Websites are unreliable. They don’t inform you that, on January 1st, the Oxford Tube buses run on an amended timetable, the Tower of London is closed, and the British Library is closed. Essentially the entire itinerary I slaved over last night went to heck through a rain gutter (at about 1:30 it started raining and didn’t stop until 6) and we had to improvise. Really, considering how much there is to do and see in London, having no plan can be no big deal because you just pick a small region, hop on the tube over there, walk around, take some pictures, listen to my irritatingly Tudor-centric history lecture, and then pick another location. But I like plans. I like structure. I like all my pre chosen attractions to be open on a Sunday when their websites say they are!
So here is what we did instead:
Once we finally made it into London because the Oxford Tube wasn’t on a normal timetable and we had to wait around for the X90 instead, we took the tube immediately to my favorite place in the whole city, the Tower of London. Obviously I’m obsessed with it because of all the mind-blowing history that has taken place inside over the centuries, particularly in the Tudor Era, but it is also just incredible architecture and the juxtaposition of the 14th century fortress with the modern glass buildings surrounding it feels so London.
London really is this melding together of the old and the new, the historic and the innovative. For me, that is what makes London the most fascinating city I’ve ever seen. Actually going into the Tower will now be put off to tomorrow due to the date, so we headed across the Thames towards the Globe Theatre instead.
We had to walk along the Thames for quite some time, but meandering was acceptable today both because I know my way around basic London as in general directions and I invested in a mini A-Z of London, which let me tell you is the absolute best £5.50 I could have spent in London. So thanks to Jordan for showing me hers last time we went to London so I knew its awesome powers already. Kevin was excited to see the rebuilt Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre where most of the plays that Shakespeare wrote during his time in London were first performed.
Unfortunately, like so many of the places in England from before the 1700s, a fire burnt the entire place down four hundred years ago, and this current nearly exact replica of the theatre opened in 1997. Not really authentic, but the builders and architects did attempt to build it using similar methods, materials, and the same design as the theatre would have been built with originally; at least they are trying to preserve as much as the history as possible.
And that brings me back to one of the great things about London: how the city has managed to maintain its history and culture and aura from those earlier times while simultaneously moving forward in the age of progress and technology. I personally think that they have done a job worthy of the great city. Ok enough London gushing (yeah right).
We next walked across the Millennium Bridge where we learned how annoying the sound of high heels on a metal bridge can be, and then we circled around St. Paul’s Cathedral. Since services were in–Sunday after all–the church was not open for tourism, but Kevin and I politely stood at the back for a few minutes to gaze up at the ceiling and for me to light a candle next to the WWII memorial plaque before exiting as quietly as we came in. Basically we were able to see the church for free during a service, something that normally would have cost us £12 each. I felt a little less guilty because I paid 30p for the candle, but we didn’t do any harm…I swear.
A tube ride later we were in Covent Garden. Besides it just being a generally cool and stereotypical place to visit on a trip into London, we needed to get a new iPad charger and went into the Apple Store there. I think that seeing the Apple Store and talking to their employees was Kevin’s favorite part of the day. No, I mean it. I was bored, but I owed him one as he did go where I wanted to eat for lunch and then he went down a random side street with me so that I could get another picture for my London book. By this point the rain had started so we figured, Hey, why not go to the British Library? It’s dry and interesting in there. Ha! A wasted underground fare because the British Library was CLOSED and was therefore added on our list of things we have to do tomorrow because today was New Year’s Day. Website improvement people! We regrouped in a Starbucks and then rode to the opposite side of the city to see the SIS building. I still have no idea what exactly is inside Vauxhall; you’ll have to ask Kevin or read his blog if he posted about it, which I’m not sure about. Continuing our private walking tour, we came across the Tate Britain and decided to go inside and escape the rain for a bit.
I’m not sure how Kevin felt about the museum. I do know that he and I have completed opposite tastes in art. He is interested in anything modern and unique; I focus on the historical and impressionistic pieces. So I got the impression that the art bugs in both of us were a little unfulfilled and underwhelmed by this gallery. I may be wrong, so check below to see if Kevin has posted a scathing comment correcting my impression of his impressions of the art. I am glad we found shelter for a bit, but all the museum really did for me was intensify my headache (sorry Mom, I forgot to take Advil after we hung up this morning).
For the final stretch of our Day 1 London walks, we continued along the Thames to the Parliament Houses and Westminster Abbey all spotlighted for the night. The lights made the architecture look more extreme and I thought thrown into more severe detail. We are going to the London Eye tomorrow morning so Kevin will be able to see it in the day time as well. I wish we had more time in London because going into Westminster is truly a highlight experience and is one of those places that I feel like I will never get enough time to explore properly, but we only had today and tomorrow so things had to be prioritizes and the inside of the Abbey didn’t make the list. All the more incentive for Kevin to come back to London 🙂 We ended by walking down to the Victoria Coach Station, which I was all excited about because that area is where my mom and I stayed my first time in London after high school graduation so I became all nostalgic.
Back in Oxford we grabbed dinner at the Cape of Good Hope bar/pub/restaurant place by my room, and my friend Janosz joined us, Good food, good company, and good planning for tomorrow. Janosz has to go into the city to meet one of his friends and then is going to meet up with us for the Tower and Library. I’m really excited that everything will be open again!