Thursday, May 14, 2015

12 Days of Hamilton: Day 2 - Welcome to London!

This is what Day 2's Itinerary looked like:

Friday, December 26, 2014
* Avoid main shopping areas on this day, especially Oxford Street*
9:39/9:54 AM - Original Tour Bus at (runs every 5-15 min starting at 9:05 AM)
  • carry print-out of Paddington Bear, in case we get off bus
  • Hop on at Tower Hill stop, exchange tickets prior
  • Red Route
  • Meet at Trafalgar Square/Pall Mall E./Stop Z
  • Tour duration 2 hrs, 15 min. Ride full route, back to Tower Hill
  • YELLOW/GREEN/BLACK routes non-operational on this day.
  • Stops to consider:
    • Hyde Park Corner, Winter Wonderland
    • Switch to Blue Line
    • Off at Piccadilly/Haymarket (walk around Piccadilly Circus/Trafalgar
    • Switch to Red Line
PM - Eat
  • Meet at Tower Hill Tube stop
  • £9 pp + £2 pp for walkabout card
  • End’s near St. Paul’s Tube stop (around 4 PM)
((3:00 PM - Everton Match begins))
3:56 PM - SUNSET
5:00 PM - St. Paul’s Even Prayer with Carols - Feast of St. Stephen
PM - Travel back to Jenn’s/Get Dinner
  • Stop by St. Paul’s Tube Stop
  • Buy Jayson Oyster Card/see if mine still works
  • add fare for a bus ride to each: £1.45
  • Go to SP Bus stop, take Bus 100
    • runs every 6-10 min
  • OR if done around 6 pm:
    • Original Bus Tour, pick up from St. Paul’s 6:06/6:16/6:26
    • Take longer, but free route to Tower Hill stop

This was our first morning in London!
It was actually really hard to sleep the night before because i kept thinking, "London is right out those doors! I want to go and explore everything right away!" But alas, i slept.
When we finally woke, we took our time getting ready, and started out the door at 9:45 am-ish. We decided for the whole trip we wanted to mix the "let's do EVERYTHING!" mentality with the "it's vacation, let's take it slow" mentality.
So we walked to the Tower Hill station, and immediately got confused as to where to go to exchange our Original Bus Tour tickets. We saw a sign that led us to a ticket shop by the Tower of London, went in, and were quickly told to go back to where we saw a bunch of men in parkas standing by the road.
These guys were representatives of all of the London Bus Tours: Original Bus Tour, The Big Bus Tour, and Golden Tours (i think). We used the Original Bus Tour, and from all of my research it should have been great!.... except it was Boxing Day. One of the only days they didn't have a live guide showing us about with interesting tidbits.

Instead of a live guide we had a little pre-made audio guide that was quite bland, and the ride was really cold. So we only made it as far as the South Bank, right across from the Parliament Building.

(Just a note about this tour, I still think it would be amazing to take on a Spring or Summer day with a live guide; but our experience with it shows you should definitely not ride it on Boxing Day.)

The view from the South Bank was the view Jayson always dreamed of seeing in London! At this point we still had great plans of riding the London Eye (weather and injuries prevented this from happening), so we didn't spend too long on the South side of the Thames, thinking we would be back shortly. (This is one of those things that you just have to be flexible with when planning a trip. Not everything goes to plan. That's why Rick Steves says to treat your trip as if you're coming back!)
We crossed over the bridge, and began our exploration of Westminster on foot. 

Interesting tidbit: The green on the bridge we crossed represents the House of Commons, the red on the bridge on the other side of the Parliament building represents the House of Lords.

Really and truly this is my favorite way of exploring London. Even in the cold. Walking lets you really experience everything.

Stopping to hear Big Ben chime in the new hour, walking past the Sovereign's Entrance (me "running" inside it), introducing Jayson to Emmeline Pankhurst, strolling past Westminster Abbey (which we DID come back to), and a quick hello to Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. This was the stuff I had been waiting to share with my best friend!

Now something special was happening while we were in town. They had Paddington Bear statues throughout the city, advertising the new film. All designed by different artists, celebrities, or organizations, it was a little trail to follow. "See as many Paddington's as you can!" type of thing. So as you see a few of our Paddington's know we aren't just really extreme Paddington Bear fans, but we do love a good scavenger hunt.

We decided just to walk down to Trafalgar Square. Along the way we stopped by the Horse Guards Parade and pretended we were Andy from Parks and Rec flying helicopters with Lord Covington.

Okay, maybe only I did that.
After that excitement, we popped into Jayson's first ever pub in London, Old Shades! Then Jayson had his very first beer in London, in his very first pub in London. Then we befriended our very first set of old ladies from Gloucester visiting London, while Jayson drank his very first beer in London, in his very first pub in London.

It was marvelous, as was the cheddar and pickle sandwich we had!

We then made a terrible decision to walk up to Oxford St to see how awful it REALLY was... did you see my note in my itinerary NOT to go to Oxford St? I need to start listening to myself.

Packed. Packed. People, it was packed with... people.

We finally squeezed ourselves through a little hole leading us to the street and to a cab! We pulled out as fast as we could, and headed back to The City to go on our Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol walk.

When i was studying in London, my professor was also the owner of London Walks (the world's first walking tour company). I went on many walks, and they were my favorite thing about London!

This one was great, and we had a great guide, but it was so hyper-focused on A Christmas Carol, that it wasn't my favorite i've been on. It was still SO exciting to share it with Jayson, and even though it was bitterly cold, and started to rain we enjoyed it. Always rushing to be the front of the group, we heard stories not only about the book and it's publication, but also about the time in which Charles Dickens lived.

We saw Leadenhall Market, all the streets and alleys where Scrooge "walked" in A Christmas Carol, and ended with St. Paul's; but not before we were introduced to the pub that Christopher Wren built to accommodate the laborers working on St. Paul's.

When the tour ended, we quickly headed back to this beautiful place! Kitchen closed of course, but I just can't explain to you the gorgeousness of a Christmas decor covered old pub in The City of London on a rainy night. If we weren't starving, i think we could have spent all night here.

We had plans to go to St. Paul's for the Feast of Stephen; instead, we went on a Boxing Day hunt for food. So hungry, guys! We were soooo hungry! (The City basically closes down when the workers go home, so on Boxing Day it was DEAD. Nothing to be found for blocks!)

We hopped back on that Bus Tour to get a ride into town, with a surprise announcement mid-way through that it was going to end at Victoria Station. There was food there, but not much, and they seemed to hate vegetarians.

What are two hungry, non-meating eating adventurers to do? Hop on Jayson's first Tube ride!

We went to Soho to a VEGETARIAN PUB! Okay, it wasn't amazing food, in fact, it was rather dull; BUT we went to a vegetarian pub. I find that amazing. Jayson points out that if we didn't go, we would always wonder about it.

After this, we were spent. With food finally in our bellies, and a quick view of that corner of Soho, we took the Tube back home.

As we got close the flat, i noticed that my foot was tensing up and was getting a little knot in it from wearing my converse for the 27, 309 steps we walked that day

...dun dun dunnnnn

to be continued...

View more photos of Day 2:

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