Friday, September 12, 2014

London, Day 2 (8/1/14)

I remember waking up ridiculously sore - as in, I knew I would feel that but I hadn't expected it to be this bad. My feet didn't hurt yet, but they were definitely sore and it wouldn't take more than an hour for them to turn into mush. The real killer was my calves, because standing up straight made them feel like they were being stretched too far. Oh well, over it.

The night before, I had decided to purchase the London Pass for today and the next because 1) it seemed like a great deal financially and could save me a significant amount of money and 2) it made sure that I would not hesitate to go to an attraction simply because I didn't want to pay for it; instead, it would make me want to go to as many places as possible to get the most from the pass.

I'd planned out my day so that I could see everything I wanted in two days with the pass, taking into account opening times and locations. I started off with leading back to the Paddington train station to buy the Pass and then taking the Underground to Westminster Abbey:

Selfies on the Underground!

In most of Westminster Abbey, pictures were actually prohibited, which is why I don't have the iconic parts of the Abbey in my pictures. 

I then moved to the Churchill War Rooms, which were essentially just across the street. I didn't know what they were before going in, but apparently they are the exact rooms that Churchill and his team used during WWII to plan all of the UK's decisions. It's beautiful, and I actually met a UT alum standing right in front of me! It's crazy that when they say UT has half a million alums, they really mean it. 

Apparently, Churchill was awarded US citizenship for his efforts in the war

P.M.: Prime Minister

The room that Churchill normally slept in, because it shared a wall with the main communications room

The museum is kind of secluded, and you can only access it through this sketchy-looking door that immediately leads underground, but it's really a fascinating account of such a crucial part of modern history

I was looking for the nearest Underground station and came across the Household Cavalry Museum, which I didn't even know existed. But because it had the London Pass logo next to the sign, I decided that it wouldn't hurt to spend 30 minutes or so checking it out. I went in, and for a cavalry that is so important to Britain, I'm surprised at how small it was. There were two rooms, and a place where you could actually look outside to see horses in the stables, but that was it. 

I got on the Underground to make my way towards East London:

And on my way, I grabbed lunch from a food stand near the road. One of the cool things about Europe is that student discounts are way more common (food was great!):

I was looking for the Shakespeare Globe Theater, and it took me FOREVER to find it but it was beautiful:

Unfortunately, there was a play going on at the time so I couldn't see the iconic inside, and even though standing room-only tickets only cost £5, my feet were already dead and I wouldn't have been able to keep on my schedule if I did. 

Either way, I thought I'd check out the ferry bus-thing. Basically a bus but it goes along the Thames River; it was expensive (like $15 a ride, I think!), but I figured I might as well try to once. Got some great shots though:

When I left the boat, I don't think I realized how many things I could see:

I went to the Tower of London first. I actually had no idea what it was, but it turns out it was the main fort in London for hundreds of years:

I rushed my visit there a little bit so that I could take a mediocre boat tour that wasn't even a boat tour. I have no idea how I got it wrong because it apparently was just a ferry from the East to the West side of London, but I got some pictures from the middle of the River Thames from it, at least:

I then went to the Tower Bridge and toured the museum there. It has a beautiful view from its walkway above the River, and then also has an area that shows how steam engines operate:

I walked around the area after that, and actually had the privilege of seeing the Tower Bridge raise for a boat that was being pulled by a tugboat!

After that, I ended up exploring the area a little bit because I didn't want to head back to the hostel yet, so I ventured into the part of town that is actually know as London - the part that I've been referring to as "London" is actually Westminster. It's weird, but apparently that's the way it works. 

This isn't the best picture, but this bridge was covered in little art pieces that someone had put in between the ridges of the ground of all sorts of things.

I was biding my time until I could go into the Tate Modern Museum, free to the public containing all sorts of modern art. I've never really been a fan of art, and although I have started to appreciate pieces that have some sort of meaning behind them, I cannot get over some pieces that are extremely plain or abstract but have no explanation whatsoever. The museum had several really famous artists though, and a few pieces that I thought were noteworthy:

I also saw this "piece of artwork" that was hanging in one of the galleries:

Ignore the people in the reflection because they would not get out of the way, but this is literally a mirror. Every single bathroom has one of these, and people in the developed world look into one of these literally every single day. There was an explanation for this, but it only talked about the audience member being part of the artwork, and to me, the audience member is always part of the artwork. There is no art without the audience member, and each person's perspective is different because they bring their unique experiences to their interpretations of each piece. I guess there are enough people out there that think differently for this to be a piece in what I would think is a very prestigious modern art museum, but I just don't get it. 

For dinner, I decided to try a London classic - fish and chips. Honestly, it was disappointing. Regular fish that you can find in the frozen foods isle at any grocery store and fries that are the same. Not worth it, especially because it was more expensive than the falafel. Dang it. 

Overall, though, it was a great day! I squeezed in a lot into a very short amount of time, and even did more than I had planned or even expected to.