A Travellerspoint blog

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London

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

sunny
View London July 2014 on Alienstravels's travel map.

I woke up early at 7:30 AM to make the most of the day and optimize the London Pass. I started by going to the Monument station via London Bridge station. The Monument, which is a commemoration of the Great Fire of London of 1666 (666!), usually opens at 9:30 AM so I was there at least half an hour before. I am glad I did this first experience in the morning because I do not think I would have had the courage to do it afterwards. I bravely climbed no less than 311 whirly steps, which requires at least 5 or 6 pauses on the way.

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I am glad I made it to the top though because the panoramic view of London was stunning. Another advantage of going there in the morning is that there are not a lot of people and thus I could enjoy the view better. I could have stayed there for hours, but the day was long and full of attractions to see. After getting my certificate to prove that I did climb the 311 steps of the Monument, I walked down the Great Tower street to reach the infamous Tower of London.

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I have to admit I absolutely loved this place and definitely wished I could stay longer. I would have spent the whole day there if I wanted. I learned many interesting facts about London's history and past kings and queens. It turns out the Royal Family did have some gruesome past. One of my favorite moment in the Tower is the changing the guards. I find it fascinating how the guards' movements are totally synchronized with each other. Their level of discipline is admiring and great to watch. Also, it is amazing to realize that most buildings and stones have been there for centuries. Just touching the wall could take me back in time. This is what I love about London: walking in the streets and looking at the old buildings is like walking through time. I love the delicacy and tradition of British culture.

I forced myself out of the Tower of London and started heading towards the Tower Bridge Exhibition.

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This Exhibition is cut in several parts and requires us to walk from one tower to the next. It has some sort of museum in it, showing old armories as well as explaining the history of one of the oldest bridges in the world. I loved the wide array of subjects found in the Exhibition, which certainly is adapted to many tastes. When I was done with this attraction, I crossed the bridge and walked along the Queen's Walk. I saw a small, almost hidden, place called Hay's Galleria which has some shops.

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I kept walking until I reached the London Bridge. I had some difficulties finding the London Bridge Experience and the London Tombs as it was hidden under the bridge. I asked various pedestrians who did not know where it was. However, I did find it eventually. This attraction is probably one of the highlights of my trip. Yes, I love scary and gruesome stories. I found the attraction fun, but not recommended for the faint hearts.

When I was done, my stomach started demanding some nutrition. I found a lovely farmer's market by the London Bridge, called Borough market. It turns out to be one of the oldest markets in London, about 1 000 years old (Talking about walking through time!). This market provides with everything, from cooked meals to sweat treats to all kinds of meats, fruits and vegetables. I indulged myself with a piece of baklava and went on my way.

Then, I visited the Southwark Cathedral nearby, which is lovely, but no pictures allowed unless we pay for them. I crossed the London Bridge and walked by the river until I got back to the Tower of London. I took the Thames River Cruise from Tower Pier to Westminster Pier, while listening to the guide who was introducing what we could see in a humorous way. It is a pity most people were not listening. When I reached the Westminster Pier, I walked by the Queen's Walk and reached an interesting road called Belvedere Road. In this street, we can find various restaurants. After many hesitation, I ended up at Neds Noodles Box, eating Chinese Barbecue Chicken Egg Noodles. It was delicious and of generous proportion. If I may suggest my fellow travelers to never put soda in your backpack and open it right away, as I did make a mess all over the place with my Dr Pepper.

Walking across the Westminster Bridge, I reached the Horse Guards Road and saw a beautiful building which I first mistook for the Buckingham Palace, but ended up being the Household Cavalry Museum.

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I saw one of the guards walking around in their funny and rigid ways. Again, I am amazed by their ability to stay serious no matter what.

Crossing the street, I reached one of my favorite discoveries in London: St. James' park. I am not sure what it is about this park that I find beautiful: its trees, its ponds or its amazing view on the London Eye. I guess what I loved about it too is the possibility to feed the pigeons. I had some peanuts in my backpack. I first thought I would feed the squirrels but they were surprisingly not interested by my offer. Pigeons, on the other hand, came on my hands to eat. I giggled like a small child, and despite ending up with pigeons poo on my jacket, this was also one of my favorite moments in London.

I kept walking to Green Park, and finally reached the real Buckingham Palace by the Birdcage Walk. It was beautiful, I especially liked the fountain in the middle of the street. I kept walking in the parks and slowly started going back towards the London Eye. It has been a long day and I needed to rest.

Posted by Alienstravels 12:40 Archived in England Tagged london tower park monument market palace river bridge cruise tombs thames buckingham exhibition borough Comments (0)

London

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

semi-overcast
View London July 2014 on Alienstravels's travel map.

In order to rest a bit from yesterday, I treated myself with some extra hours of sleep. At around 10 AM, I left the apartment and headed to the Jubilee Gardens by the London Eye.

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I went to the tickets office to buy the four-attraction pack (London Eye, Madame Tussaud, London Dungeons and Sea Life Aquarium), which is much cheaper than buying them individually. I then headed to Waterloo Station. I took the Waterloo & City Line to Bank station, then switched to the Central Line towards Liverpool Street station. It was the first time that I go to this area and found it quite pretty. The train station is big and has many shops. As it was raining, I struggled looking for Old Broad Street where I had to meet a friend and had to ask a couple of passerby. We went to eat Sushi at Wasabi, which is a renowned sushi chain in England. The food tasted good and the place was clean. After lunch, my friend showed my the area, which, he said, is mostly a financial district. The buildings were beautiful and everyone in the street was dressed formally.

After my friend went back to his office, I took the underground from Liverpool Street to Baker Street. On my way to Madame Tussaud, I saw a statue of the infamous Sherlock Holmes.

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I walked up Marylebone street to reach Madame Tussaud. The queue for entry was not very long, but once inside, the whole space was overcrowded. It was hard to see the wax statues, and even more challenging to take pictures. I expected the museum to only have the wax exhibit, similar to the one I once visited when I was in Los Angeles. However, the museum offered more attractions, such as a "taxi" ride similar to Disney World's "It's a small world," as well as a short Marvel Imax show, which was memorable.

After leaving, I decided to go see the Sherlock Holmes Museum by Baker Street, but the line was long and time was short. I ended up going to Regent's Park and Queen Mary's gardens. I found this park to be particularly beautiful because it was full of flowers of all colors and sculptures.

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At around 6 PM, I went back to Baker Street station and took the Circle Line to Tower Hill station. I started to get hungry and to look for a place to eat. There were many restaurants around this area, but I could not figure out which one was good. So, I asked for help from my friend "Yelp" and found a few good restaurants close-by. This is what is great about London, there is Wi-Fi everywhere! As the restaurant I intended to go to turned out to be further than I anticipated, I went to a small restaurant, unknown of "Yelp," called Royal Kitchen on Aldgate High Street. I ordered a Chicken Tikka Wrap and french fries with Cherry Coke. I am not sure if it was the hunger, but the food surely tasted delicious.

When I was done, I headed back to Tower Hill station, where I waited for the 7:30 PM Jack the Ripper tour, which is part of the London Walks. I absolutely loved the tour and the guide was funny and knowledgeable. Yes, I do enjoy some gruesome stories. The tour lasted about an hour and a half. Then, I headed back to the Liverpool Street area and walked around. On Old Broad Street, I found the strangest sculpture of a goat on a pile of boxes.

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As I was walking up Bishopsgate, I found a cute alley taking to Bishopsgate Courtyard. The alley was mostly empty. The light on the street gave it a certain calm beauty which was amazing to look at.

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As I was walking back on Bishopsgate, I found a pub called "Dirty Dicks." With all my maturity aside, I giggled and took a picture. I first did not notice the group of guys (and a woman) by the door who looked at me cheering as I was taking the picture.

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I went to them and they introduced themselves. If I remember correctly, the guys' names were Stewart, Phil and Jack (I am not sure of this last one as I may be confusing it with the Jack the Ripper Tours). I did not get the woman's name over the loud music, but we stayed together for a while and talked. They were quite drunk so I had a hard time understanding what they were trying to say, but I had fun. British people are really kind and funny.

At around 10:30 PM, I called it a night and took the bus 26 to Waterloo station. I quickly realized that taking any bus was the cheapest way to have a tour of the city as all the buses are two-levels. With a London guide and an Oyster card, anyone can choose the right bus route and spend a while visiting the city. London by night is simply mesmerizing!

Posted by Alienstravels 12:46 Archived in England Tagged london tower england park queen hill uk mary jack liverpool sherlock holmes ripper madame wasabi regent's tussaud Comments (0)

London

Friday, July 11th, 2014

semi-overcast
View London July 2014 on Alienstravels's travel map.

I started the day at 9 AM by going to the Sea Life Aquarium by the London Eye. I have visited Sea Life previously at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, but I have to say that this one was better, and this is for one reason: Penguins! The attraction has a special section for animals from colder areas in the world and I enjoyed watching penguins swimming around. I have seen many creatures from the deepest parts of the ocean and I have been amazed by the different shapes and colors those creatures had. Sea Life is definitely a place where both adults and children can have fun.

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When the tour was over, and while waiting for the opening of the London Dungeons, I ate a chocolate waffle at "Cafe" near the London Eye. It was not the best waffle I ever had, but it did fill my need for sugar. The London Dungeons experience was both exciting, funny and frightening. In groups, we visited step by step the attraction, which was divided in several scenes where actors were telling a story and entertaining us. I have learned about the Great Plague that hit London in 1665-1666 and about the infamous Jack the Ripper. I found the whole attraction very amusing and somewhat scary. The scariest part was the free falling experience we had at the end of the attraction. The London Dungeons are also one of my most memorable experiences in London.

While heading to Westminster station, I crossed the Westminster Bridge where many people try their luck in gambling. I have seen it a few days ago. Those who lead the game of three cups and ball ask passerby (mostly tourists) to guess where the ball is and bet money on it. The first time I saw this, I could guess each time where the ball was and did not understand how people could lose money on this. Following an impulse (which is really, not thinking at all), I decided to bet some money. I am not sure how, and before I knew it, I lost a whooping amount of 90£, which, for a student, is not insignificant. It felt like a spike in my heart. I did feel a lot of shame too for being that naive and stupid. It took me this loss to realize that the men who were moving the ball around were clearly cheating. So this is for everyone who will want to attempt to win some money from those games: the game starts as usual. There is one ball put beneath one of the cups and the cups are shuffled. Say for example that the ball ends up on the right side, and there is no doubt that it is there. You will tell the man "it is on the right side," to which he will respond "show me the money." You will take your wallet, take out a bill, give it to the man. And when you will lift the right cup, it will be empty. You lost all your money! The truth is, those men cheat. With the time you will take to take the money out of your wallet, they will change the ball location and you will lose. The trick is to either have your money ready beforehand, or put your feet on the cup while taking your money out. All in all, I have been tricked and I will never gamble again in my life! I ran back home while cursing myself to take more money out of my bag.

I headed back to Waterloo station and took the Jubilee line to Southwark. I walked along the Blackfriars road and visited the Bankside Gallery. I walked in the Bankside Gardens, then went in the Tate Modern museum. I have to admit I haven't found this museum very interesting, but this is certainly due to my lack of interest in paintings. After the museum, I tried to go to the Shakespeare Globe Theater & Exhibition but apparently, tours are only available in the morning. I walked past Southwark Bridge and into Bankend street. Thanks to my friend "Yelp," I found an amazing restaurant called Wagamama. I ate a delicious Teriyaki Chicken Donburi that I will remember for a long time. It is definitely worth every penny.

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As I still had plenty of time in my day, I decided to walk along the river, back to the London Eye. After spending 45 minutes going the wrong way, I turned back and kept walking. I do not regret my big detour because walking along the river is so worth it. I used the Riverside Walk Thames Path and passed by Walbrook Wharf, Fishmonger's Hall Wharf, Dark House Walk (where I took the beautiful following picture), Three Cranes Walk, Paul's Walk until I reached Victoria Embankment.

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I also saw the Millennium Bridge, which I believe is the bridge used in the Harry Potter movie.

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I walked all the way back to Queen's Walk by the London Eye. Going again across the Westminster Bridge (damn you, gamblers!), I went around St. James' park to find the St. James' palace. Not only was it challenging to find, but it was also not that impressive. Therefore, I stayed around the London Eye. I planned to take the last ride on the Eye as I wanted to see London by night, and the sunset was pretty late. I waited until 10:30 PM and decided to queue in line. This is where I realized I did not have my tickets. In the rush of going back home and taking more money, I left behind a bunch of papers, and the ticket was among them! It takes approximately 20 minutes walking to go home and back, but somehow, by running as fast as I could despite the long day of walk, I managed to go there and back within 20 minutes. I was exhausted, huffing and puffing. I give my ticket to the lady at the Eye and tells me my ticket is not valid. With the rush of adrenaline I already had, I got so mad. I bursted in the ticket office and demanded an explanation. Apparently, the ticket is only valid during the day of purchase (which was yesterday), and apparently, this information is written in the ticket, except that there was little to no ink in the ticket they gave me! I was the more outraged because I specifically asked the person from whom I bought the ticket yesterday about their validity and he told me they are valid 30 days from purchase (and did not mention any exception for the London Eye). The person I was talking to, probably taken aback from a girl all red and crazy-looking from my run, only said "Peace and Love, Miss, it's gonna be okay!" Anyhow, one of the managers accompanied me until I got in one of the capsules.

As soon as I managed to breathe normally and after drinking all the water I had left, I could witness the awesomeness of London by night. It is, most definitely, a beautiful city. The Eye took about 15 minutes to complete one round. It was already almost 11:30 PM when I got out, so I decided to wait half an hour to hear the Big Ben struck midnight. It was a magic moment. There was not many people around so it was quiet. I could hear the crows around me and each of the strikes. There are no words to describe such an experience. It was simply out of this world!

Posted by Alienstravels 13:17 Archived in England Tagged sea gardens london walk bridge museum life big ben thames millennium eye harry aquarium modern westminster tate southwark potter waterloo riverside queen's dungeons blackfriars backside wagamama Comments (0)

London

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

sunny
View London July 2014 on Alienstravels's travel map.

Today was my last full day in London. I took the underground from Waterloo station to London Bridge station. I walked up Southwark street until I finally reached the Shakespeare Globe Theater and Exhibition.

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I bought a student price ticket and did the guided tour at 10:30 AM. The guide was a very enthusiastic and passionate old lady. She took us back in time to when Shakespeare's plays were first performed. This Globe theater is "only" a replica of the theater in Stratford-Upon-Avon, but was still beautiful. It is still used today for various theatrical performances.

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When the tour ended, I took the underground from London Bridge station to Charing Cross via Waterloo. In the underground, I saw the strangest woman, who seemed to be coming from another era. She was a young woman with curly long red hair. She was dressed in an all black dress, white gloves and was wearing a strange, flat hat with a black veil covering her face. She looked at the same time creepy and stunning. I have never seen someone dressed like this, unless for a carnival or Halloween. I tried to discretely take a picture but she was staring at me so I did not dare.

I finally arrived to Charing Cross. Thanks to "Yelp," I found a delicious mexican restaurant called Wahaca, located on Chandos plaza. I ordered a Chicken Tinga Burrito, which was memorable. The bursting flavor of chipotle spices with the beans, soft chicken and sweet corn was an outstanding culinary experience. This restaurant, along with Wagamama, have to be my absolute favorites in London.

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After finishing my lunch, I went to Trafalgar square where I participated in the 2PM Harry Potter walking tour. Needless to say, I was like a child, grinning widely with stars in my eyes. The tour guide was a young enthusiastic woman who made the tour funny, exciting and informative. Walking through London, we say many of the places that inspired J.K. Rowling and places where the film was made. More specifically, we visited Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley, Honey Duke Shop and the entrance of the Ministry of Magic. The guide interacted a lot with the audience by asking many Harry Potter questions and giving a sticker to anyone who would provide the right answers. I had two stickers by the end of the tour, and I could not be more proud of myself. The tour finished when we visited Honey Duke Shop and bought a 10£ candy pack which had a chocolate frog, wizard wands, Dumbledore's favorite lemon candy, a basilisk gum, Bertie Bott's Beans (some of the flavors are simply disgusting!), and popping candy. There is absolutely no way for me to be mature when talking about Harry Potter!

At the end of the tour, I headed to the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square. I walked quickly through it as the paintings were unfortunately not as exciting as the tour I just did. The view on Trafalgar square was amazing because the weather was perfect. It was, indeed, the perfect summer day.

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As I craved for ice cream, I "yelped" some advice and ended up going to Muffinski's shop on King Street. I had a raspberry frozen yogurt with dark chocolate chip, which I ate while sitting in the sidewalk.

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I was right by the Covent Garden Market, Apple Market and Jubilee Market. I saw a contortionist presenting a show which was apparently very successful. The man really had talent and show business skills, which is why he became so popular. When the show was done, I entered Jubilee Market and saw a group of young violinists performing. They were very good as well.

After the market, I walked on Strand Street, passed by St Clement Danes and saw the Royal Courts of Justice, which looked like a castle. Although it was still early, I felt tired and decided to call it a day. I took bus 341 and headed back to Waterloo.

Posted by Alienstravels 13:26 Archived in England Tagged food london england market square garden shakespeare uk harry theater trafalgar alley mexican potter globe jubilee covent knockturn diagon Comments (0)

London

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

sunny
View London July 2014 on Alienstravels's travel map.

As I was taking my breakfast, I read (again) the London guide to find what I could do in my last morning/early afternoon in London. I thought it would be interesting to the changing the guard ceremony by Buckingham palace at 10 AM. So I ate breakfast and headed out of the apartment after taking a picture of the beautiful place I ate breakfast at every morning this week.

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This was when the ordeal started because I realized that I literally could not walk straight. 7 days of walking every day 10 to 12 hours made my leg muscles so sore and painful, I was walking slowly and pretty much like a duck. Even though I had just woken up, I could already feel my exhaustion. However, I was very motivated to see all I could in the short time I had left. It was 10 to 10 when I walked on the Hungerford bridge to go to St James park. I will never make it, I thought. Adding to my inability to walk, I realized there was a marathon event happening in London as all Victoria Embankment Road was closed. I had difficulties finding another way to go to the park as all the main roads were not operational.

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As I somehow made it to Lancaster Place and Strand Street, I gave up on going to the Palace and watched the runners instead, while slowly making my way to St James Park. I arrived there at 10:30, and luckily, the horses were just coming with the guards.

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I followed them as fast as I could, which clearly was not fast enough. Ten minutes later, the guards were changed and people were leaving the area. I walked through St James park and decided to sit on the first bench I could find. I was happy that I made it anyway and saw more than I thought I would. I rewarded myself with water and chocolate and just sat there, looking at the blue sky, the trees, the tourists who apparently just made it to London (and I was jealous of them) and of course, the pigeons, ducks and squirrels. As I was starting to walk back to the London Eye, I heard some music from far away and found myself with the burning desire to leave the park but also to inquire the source of the music. I took a deep breathe and mustered all bravery in me and headed towards the music. I ended up by the Horse Guards Museum. Apparently, the changing the guard ceremony did not end as there were other guards playing music and preparing themselves to head towards the Palace.

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To make sure the ceremony ended, I waited until most tourists left the area, and then, I really walked away from the park. It was almost noon already and somehow, I was hungry again. I walked to Belvedere Road and considered the wide choice of restaurants there. I finally chose to go to an italian restaurant called Cucina. I ordered a Penne Con Pollo, which was delicious and of generous proportion.

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I proceeded to walk back to the beautiful Jubilee Gardens and the London Eye.

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When I arrived to Westminster Bridge, I found a small path underneath the bridge. Usually, I always take the stairs up the street, but some music caught my attention, and I ventured in the small tunnel. I ended up in a beautiful walking path where I could see even better the Houses of Parliament.

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I sat there for about an hour. It was almost time for me to head back home to take my luggages and go to the airport, but I just could not leave the bench I was sitting on. The weather was perfect, the view was perfect, even the smell of trees and water was perfect. I was trying to use all my senses to capture the moment in my soul forever, but time was going by, and I had to leave eventually. I kept looking back every few meters and mentally saying goodbye. Goodbye Big Ben, goodbye Jubilee Walk, goodbye London Eye, goodbye Waterloo road… Leaving felt unreal. Such an amazing trip could not be over!

But it was. I grabbed my luggages, went to Waterloo station, took the Jubilee Line to Green Park station and then the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow Airport. As soon as I got to the underground, I felt like I left London already, or London was leaving me, and I was mentally calling the city "Don't go! Don't leave me!" But it was gone. I was gone. And all I have now is the memories of one of the best trips I ever had. Not only am I grateful for the adventure, but I am also grateful to have realized that what I really want to do with my life is earn money in order to travel. I do not care about careers and 9 to 5 jobs, I just want to make some money and conquer the world.

I was not yet in the airport when I started daydreaming about my next vacations. I really want to go to Ireland, which has been a dream of mine since I was 14. Who knows, life may lead me there some day. But for now, I am at the airport, looking at all the world's conquerors rushing to their gates and wondering what else the world has to offer.

Posted by Alienstravels 05:17 Archived in England Tagged london england park palace big uk ben buckingham westminster waterloo riverside Comments (0)

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