It is very surreal waking up in a foreign city all on my own. However, any fears quickly dissipate with the realization that I have one of the greatest cities at my fingertips. The iconic Big Ben, which once felt so distant in magazines and on the computer screen, is now just a stone throw away. I began the day seeing the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery. These museums turned out to be unimpressive for the most part but the portraits gallery did have old geezers with some intriguing mustachios, which could inspire any mustachio aficionado. However, knowing that the museums are free doesn’t hurt considering my wallet could use break like this from an expensive city such as London. From there, I took the Tube to St. Paul’s Cathedral for a tour of the crypt and dome. The view from the dome was by far the highlight. Taking over 500 steps to the top through narrow, cramped corridors was a daunting challenge but well worth it. The outer dome provided a wondrous view of the entire city. Even though I now towered above the city skyline from atop this historic church, I felt immensely small in such an expansive city as London. With all the publicity and renown the Westminster Abbey gets, you may be surprised to learn that Princess Diana had her wedding in St. Paul’s. I quickly marched through the crypt since I put myself on a tight schedule to get to Westminster Abbey and the idea of walking past a bunch of tombs grew swiftly underwhelming. After wandering through an eclectic neighborhood of alleyways and tiny parks and possibly stumbling into some office buildings (I was trying to find Temple Church which played a part in the movie Da Vinci Code), I moved along the Thames River with my sights set on Westminster Abbey. Since I was not going to pay the steep price for a tour, I chose to attend a church service that turned out to be better than expected. Entering a church with that much history creates high expectations but Westminster delivered in every way. The church’s arches reached for the heavenly above and the stained glass windows beamed with angelic light. If one looks closely enough you can enjoy an expensive city without the usual tourist traps; Westminster during a service is one of those gems. I even lucked into a front row seat closer to the action, aka the altar (a perk of traveling solo). After getting some much needed grub, I decided to make my way to Camden Town, home to many pubs and according to locals where many young people from London go out on the town. By chance, I tagged along with a friend named Jessica who was heading there for a pub crawl. Camden may have its fair share of characters, including trannys and the underbelly of London, but it is also where you can have a bloody good time. Joining some other friends from the hostel, including Will, we met a variety of people from around the world. It’s difficult to put into words but meeting internationals from all walks of life make the experience of travel that much more worthwhile. After abandoning the pub crawl midway, Will, Jessica, and I decided on a tamer pub experience and chatted at a bar called At World’s End so that we could just sit back and enjoy some good company. Their tip jar was quite hilarious with a note that said “For every tip, Justin Bieber dies a little bit more”. It was a great night of pints and laughs.
Day 3: Am I Really In London?