the views from above were breathtaking! For good measure we constructed a paper airplane which we would launch from the top of the monument. Being 311 steps up ensured a nice long flight for our little plane. If you’re wondering it did in fact graze someone upon landing but the gentleman hardly seemed to notice. The plane’s maiden flight was actually quite graceful. We also recovered the craft after descending from the peak.
Our next stop in London was St. Pauls, which is a super huge cathedral. The dome on St. Pauls is the second heaviest unsupported dome in the world. When we got there it was right around lunch time and it seemed as though everyone in city, that was on lunch break, had made their way to bask in the sun and enjoy their lunches on the nice grass just outside. Although we didn’t have lunch here we did decide to join in on the grass lounging. Just next to where we sat were these trees that had been painted blue. They had been painted to highlight the importance of trees in the urban environment. I couldn’t help but wonder if the pain on the trees would harm them and therefor contradict the idea of highlighting their importance… but let’s just hope they calculated all that before plunging their brushes elbow deep in a can of blue paint.
Next stop on our list was to walk through St. James gardens which would lead us to Buckingham Palace. This of course is where the Queen lives. From what I understand she was out of town for the day or else I’m convinced I would have been able to meet her. As we stood outside the palace I thought about what it must have been like to grow up as royalty. I know they live a life of luxury but I’m not so sure I’d be a fan of waking up each morning with thousands of tourists and paparazzi outside my front doors. The palace is so large I’m sure there has to be places with in it that the royal family haven’t even explored. I bet as kids they probably couldn’t even go outside without being in danger. I’d say most of their lifestyle is just so far from my own that it’s just a bit to hard to comprehend. I think they spend the majority of their time as ambassadors of their country.
Outside of the palace were guards. These guys were dressed in the traditional garb of the red jacket with their large tall black fluffy hat. These guys carry guns, and will yell at you if you do something you aren’t supposed to be doing, but for the most part they just stand there. I’m not sure how much training these guards have to protect and serve, or if they are there more for traditional reasons. You used to be able to get close to them, try to bother them, and take a picture with them, but it seems as though that’s no longer allowed. I imagine they received a lot of abuse with tourist trying to get them to react. Generally, whenever you saw a royal guard there would be a London police officer standing close.
Our next place of interest was Westminster. This is where you’ll find the Parliament Buildings as well as Big Ben. These buildings were easily some of the most impressive buildings I saw in London… and that’s saying a lot. There was just so much detail that went into each part of this building. I can’t imagine how much time and effort went into creating such a structure.
From there we hopped on a boat which would charter us down the Thames Rivers. Our guide told us about the buildings lining the river, some of which we had already seen that day. On this journey we passed under several bridges like the London Bridge, Millennium Bridge, and London Bridge. If you’re wondering what the Millennium Bridge is then you should watch the 6th Harry Potter movie. Those darn Death Eaters took that sucker down! In all realness I guess it’s a pretty wobbly bridge to begin with. They actually had to close it the day after opening it because they found it to be too unsafe. It’s since been reopen, but even foot traffic can cause a wobble. The last bridge we went under was Tower Bridge. I’d say this is the most famous bridge in London. With the sun coming down I’d say we picked a great time to few these bridges.
We had a reservation for the London Eye at 7 so we had to make our way back to Westminster. England’s underground is relatively superior when it comes to public transportation so getting from one side of the city to the other was fairly easy. It did help that I was traveling with 3 people that knew where they were at all times.
The London Eye is a large Ferris wheel that provides a birds eye view of the entire city. It reaches 135 meters into the sky so you really can see just about everything. Basically after touring the city on foot all day we had the chance to see everything again from a new perspective. Certainly a pretty cool way to end the day.
We had one more task before heading home. I really wanted to meet up with my friend Ndidi. I met Ndidi while in South Africa and she lives in London. For the past 6 months she’s been working in Singapore with her law firm but she arrived back in London this week. Although she worked a very long day today we all waited it out so we could meet her for drinks at a bar called Abacus.
My time in London was nothing short of incredible and I owe so much to the friends I met up with. Thanks so much to Sean for traveling with me for the past two weeks and providing me with my own personal tour of his awesome country. Thanks to Koren for driving us the long distances to amazing places like Cambridge and the Sherwood Forrest. Thanks to Fraser for the much needed drinks and company as we toured London! Ndidi, it was so great to see you, I wish we had more time! Everyone I’ve met along the way has been so accommodating and helpful. I look forward to the next time we can meet up.
Thursday and Friday would be my final days in England before I head to South Africa. I’m feeling very thankful and very anxious!