While eating breakfast before kick-starting the day in London, I ran into a girl that I met the night before. Since we both wanted to go see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, we figured might as well go together. On the way there, I was surprised by how quickly I managed to fit in with the flow of London (aka walking on the left side of the sidewalk and making sure to look right when crossing the street to avoid getting blindsided by a double-decker bus). Despite the long wait, the ceremony was well worth it. The whole scene was a typical elegant British affair with guards on horseback and trumpets playing. The ceremony ended with the guards turning into an impromptu marching band and playing Michael Jackson music of all things on the grounds of the palace just beyond the main gates. Once the ceremony ended and most tourists left the scene, we stuck around when I noticed most of the police were clearing the path to the palace (clearly somebody important would be arriving shortly). Low and behold, Queen Elizabeth was escorted right past me with a mere 30 feet between us. I saw her joyfully waving in my direction in her typical blue outfit and hat. The two of us then headed for the British Museum to take advantage of some of the free museums. The girl I had met just so happened to be an art history major, which further added to the experience. I did not realize how much the British had stolen from the Greeks. A good deal of the Parthenon from Athens, Greece sits in the museum, such as a few columns and art work that resided on the exterior of that ancient Greek temple. One of the greatest contributions to literary history completely sneaked up on me as we passed by to see a horde of tourists surrounding the Rosetta Stone. One of the Easter Island statues is housed here as well. After completing our tour through the museum and grabbing some expensive grub, I said goodbye to her since she was leaving for the next leg of her trip and made my way to the British Library. Well off the beaten path for tourists is the library home to a exhibit filled notes from the Beatles detailing their initial compositions of “Yesterday” and “Help!” as well as many famous manuscripts such as Beowulf, Canterbury Tales and a Gutenberg bible. I was surprised to see the Magna Carta in a room to itself despite my best efforts to pass right by the main feature of the library’s exhibit. After digging through this underrated treasure trove and getting a look at the King’s Cross train station (home of platform 9 3/4, which is a gateway to the wizarding world of Harry Potter), I continued on my exploration of this great English city. Using the Tube (the subway/metro) has turned into a lifesaver especially when London rains, which is to say the weather encouraged my increasing use of the Tube. From there, I took in the sights at the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. I’m sure you have heard “…the London Bridge is falling down…”, which I found out to be a regular overpass of the Thames River. Tower Bridge on the other hand does not disappoint aesthetically as a proud example of royal prosperity. Over to the other side of the bridge, I made my way to the Borough Market, which is where locals can get produce, local meats, and a variety of knickknacks. Unfortunately, the shops were closed by this time but walking through its vacant alleyways made me feel like I was in the wizarding Harry Potter world going through Diagon Alley. After getting lost down some random side streets, I finally found myself back at the hostel and felt I deserved a pint from all the walking I had done that day. The hostel, called The Walrus, has a bar and is very laid back with a great blend of locals and internationals. After ordering my pint, I sat with a random group of people who turned out to be a couple local British gals and a French guy living in London. It’s amazing how easy it is to meet people internationally. Most of these travelers have that carefree spirit and just want to enjoy the city’s uniqueness and the people within it. Somehow, I have learned the art of getting free beer. I don’t know how but I am not complaining! Over some beers, we chatted about some of the places I must absolutely see while I am here. One local, a girl named Amy, was extra friendly and took a few other Americans and myself on a bit of a night tour of London to see the London Eye and Big Ben all lit up while on our way to a piano bar. This piano bar was ridiculously random, weird, and a total blast! Everyone was belting out older American classics from Backstreet Boys, “I would walk 500 miles…”, etc to present hits like “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen. I never thought that I would be singing these songs in London but what a great night to meet some amazing people, dance, and just let loose.
Day 2: Look Right