Three more days have passed by in London, and already we are on an overnight bus heading back to Paris. It’s my second overnight bus this year! Except last time, it was quite comfortable for me because the bus wasn’t really full at all. This time, the bus is so packed that we have to all sit separately. It seems like bus travel is pretty popular in Europe, going right into the competition of trains and airplanes.
Day 2 in London was blessed with a second consecutive day of good weather. Our first stop? Burger and Lobster, in the Soho area. It’s a chain restaurant in London, with only three items on their menu: the grilled or steamed lobster; lobster row; or beef burger. Each entrée is 20 £. I tried the lobster row, which is basically stuffed lobster in a bun, and I thought it was great.
While we were walking around, we saw this building under construction. The four walls were already up, but the interior was being rebuilt, probably so the city can keep the magnificent exterior of its buildings while also maintaining the interior display. You can only imagine how much money these European cities must spend in order to make sure their city looks good without deteriorating!
After lunch, we went over to the British Museum and spent a day there. I’ll be honest with you – there are way too many words to read everything. Just like pretty much every other museum, you walk in and take a look at their exhibits and displays, and by the time you leave you probably won’t remember most of the words you read. But that doesn’t make the museum any less valuable. This museum has an amazing display of artefacts from all four corners of the world throughout every era! Where else will you get to see so many tokens of the ancient past on display for free?
Aside from everything they had on display inside the museum, I found the architecture of the building to be quite amazing as well.
Oh, that’s another thing about London – a lot of their museums are free. I love how this city is so open and generous about their impressive collections. You can tell that they are proud of all these achievements, and want to encourage people to learn more as well.
Next, we went back to Leicester Square (which I learned is pronounced “lester”, just as Gloucester is pronounced “gloster”), and took a walk through the M&M’s store. This is a legitimate attraction – we just have spent an hour in there! There are so many cute toys and collectibles, and other amazing displays that you just want to keep taking pictures with. Comparing this to the one I saw in NYC a few months back, I think they’re about the same size; but the big red London bus display here makes a bigger impression on me than the Elvis Presley figure in NYR.
(Not to mention that I personally really like these London Guard M&M’s. I think they’re the cutest thing.)
For dinner, I went back to Dean Street and tried Rosa’s Soho, a Thai restaurant, which is literally just a few stores down from the Burger and Lobster that we had for lunch. They do a great curry, and also a very fragrant coconut rice.
After that, we went over to Piccadilly Circus and took a walk along Regent Street. Here, among many flagship stores and clothing retailers, you will find a toy store called Hamley’s. I spent another good hour in here, checking out all the toys and things.
And would you look at that? I met the Lego Queen 🙂
By the time we finished our walk and got back to Piccadilly Circus, the sun had set and it was pretty dark, but the square was still buzzing with people. Lots of young people were performing on the street. Other people were just hanging out, unwilling to go home – even on a Wednesday night! The bright lights kept this place glowing. I got a great vibe from this place, and I think witnessing that scene is one of the reasons why I like London so much.
Meanwhile, the other half of our party went to see Billy Elliot, the musical. I didn’t actually realize how many musicals there are in London… in fact, there are so many that are ongoing, and they do shows every day! The cheapest tickets are around 15-25 £, which is cheaper than any musical I’ve been to back at home. I didn’t get to witness the scene myself, but apparently the theatre was around 70% full. I’m impressed that they’re able to hold so many shows every day with such a great turnout. I guess musical theatre in London is like Broadway in New York. Both cities get enough tourists to keep up a consistent audience. For me, I’m used to musicals holding only a few shows in Vancouver on very specific days, and if you miss it, you’ll have to wait till next year! Not to mention that tickets are quite a bit more pricey. But I also heard that with some of the afternoon shows, they carry it through with the second line actors. So in a sense, what you pay for is what you get.
We had planned to watch the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace on Day 3, but the rain caused the event to be cancelled for the day. Since we were there already, we took a few pictures around Buckingham Palace, and then went over to the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square.
I’m not really one to know how to understand art, but I certainly appreciate the fact that there are so many amazing art pieces from throughout the ages out on display in yet another beautifully designed building.
It was raining, but nobody gave me any better plans, so I stuck to my original plan and walked over to Westminster Abbey and the Big Ben from Trafalgar Square. It’s not actually a long walk, but under the pouring rain, it seems like an eternity. I’m used to rain from Vancouver, but you often don’t realize that you are never actually walking in the rain when you have a car to drive. So anyway, we got to the Big Ben completely drenched, and again we only took a few pictures, then left.
A few people actually mentioned to me how lucky I am to witness such good weather in London, and my retort has been “well, Vancouver rains year-round too, but we always get good weather in the summer months, so I expected nothing less in London”. And what do you know – we immediately get a gloomy and rainy Day 3. It’s a good reminder to count your blessings and thank God for them.
Our next stop was King’s Cross Station, which is just another train station except that they have a little “Platform 9 ¾” thing that they built so you can take a picture with it. They even lend you a scarf, wand, and Harry Potter glasses for your picture! Of course they also take pictures for you so you can buy them, but along with that comes a Harry Potter store with another impressive selections of collectibles. There isn’t much to do the station otherwise, but even if it’s just for the Harry Potter display, it’s worth a visit.
I should probably also note that it’s quite cold in the station, especially on a rainy day like yesterday, because the entire station is basically just an open area. The individual stores have their own air conditioning, but when you’re out in the open, it’s almost no different from the outdoor temperature.
As I mentioned previously, I’m just fascinated by the similarities between London and Hong Kong. I keep exclaiming this fact to everyone around me, and one of my friends laughed “you say it as if Hong Kong copied London”. I know, I know… at twenty-three years of age, this is only my first time in London, and so you can’t blame my point of reference.
With our last day, we went to Harrods, the famous department store of London. It’s not the biggest department store I’ve ever stepped foot into, but it definitely makes the strongest statement. Their departments are so impressive that I feel out of place when I walk through some of them. Of course, you have expensive brands everywhere selling jewelry, handbags, and watches, but I’m not talking about that. I’m referring to the home furnishings, kitchenware, decorations… even these things make me feel out of place.
The one department that I really enjoyed in Harrods was the toy department… of course. They have a really nice Disney Store on the 4th floor, and also a Disney Cafe. Disney Store are somewhat similar no matter where you go, but they also have some items exclusive to the Harrods Disney Store. I had a blast in the toy section.
From there, we walked over to South Kensington, and around the Tube station were a lot of cafes and restaurants. Sushi lunch and cakes for dessert were both found in this area.
Across the street from here is the Victoria and Albert Museum, and also the Natural History Museum, which we elected to go into. This is the setting for part of the movie Paddington. I recently watched it on my way to Hong Kong, so with this scene fresh in my memory, the giant dinosaur in the main hall sparked a bit of sentiment.
And that concludes my adventures in London! Actually, I would say not quite… we are still on the bus, waiting to board the ferry as we’ve been delayed three hours with missed ferries. But by tomorrow morning, we will be in Paris, and I will live to tell you all about the ferry ride.
London is great. I love that it’s beautiful, happening, functional, and livable all at the same time. It doesn’t quite give the same sense of antique as other cities such as Paris, but rather, a feeling of majesty. The English, the posh, the Royals, the Queen – it’s so different from the romantic vibe in Paris. I think I do prefer London to Paris though; as I said before, I’m a bit of a city girl that needs the skyscrapers and the busy hustle of people. Paris is too… laid-back, for the lack of a better word. But I mean laid-back, not as in easy-going like the Londoners. Paris just seems like there is no city, only tourists walking around in a ‘fake city’ of sorts – preserved only for its historic value and tourism sector. Besides, Canada is an English colony, so I’m naturally a bit biased.
And just so you know, both are crazy expensive. London is a bit more expensive, with the higher exchange rate. The Canadian Dollar is also quite low these days, so we’re almost at GBP being double CAD. 2015 isn’t such a good year for Canadians to go on vacation 😦