On the third day in London, I headed to the Wellington Arch, the meeting point for the Free Walking Tour of London. David had also said he would be there, as did a brother and sister pair from Munich whom we’d met on the previous day’s tour.
Since I arrived at Wellington Arch early, I walked around the area, looked at a memorial for fallen soldiers and waited for the group and the guide to show up. It was a nice little green park area. As I was making my way back around to the arch, a woman about my age came up to me and asked if I was there for the Free Tour. I said that I was, and was waiting for the group. We started chatting. Her name was Alissa, she lives in New York and she is a graphic/web designer! Just like me!! Now that is awesome.
This time the number of people who showed up for the tour was larger, so they split the group up into 3. David, Alissa, myself and the brother and sister from Munich all managed to get into the same group. Sights we saw on this tour? Buckingham Palace (unfortunately the changing of the guard had been canceled because of the London Fair), the houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, St. James’ Park, Waterloo, Wellington Arch and many more I’m forgetting! The whole time, I just couldn’t believe I was actually there! I also thought of my mother who reads a lot of books that take place in England and wished she was there to see these things with me! One day we will both go together.
The tour lasted about 2 hours or so. Afterward, David left because he wanted to catch another musical. Alissa and I walked back to Wellington Arch/Hyde Park Corner together before we parted. She had planned to catch a bus to Stonehenge and Bath the next day, so that was very exciting! David, Alissa and I exchanged contact information so we could stay in touch. This is what I like about solo travel and the amazing walking tours — you meet people whom you never would have met had you not gone alone.
Once I was solo again, I walked to Hyde Park. It is an ENORMOUS park, bigger than any I’d seen in Copenhagen (even bigger than Frederiksberg Have). There is a nice lake where you can rent a boat and go paddling. I didn’t however, because it was expensive. I was content to just walk around aimlessly. At one point I sat down in a lawn chair to relax (there were hundreds of them on a grasy hill) only to be approached a few minutes later by a park official who said you had to pay to use the chairs. Well forget that! Heh. I saw the official stop quite a few other people who also didn’t realize that you had to pay to lounge in the park. 🙂
After I’d spent about an hour in the park, I decided to head to the free Science Museum next to my hostel. It was amazing. I saw a few exhibits and caught an IMAX 3D show about astronauts going to space. My very first IMAX experience. Unfortunately I didn’t have much time to see more of the museum as they were closing by the time the show ended. Ah well.
Before going back to my hostel’s neighborhood, I just HAD to visit Paddington Station. Paddington Bear, anyone? To tell you the truth, it looked just like any other tube station. The only thing that’s different is its famous name. Meh.
Well, my last bit of London before it was time to leave was to try fish and chips, as my mother had suggested! I had it in a bar/restaurant, there was a football game going on and so it was a bit loud in there. But the food was delicious. Yummy!
That evening it was time to say good-bye to London. I had a ridiculously early morning flight back to Copenhagen, at Stansted airport (which is about 1 hour away from the city center), so I had to arrive at the airport and spend the night there in order to catch my flight on time. A lot of people spend the night at Stansted for this reason. Cheap flights mean you have to sleep on airport floors, but hey. It’s part of the experience. There was a bit of a mix-up getting to Stansted, however. It took me a while to find the bus that would take me there from London. No one working at the train station seemed to know where the bus was. They kept telling me to take the train to the airport, but the train would cost me 19 pounds (nearly $38, just for a ride to the airport)! I did some exploring myself and finally found the bus stop. The bus was far more reasonable — 9 pounds (about $18). Still expensive but $18 is better than $38, my god.
While waiting for the bus, I “listened” to this most interesting conversation between the bus ticket seller and some other travelers. The bus ticket seller was speaking to them in Italian, but the travelers were responding back in Spanish. They were holding a conversation in that manner. The traveler told me (in English) that he could understand most of the Italian quite well.
Well, to wrap this up, the bus ride was nice, sleeping in the airport was blah, the breakfast omelette in the airport was delicious, the airport itself was nice, and the flight back was smooth. I was tired when I got back to my dorm room, so I spent most of that day catching up on sleep.
All in all, I was excited about London and I can’t wait to return! It definitely made me want to live in a big city some day. The next on the agenda was preparing my next trip: Paris!!! 😀
I highly recommend the Sandeman’s New London Tours, they are a big part of what made my trip so enjoyable! Walking tours allow you to experience the main sights of a city AND if you’re lucky you may meet people, especially fellow solo travelers.
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