Visiting the U.K. – Part 6
Yesterday’s Events! Okay, so, I sat in the airport waiting for Kyle for 2 hours, only to find out he was sitting at the wrong terminal waiting on me and had been since 2 or 3 in the morning. Oh well.
After he found me [at approx. 8ish?], we went down and took the Tube to Piccadilly Square.
[***Note: It's not my best picture. It was unbelievably cold and my brother gave me his scarf. It was windy, so my hair was whipped around, and Piccadilly was undergoing some kind of intense maintenance - most people I talked to after I got home assumed that it was in preparation for the upcoming Royal Wedding. Unfortunately for me, this meant there were a lot of touristy things that were behind blue tarps, fences, roped off, etc...all throughout London.]
As you can imagine, there was a lot for my brother and I to talk about — we had catching up to do. It’d been probably 7 or 8 months since I’d seen him, when he’d been home for the summer. And it became very obvious to me during this initial conversation that I was now the foreigner. I was suddenly the one with the accent.
It was a little odd to notice people continuously stealing glances at me and my brother and listening in on our conversation, drawn in, I assume, by our American accents. My brother gave me a few tips regarding English slang, and first off, warned me not to talk about my “pants” in public. “Trousers” or “Jeans” he said to call them, otherwise people would think I was telling stories about my underwear.
From Piccadilly, we walked to Big Ben and then Trafalgar Square and crossed the Thames River and saw the London Eye…or is it the Eye of London? [I now know it's the London Eye.] Whatever it’s called. We traipsed all over London before we finally made it to the Dover Castle hostel.
We booked 2 beds and left our baggage and then headed back out into London again [to actually sight-see now that we weren't hauling along our bags], as our room wouldn’t be ready until 2:00PM.
We actually went to a different hostel first. It was one my brother had stayed at before on a prior trip and so he had plans to use it again. However, when we showed up, they were fully booked and had no room. They directed us to another hostel – and I can’t remember now if Dover was the second or third.
Our first stop after booking our rooms was a little (and I mean little!) cafe? [diner? breakfast house? - it was a hole in the wall is what it was...no idea what it was called either. I should ask my brother. He recommended it.]
We both had a “full breakfast” [traditional English style] including 2 over-easy eggs, a sausage link, 2 strips of HUGE bacon, “chips” (as we Americans know them: french fries), a grilled or toasted tomato, and even some baked beans – and to share we were given a tall stack of toast on the side. [Oh! And we both had a can of Coca-Cola, as I don't do coffee or juice much, and I don't think my brother does coffee very often either.]
This place was ridiculously small and crammed full of people, obviously very popular. We ended up having to share a table with a young kid, probably my brother’s age, 21 or so, who was a city-worker. He was wearing his bright orange vest and had his work gloves on the table next to his plate and he was SCARFING down his food. He was done and gone before we ever really got started on ours.
It wasn’t really my thing. I hate most all breakfast foods, and I definitely hate baked beans – though no one back home would even pretend to call baked beans a breakfast food. At least no one in my family, at least. I ate the bacon, most of the eggs simply for the protein to regulate my blood-sugar so I wouldn’t pass out later, some of the toast, and the fries. I love tomatoes, but this one was just weird tasting, and I left it alone.
That was the first moment when I felt really tired. I don’t think it was jet-lag though but rather the long walk from Piccadilly Square which felt like it took forever!
Though I can’t remember exactly what path we took – this is an idea of what our walk might’ve look like:
There was a moment during breakfast when my brother, who was tired from the long train ride and overnight wait in the airport, and I looked at each other and just stared, with our forks dangling from our fingers. We both felt too tired to talk and even too tired to eat. After a brief spell of spacing out, we finally ate, paid, and left. This was probably when my “surreal” feeling dissipated. I felt somewhat as though I was in slow motion trying to move at normal speed but unable to. But after we were on our feet again, the feeling vanished.
For the next seven hours, we went all over the place. We returned to Big Ben and Trafalgar Square, though Trafalgar had a big chain link fence around the main monuments. That was kind of a bummer. It looked like Napoleon up on top of one of the monuments too [hand tucked inside his coat and everything]. I couldn’t figure out why he’d be up there though. I’ll have to do a little history research when I get the chance.
Turns out he is “Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, KB (29 September 1758–21 October 1805) was an English flag officer famous for his service in the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars.” As stated on Wikipedia. At least my guess of Napoleon wasn’t too far off, it might not be him but it was the same time-frame. (I thought I’d taken a decent picture at Trafalgar Square, but alas, I was wrong.)
I also learned that Big Ben’s tower is part of the Palace of Westminster, aka The Houses of Parliament. This I did not know. I did know that Big Ben is the name of the bell inside the clocktower and not the name of the tower itself, which I guess a lot of people don’t know.
Even while we were there visiting the clock tower, I had no idea where I was. Shameful. I wasn’t taught World History in school though, so my knowledge is sadly lacking. Most of what I’ve learned has come in more recent years from documentaries, articles, and the History Channel,etc.
It was only upon returning home and doing some research on Wikipedia that I even discovered what building I had been looking at and taking pictures of. And it was difficult to get a decent picture of it from where we were too, thang is tall. I opted for a nice side angle including some of the fence surrounding the Palace of Westminster.
And what do you know? Here’s a picture of the courtyard of what I now know to be The PALACE OF WESTMINSTER!
I think it was around this area when I first started to notice all the taxis. In Oklahoma, you rarely see a taxi, let alone an entire street full. The most interesting part is that American taxis are known for being bright yellow – think the Yellow Cab Company – and in England, almost every taxi I saw was black and they were all the same kind of car. I was kind of fascinated by that.
I have to admit that prior to this trip, I’d never been in a taxi. Like I said, here at home we just have no real use for them. Nearly everyone either has their own car or access to one by the time they’re 16 or 17, so we drive ourselves everywhere. Since the city here is so spread out over so much land, we don’t have the luxury of being able to walk everywhere – and thus, not needing a vehicle of our own – thus, sometimes needing to rely on taxis.
And so growing up, I only really ever saw taxis on TV or in movies – or occasionally really close to the airport. In the U.K. and in Germany, they were everywhere. There were literally streets that had taxis just lined up the curb waiting for people to come employ them. And I wanted sooo badly to ride in a taxi at least once before I went home…just so I could say I had done it. It was a really silly thing but a silly thing I really wanted to mark off my list of things to do before I died.
More in London to come… We really went everywhere that day.