The second and final week of my mini summer vacation has been wonderful. I’ve spent most of the week going everywhere and anywhere with no particular plan in mind. It’s been strangely liberating in some ways. As I’ve explored the city, I realized how much I’ve come to love my home for the past few months.
FRIDAY, GREENWICH PARK I realized I only have about two weeks to learn how to conjugate on command so I headed out to Greenwich to study in the sun. Greenwich has turned into one of my favorite places in London. I sat up on the hill and worked for the better part of several hours trying to commit some conjugations to heart.
THE STRAND As many people are leaving the country this weekend, my friend Henry decided to host his birthday party a little bit early. So, we all gathered in a small Indian restaurant on the Strand to celebrate. It was a great gathering and the food, the first time I’d had Indian, was delicious. After we all had our fill, we headed out to the clubs to dance it off. It was a great send-off for many of the wonderful people I’ve met here and an even better celebration of a friend getting one year older.
THURSDAY, KING’S CROSS Decided to brave some of the tourist traps today and just see what they were like. My first stop was King’s Cross Station to find platform 9 ¾. Now that was the biggest tourist trap I’ve ever seen. The line to take pictures by some props must have been 50 people deep. You also had to pay like 10 pounds. Let’s just say I avoided. I decided to duck into the British Library which is next door to the station. I surprisingly found myself among some really interesting documents. I saw everything from the Beatles lyrics on scrap paper, Mozart’s composition book, Da Vinci’s journal, Marx’s first works, and British Library Card, ancient holy texts, the first collections of Shakespeare’s plays, and finally an original copy of the Magna Carta along with the Papal Bull declaring it null and void. Not going to lie, I was a little impressed.
Keeping with what was quickly turning into a literary day, I ventured over to yet another tourist trap, 21B Baker Street. No visit to London would have been complete without at least seeing the place where the world’s most famous fictional detective lived. I walked past the museum now at Baker street glad I didn’t go into yet another overpriced tourist trap.
GLOBE THEATER This evening I went to what is likely my last show in London. I went to see a classic too. After crossing the Millennium Bridge, I found myself at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. Now, of course, it’s not the original, but it’s a pretty good recreation of the thing. Being a peasant who’s basically out of money at this point, I stood in the pit and had a center stage seat to see Hamlet. Now I was supposed to read Hamlet for my drama class last semester, but I was never able to get through it. Somehow though I did a project on the thing and got an A. Anyway, I was prepared to leave at intermission if I was getting bored. But let me tell you, good Shakespeare, and by that I mean well-acted, hooks you. By the time the first hour and a half went past I was thoroughly invested. So, I stood there for three-plus hours watching one of the English world’s best dramas. For a tragedy, it’s actually pretty funny. By the time I left and headed back across the bridge, I realized just how much I’d come to love the city and country I’ve called home for months.
WEDNESDAY, TATE BRITAIN Started today’s adventure out at Tate Britain. The Tate features art from British Artists from the 1500s to the present day. It was actually pretty good. I enjoyed walking through the centuries and seeing how Britain saw itself and its place in the world evolve over the years. I have to say I’ve become pretty partial to British art from the 1700s. There’s just something about it that I love.
After walking around the galleries, I went down to the river to the pier right in front of the Tate. Even though today was rather cloudy, I decided to take a boat down the river. I waited around for what must have been fifteen minutes before the boat got there. I hoped on and cruised down the Thames past Westminster, the Strand, and finally London Bridge.
TOWER BRIDGE After disembarking I walked along the banks of the Thames past City Hall till I got to Tower Bridge. In all this time, I still hadn’t managed to walk across the thing. So, I climbed up from the bank and walked across probably the most famous bridge in the city. It’s smaller than you think. I then walked past the Tower of London and one of the remnants of the Roman Wall of London before grabbing the tube back out to Stratford.
TUESDAY, KEW GARDENS Today was a rough little start. I woke up at 5:40 thanks to the sun and then somehow after getting ready for the day fell back asleep till afternoon. It was an odd beginning to be sure. Deciding not to let the day slip away, I headed out to The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. Kew is a lot farther than I thought it was, to be honest with you. It took me over an hour on the train to get there. Once I finally got off the line, I found myself in a lovely little village center. I’m beginning to realize how many small towns have been swallowed up by London over the centuries. Anyway, made my way into the Gardens and man are they stunning. It was like walking through nature in every continent on Earth. One minute you would be in Europe, the next Asia, and then around the corner the Americas. The Gardens had to be acres upon acres. I’m willing to admit that I got lost a couple of times on some of the back trails. I spent the entire afternoon wandering around just kind of marveling at how so much nature could be so close to the city. I really am enjoying this whole vacation thing I’m on. It’s going to be hard to get back into a studying mood.
MONDAY, REGENT’S PARK Did what I’ve seemed to have been doing for days at this point. I headed out on another little day adventure to another part of the city. I decided to check out one of the other great views in London so I headed over to Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill. London is a relatively flat little city, it doesn’t have that many hills so it’s always nice to find one. After reaching the peak, I found a nice little spot and cracked open a book and laid out in the sun for a while reading and soaking up some rays. Dogs were everywhere and they frequently ran over to check me out. It was great. I did manage to get a little crispy by the middle of the day when I decided to head off the hill and went on a little walk around the city eventually ending up on the campus of UCL. Now I have to say, UCL’s campus is far better than King’s. I ducked into Senate House to check it out and then after being kicked out of there decided to head back home from another day of urban adventuring.
If I ever get an opportunity to work in London in the future, I’ll be on the first plane here. Somehow the city has managed to worm its way into my heart. This week of solo adventuring, for the most part, has also taught me a lot about myself. I’ve realized things you can only realize if you’re alone with your thoughts. I’m extremely thankful for that. I’ve even managed to finally make some decisions I’ve needed for a while. My time here is starting to come to an end and it is truly bittersweet. I only have one more update from London left before I find myself back in the states. But right now, I should get to conjugating so I’ll see you next Sunday.