The series continues with London: Part Two. Here are the previous posts:
Chapter 7: New friends
If you ever go to London, keep in mind that three days is not enough. We stayed in every city for three days and we would have liked to stay longer in all of them, but London was especially hard to take in, so we had to resign ourselves to barely scratching the surface.
On our last full day there, we went to a small Polish cafe near our hostel and had sandwiches for breakfast before taking the tube back to Westminster. Our plan was to visit Westminster Abbey, but when we got there the line to get in was so long that we couldn’t see the end of it, so we took some pictures of the outside and went back to Tower Bridge.
There is a museum in the bridge, partly in the towers themselves, partly under them, and partly in the walkways that go between the tops of the towers. In one of the walkways was an exhibit about famous bridges from around the world, and the other walkway had an exhibit about the history of Tower Bridge itself, where we learned that it survived WWII unscathed because the enemy planes used it as a landmark for navigation. The walkways have glass walls, so you can see down the River Thames on both sides. Underneath one of the towers is the engine room, where they have the old steam engines set up like they were when they were used to raise and lower the bridge to allow ships to pass through. The engines were painted green with accents in black, white, and red, which looked very cool. Now the bridge’s hydraulic system is powered by electricity instead of steam. We didn’t get to see the bridge being raised, but we did walk across it, and it feels bouncy, like it’s floating on the river and could possibly float away at any second.
Near the Tower Bridge we found a Pizza Express where we had a wonderful Padana pizza for lunch, which has goat cheese, spinach, and onions on a thin, crispy Romana crust. The atmosphere was very Italian, especially since for some reason there were a bunch of Vespas parked outside our window. For dessert we had their Nutella and dough ball special, which comes with espresso. Yasamin had the espresso and I had a couple extra dough balls, which were covered with powdered sugar. My mouth is watering just remembering them.
When we finished lunch we got back on the Underground and headed for Baker Street, because two nerds such as ourselves could not go to London without visiting Sherlock Holmes’ house. Along the way we stopped in a park to rest for a while. By this time in our trip, we were getting tired very quickly. Neither of us was used to walking all day every day.
It turns out that 221 Baker Street is actually a Sherlock Holmes museum. It’s set up as if Sherlock was a historical figure whose house has been preserved, with all of his and Dr. Watson’s possessions strewn about somewhat haphazardly. My favorite was the mounted head of the hound of the Baskervilles, which was big and black and had a friendly look that made you want to scratch its ears. In some of the rooms were mildly terrifying mannequins set up in scenes from the books. There were many curious things in the gift shop, such as the tiny finger-sized violin that Yasamin bought, complete with a tiny finger-sized case.
Yasamin got a text message from her friend Jan, who was from Germany and was studying in Sunderland for the semester like she was. It happened that he was in London with his boyfriend Marcus on the same day as us. We decided to meet up that night at Nando’s, a Portuguese restaurant that specializes in chicken wings. When we were done eating we walked around town. We saw the park where tents and chairs were set up in preparation for the royal wedding, and we went by Buckingham Palace. There are no guards with fuzzy hats at night, but there are also no people on the street, so it was definitely the best time to go.
I had difficulty enjoying these sights, however, because the spicy chicken had caused me to drink more than the usual amount of water, and I severely needed to find a bathroom. We found one in a pub and decided to hang out there for a while and talk. Yasamin and Jan did most of the talking; I am usually more reserved in group conversations anyway, and I think Marcus was either shy like me or less comfortable speaking English.
When we returned to the hostel for our last night in London, we were feeling subdued. The city was crowded, massive, and exhausting, and still it seemed like we had missed so much. Perhaps someday we will return and see a little more; now, our minds turned toward our next destination: Liverpool, home of the Beatles.
(Read Chapter 8!)
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