Staff trip diary: Richie in London
Our tour specialist Richie headed to the U.K. for the first time last week and is keeping us apprised of his adventures with a trip diary! Here’s the first entry from his time in London, kicking off his trip with a visit with his cousin living in the city.
Day 1: London
I arrived in London late last night. The flight wasn’t too bad, but I was sufficiently exhausted when I arrived to my cousin Adrian’s flat in Ealing. We talked for a bit and then headed off to sleep as it was close to midnight London time.
After waking up this morning, we walked down to a bakery of sorts for a “proper” English breakfast. I had hash browns, scrambled eggs, a grilled tomato, beans, sausage and bacon. The sausage was a little different than what I am accustomed to but it was still quite good. The bacon is quite different. It’s thicker and more like salty ham. It was delicious in its own right, but it is not what I would refer to as bacon. Beans for breakfast is also a new thing for me. My cousin explained to me that these beans were different than American beans and are quite nice with the rest of a traditional English breakfast.
After breakfast we took the tube downtown. After climbing a simple flight of stairs, I was greeted to my first glimpse of historic London with the overwhelming expanse of Trafalgar Square. It was surreal.
We stopped into a store and I was pleasantly surprised when I spotted a dark chocolate with sea salt bar. Yes. This sounds great. Still running on the chocolate high, I spotted a bike shop across the street.
It quickly became apparent that there are quite a few bikes throughout London. Mostly hybrid bikes and road bikes, fixed gear, single speed and geared, and a few mountain bikes were sprinkled in as well. The bike shop was geared towards the commuter. Most all of the bikes were various types of commuting bikes. It was really cool to see how people use bikes and gear as an everyday part of life, moreso than as a hobby as most do in the U.S. This really put a lot of things into perspective. Bikes here are more than just for pleasure. People depend on them. And even though they are necessary, people still seem to enjoy hustling and bustling through the city on them. The sheer number of bikes I saw in London was staggering.
Later we met up with Adrian’s girlfriend — a local Londoner with a great since of humor — an ideal tour guide. We made our way across the bridge with me taking numerous pictures. I did not want to spend an enormous amount of time on photography but I also wanted to take a lot of photos since it isn’t a regular trip to come to London. This equated to me snapping numerous pictures, while walking and trying not to run into people. I told my cousin that I just invented a new form of photography: walking photography. This is a great form of photography! You never know what you are going to get! He told me it could also become a dangerous form of photography, to which I replied that only seasoned professionals should attempt such a delicate art form. Right about then I may have bumped into someone.
After a tasty lunch at Wagamama, we headed to the Eye. This monstrosity took us up high above the city. Since it was a clear day with blue skies, we were able to see the city for quite some distance in all directions. Both Adrian and his girlfriend told me that until that day, the weather had been quite nasty. Naturally, I took all of the credit for the lovely weather and told them several times that I didn’t understand why London had such a bad rap for weather. The sun was out, and it was quite pleasant! I may regret this statement before this trip is over. The view was magnificent.
Once our feet were back on solid ground, we made our way over to Big Ben. The architecture was simply amazing. There is something to be said for being surrounded by buildings that are older than the country you live in. It’s humbling. I continued to snap pictures without giving more than 3 seconds of thought to any one photo and while dodging pedestrians. This must be the easiest photography known to man. You can shoot blindly and have amazing pictures. Everywhere I looked there was one amazing building or structure after another.
We made our way to a pub and stopped in for a pint. There is no telling how old the wood in this place was. It has been worn for decades. I had a pint of beer that was poured from a bar that most likely has a history that I can’t even begin to fathom. Very cool. There was a buzz in the air about Margaret Thatcher and her recent passing. My cousin gave me the background story about Margaret Thatcher and why some despise her and others praise her. I found all of this tremendously interesting. Oh how I love history.
From the bar we made our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral. More pictures were taken. More laughs were had and since the sun was on it’s way down and the cool air was beginning to blow in, we decided to head for the train home.
After dinner at a South African spicy chicken place that was quite tasty, we headed back to Adrian’s place. Wheww, I’m exhausted. However, I am already looking forward to tomorrow. There is quite a bit more to see.
Day 2: London
I woke up this morning still fairly exhausted from yesterday. After multiple cups of coffee I began to finally come around. But that is the idea, right? Get the most out of each day and pass out from exhaustion each night, right?
We made our way to Fulham and went to the Chelsea football stadium. It was pretty cool to see a proper football stadium. We walked around the whole stadium and stopped in the gift shop for a moment. Everything was blue and everyone at the stadium seemed to be massively in love with the team. My cousin’s girlfriend is a Fulham fan and explained to me that Chelsea fans are mostly scum. All in good humor of course, but laced with a bit of seriousness I think.
(Editor’s note: Previous paragraph obviously directed at tour specialist Heather, who’s a die-hard Chelsea fan!)
Next we explored Greenwich, which was really beautiful. We saw the Cutty Sark (the ship, not the terrible Scotch) and several amazing old buildings. There are so many amazing old buildings. I feel like any random old building in London, if uprooted and moved to the US, would immediately become a museum and/or major attraction.
We saw the observatory and the “Prime Meridian.” I was thoroughly impressed with Greenwich. There were huge open fields in the courtyards between massive ancient structures. The place really oozed with history.
Next we headed to the British Museum. We picked up a guidebook that was titled “Top Ten Things to See in the British Museum.” We saw all ten and a bit more. My cousin explained that, as England has conquered other civilizations, they have taken all of their cool stuff and stored it here. Over time this stuff has become quite the collection and other cool stuff has more recently been added without the violence. I felt like I was walking through a history book, except where in a history book there are only photos, this museum contained the actual items. It was stunning.
After the museum, we stopped at a very impressive pub. This pub served Samuel Smith beer and the ornate detail of the interior gave it an impressive atmosphere. It was obviously a very old pub. However, the woodwork inside was all still in great shape. I could have stayed in the Princess Louise for hours, watching people and observing the detail in the woodwork, and it would have all been time well spent. It was amazing.
Then I finally tried some authentic fish n chips. It’s official now — I have been to London and I have had fish n chips. Check.