I’m enjoying the cool weather today – scattered showers, cool breeze, slightly cool heads. At the moment, my mind is lost and I’m still trying to organize my thoughts after that blast of a weekend I had in London.
London is BEAUTIFUL! I’m just amazed that I was able to see the places that I only see in pictures and books. Although it’s rather expensive and crowded – very urbanized, I should say – but still, it is one of the most beautiful and one of the best places I’ve been to in my whole life. I have to say that I am really blessed to have had this chance of seeing one of the world’s richest cities.
Friday, 28 July
18:30 – It was my first time to travel by train in the UK and I found it quite interesting. The train ride was 3 hours from Swansea. I got to see the beautiful countryside of the UK while I was thinking of the things I needed to do to maximize my short stay in London. Needless to say, I was excited and a bit nervous. I’ve always felt this way when I go to a place that’s unfamiliar territory to me. But of course, being the adventure-seeker that I am, this trip was something I really looked forward to.
21:30 – My train arrived in London. I was overwhelmed by the number of people that are in the station and the station itself? It’s humongous! It can’t come to anything close back home! Ate Lau (MH’s cousin) wasn’t there yet when I arrived and I had to wait for almost an hour before I met them.
22:30 – Ate Lau and Jenny met me by Platform 8. She has totally slimmed down and looked nothing close to how I last saw her more than a year ago. The weather was okay – not too warm, not too cold. I had my first London tube rides going to Ate Lau’s place. I felt the same way as I did when I first used the subway system back in Canada. I felt that I was gonna get lost but as soon as we rode the tube, I felt better and more excited than ever. My entire weekend trip around London will depend on our riding the tube so it was worth to learn the map after all.
We had a very late dinner and then the chitty chats went on and on ’til about 5 in the morning. We were so engrossed to updating each other about what’s happening in our lives we barely noticed that the sun has risen and we still haven’t had a wink that night. We decided to sleep and I set my alarm to 7am.
29 July 2006
As I have been used to, I woke up at 7am after having a 2-hour respite, took a bath and got ready to make a tour around London. Ate Lau prepared a sumptuous breakfast for herself, me and Jenny. We left the house at around half past 9 and made the rounds on the tube. It was a wonderful experience. There were loads of tourists that day and London was just very, very busy.
Our first stop was to see the changing of the guards at the Buckingham Palace. The sun was shining so brightly and the place is JAMPACKED with people from all over the world. The ceremony starts at half past 11 so we decided to go to the Big Bus office first (it’s just a couple of blocks from where Buckingham Palace was) to get my ticket. Ate Lau and Jenny decided to get their tickets as well. We’re hopping on the 1pm bus around the city.
When we got back to the palace grounds, there was no place for us to stand near the gates anymore. We had to cross the street to Green Park and just view the crossing of the guards on the street into the palace. I caught the marching ceremony on my phone and took as many pictures as I can despite the distance.
Although I wasn’t able to see all there is to the changing of the guards, the music was enticing and just seeing the crowd made it all the more exciting. Hopefully, if I’ll ever get back to London, I will be able to see the full ceremony and take photos of those guards in red and black.
We walked along Buckingham Palace road and decided that we would like to have lunch at a nearby Filipino restaurant. We were waiting for our food when a couple went in – a Filipina and a foreigner. The lady looked very familiar to me so when they sat beside us, I asked her if she was from a school where I studied for university. Indeed, she was the girl – Sining! Oh my! We were both surprised because we haven’t seen each other for 12 whole years and there we were talking in a little restaurant in London – of all places! She’s already settled in Switzerland with her husband (who was very friendly and very nice) and she told me that she’s 3 months on the way – her first baby. She just looked as stunning and as cute as she was during our university days. Who would believe that we would meet in London after such a long time? The world has really gotten smaller! We have a picture with her husband that hopefully I could post very soon.
Well, we said our goodbyes to each other after a couple of more minutes of chatting. Ate Lau, Jenny and I hopped in that cute and red Big Bus for our city tour. Traffic was just terrible in London but still we managed to see a lot of good places and little streets in this expensive city. I enjoyed the views and was able to take loads of pictures that in time I will post in my album when access permits me.
The Big Bus tour lasted for about 2 hours. We went around London and saw a lot of tourist spots like the Picadilly Lane, Trafalgar Square, Downing Street, Hyde Park, etc. It was fun seeing the shopping district and the theatre district as well. We decided alight where the Big Ben was in Westminster. We failed to see the Abbey but we took pictures by the Big Ben. They say that you’ve never been to London if you don’t have a picture with that monumental clock. It’s pretty cool and that side of the road was VERY crowded – everyone seems to be taking photos with Big Ben all at the same time!
Our Big Bus tickets entitled us to a single way cruise on the River Thames by the Westminster Pier. So even if I know that I’m seasick, I grabbed that opportunity of a lifetime to cruise that famous river and tried my very best to enjoy the sights despite my being dizzy on the boat. I did my best to take photos of the important buildings that the tour guide was talking about.
London Bridge didn’t fall down on us but I realized that the bridge we know from the nursery rhyme is just a simple bridge – nothing fancy at all. The Tower Bridge was cool and fascinating – same with the Tower of London that’s there nearby.
The cruise went on for about 20 minutes and then we were dropped off near the souvenir shop and the entrance to the tower. I have free admission to the place using my London Pass (regular adult price is 14.50 if I remembered it right) but we decided not to go in anymore because it’s gonna be too costly for Ate Lau and Jenny. Instead we had photo opportunities with one of the guards outside which was fun.
We decided to go to the Monument using the tube. It’s pretty easy to go around London if you are not claustrophobic and you want to enjoy going around without the hassle of traffic, especially on a weekend. After a short discussion with Jenny, we decided to go up the 311 steps of that monument where you can see a good view of the London skyline from the top. It didn’t take us very long to go up the steps although we were panting like there’s no tomorrow as soon as we reached the top. We made it and I think I was like 100 pounds lighter! LOL! I have a certificate to prove it and signed by the guard in charge. It was all worth the effort! Yay!!!
From the Monument, we decided to go to Notting Hill. Oh yeah! There is a place called Notting Hill in London. We were told that the place where the film was shot has already been taken out of the Portobello Market because there have been series of fights in the area. Portobello Market is London’s very own Divisoria! It’s quite dirty, cramped and full of street vendors! Too bad most stores were already closed when we were there but it was worth the long walk looking at the numerous antique shops and fruits stands. Pretty cool! We saw about 2 Starbucks outlets there and of course I took pictures.
It was already past 8pm when we got back to Ate Lau’s place. We were all tired but it was worth it. Ate Lau prepared a sumptuous meal for the 3 of us consisting of salad, pasta, lamb strips and cheese. I would’ve wanted us to dine out for supper but Ate Lau insisted that she will just cook for us. The meal was great.
We capped the night with more chats that lasted ’til 2 in the morning. It was a pleasurable day and I enjoyed it immensely!
30 July 2006
I was up at 6am but I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed to prepare for a long day ahead of me. Instead, I prepared my itinerary for the day, finally took a bath at half past 7 in the morning to prepare myself for more walking and my 4-hour travel back to Swansea by bus and went out of my very cozy room for breakfast.
Ate Lau prepared a wonderful breakfast for the 3 of us but she apologized that she couldn’t accompany me to the other places I wanted to go to before I go back to Swansea because she still has to tidy up the place. Jenny dropped me off to the underground station before she went home.
I got off at Baker street because I wanted to go in Madame Tussaud’s – London’s wax museum. I changed plans because the queue was horrible and it might probably take me the whole day just to get inside. So much to seeing the wax museum they’re raving about.
I instead went to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Since it was a Sunday, there was Eucharistic singing but the church was closed for tours. No photography was allowed inside the church but it’s just splendid and very, very beautiful. Just like what Papa told me when I’m visiting churches for the 1st time, I prayed and wished. I took photos from the outside. It’s just great to see one of London’s finest churches.
From St. Paul’s, I tried to locate the Temple Church where The Da Vinci Code was filmed. It took me a good hour to find it because the underground station was closed during Sundays. I had to take the bus and needed to ask directions for it. I was sunburned and tired when I finally reached my destination. I felt lucky because today was the last day that the church will be opened for visitors. Such a blessing indeed!
From the Temple Church, I went to Westminster Abbey, the Parliament Square and the Houses of Parliament. The Abbey’s closed on Sundays so all I did was to take pictures from the outside. I also took photos of the Houses of Parliament from the outside as well.
It was already half past 2 when I finished my round of photographs then proceeded to the Victoria station for my coach ride. However, I was stumped when I realized that I didn’t go to the correct station for National Express buses. I missed my bus and I had to buy a full ticket to go back to Swansea.
I waited for 2 hours for the next bus to Swansea. I was able to rest my tired feet and legs from walking. I relished the fact that I was able to survive the hustle and bustle of London without a single centavo from Papa. It was a feat for me indeed! I enjoyed, I travelled and most of all I appreciated the fact that I’m very lucky to be there just having a wonderful time. I know that not everyone can do what I’ve been doing now. I just feel so blessed!
I got home to Swansea at around half past 10 in the evening. I was very tired but I was happy! Tomorrow’s another day at work and how I wish I could have extended my stay in London. I just told myself that I will be going back there in the not-so-distant future – and I will do it!