Walking Along the Thames in London

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Sunday, November 6, 2011

The third day started out similar to the second, with a hostel breakfast.  We then went to the underground, or subway station, to buy a day pass. Our first stop was Abbey Road, the recording studio used by the Beatles prior to their breakup.  The crosswalk was also used in one of their famous album covers. The studio itself is a relatively nondescript building. The Abbey Road crosswalk is on a very busy street, and must be one of the most irritating places to drive in the city. I don't think I've ever seen so many people walk straight out into traffic and almost get hit while taking pictures. Families and groups of people would just walk out in front of moving cars and buses and then stop so they could recreate the album cover. And of course the drivers would sit there honking at them, but the pedestrians typically won the battle.  They were going to cherish the five minutes it took for them to get their Christmas card, even if they all died in a terrible automobile accident as a result. I understand it's a big deal for a lot of people, but occasionally a car would stop briefly so people could take the picture.  Following our stop at Abbey Road, we took the train to Baker Street, which is where Sherlock Holmes lived in his books.  The building has been turned into an expensive Sherlock Holmes museum, which was we decided to pass on.
    Our next destination was the British Museum.  It was one of the few attractions in London that did not charge admission. We made a small donation upon their request, and paid a small fee to check our backpacks and coats.  The museum structure was massive. You could easily spend at least a day in the museum.  The museum's displays and exhibits showed the mighty reach of the former British Empire. Many of the displays and exhibits were taken from the former colonies.  I can see why some of their former colonies may now be upset that the British took so much away from their civilization's past.  Some examples include massive Assyrian statues, rooms full of Egyptian mummies, and even an entire building, shipped to London piece by piece. Also, there’s a very ornate door taken from a temple in Asia. This made us wonder what the temple did without a front door.  Aside from the ethical issues surrounding the museum's collections, a lot of the exhibits inside was amazing. Seeing the actual Rosetta stone was very cool. The two rooms full of mummies were very impressive, especially Cleopatra's mummy. Some of the other amazing exhibits included an Easter Island Moi and a full set of Samurai Armor . By the end we were fairly worn out, so we stopped for dinner on the way home. The place we ate was fairly inexpensive and I finally decided to have some fish and chips. While fish is not one of my favorite foods, this fish was very good.  It was boneless and didn't have a strong and fishy taste. Once again, the unlimited condiments were also a nice touch.
    After dinner we went back to the Tower of London to try and catch the ghosts and crime tour from the day before.  Unfortunately, due to some major delays in the Underground subway system, we were a half hour late. My two friends wanted to go ice skating but I felt more like just wandering around, so we split up and I went off on my own once again.  I first crossed the Tower Bridge to the other side of London. The first site I passed walking along the shore was the HMS Belfast.  This warship has been converted into a museum, though it was closed for the night.  I kept walking along the coast until I got to London Bridge.  After crossing London Bridge without it 'falling down', I walked to a large obelisk located in a nearby square. This obelisk is the monument to the victims of the Fire of London in the 1600s. From here I walked to St. Paul's Cathedral.  Nearby was also a monument to the firefighters who lost their lives in the Blitz during World War Two. After taking some pictures, I crossed the Millennium Bridge back to the other side of the Thames. This is the bridge that is attacked by death eaters in one of the last Harry Potter movies. From the bridge I was able to walk to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, which was rebuilt in the early 1900s. Eventually I crossed back over the Thames and walked to the Bank of London.  There were several buildings on this block, including a large classical looking building.  I believe this was the bank museum.  I would imagine the surrounding high-rise structures were the actual bank buildings.  By this point about two hours had passed so I decided to head back to the Tower of London to meet my friends.  Since I was quite far from the Tower of London, I decided I would take the subway back.  I ended up spending at least 20 minutes in the Bank underground station trying to find the line I needed since the majority of the station was closed for maintenance. Once I met up with Deb and Marc, we headed to the Kings Cross train station, which was near our hotel and also the site of some scenes in Harry Potter. We decided to go to platform 9 & , the site where Harry Potter gets on the train to Hogwarts.  There was supposed to be a monument, but it has been moved since it was disrupting foot traffic.  We did not however know that initially.  We ended up asking a conductor on Platform nine and ten where the monument was.  His reply was "Harry Potter huh? The last thing we need around here is a bunch of wizards."  It looked like he was having one of those days where absolutely nothing goes correctly.   After a long search, we found where the monument had been moved.   We took pictures of each other pushing a half missing luggage cart into a wall just like in the movies and books.
    Near the train station was a restaurant called Nandos that is apparently really big in British Columbia.  Being that Deb is from British Columbia and had been talking about Nandos all trip, we decided to stop there.  While the excitement of seeing the restaurant was enough for her, Marc and I were extremely happy when we saw that they offered unlimited refills.  This was the first and only time I ever saw a place that offered unlimited refills while in Europe. I ended up having at least 6 glasses of soda.  While I certainly didn’t need so many glasses, the novelty of it was just so exciting.  The chicken wings we had were pretty good but not nearly as tasty Quaker Steak or Buffalo Wild Wings.  The fries were even better than the wings. After our snack we went back to the hostel.
    My last night in London was definitely the worst night for sleep.  There were a few loud people late at night and early in the morning, a guy turned the overhead lights on and walked out of the room for 20 minutes without turning them back off.  Aside from that, the morning was routine.  We checked out, stored our luggage and had breakfast at the hostel. Our group was down to two again since Deb had to leave earlier in the morning .  Though we did not know this at the time, she ended up spending an extra night in London.  First her bus to the airport was delayed, then she missed two flights thanks to incompetent workers at the airport and finally she ended up flying out the next morning.  Throughout the ordeal, she had very little money, no cell phone minutes and was stuck in the airport for almost the entire day.
    After leaving the hostel, we decided to  check out Trafalgar Square.  I thought it was really fascinating, though the collection of statues they have there is a bit random.  I thought it was  funny how there was a statue of George Washington in Trafalgar Square next to all of the British generals.  I wonder how they felt about adding a statue of one of their most famous rebel leaders when the State of Virginia donated it after World War I.  In addition to the generals, there is also a giant ship in a bottle, a countdown clock to the Olympics and Nelson's Column flanked by two large fountains. Behind Trafalgar Square is the National Gallery, though we did not have time for it.  We walked around the surrounding area for about a half hour and then moved on to our final destination, the Globe Theater. We spent ten minutes taking pictures and then headed back to our hostel to get our things for the train. 
    The train ride home was uneventful.  I had reserved a seat for the entire trip, so I didn't have to scurry around searching for open seats like the train ride to London.  Marc and I were on the same train for the entire trip, though we were 14 wagons apart, so we never saw each other until we arrived in Marburg. 
    Overall, I would have to say I really enjoyed London, though not nearly to the level that I enjoyed Berlin.  The sites, architecture and history of the city is absolutely amazing.  I would absolutely love to return to London for at least a week and take advantage of some of the day trip opportunities offered, as well as spend a whole day in the London Museum.  The one major issue I had with the city was simply how expensive it was to do anything famous in the city.  When I do come back, it will definitely be once I have a stable income, as London is easily three or four times more expensive than any other city I've been to, including Munich and Berlin. 
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