My flight arrived in London at Heathrow just before 7 AM, London time. Yet, I was unable to check into my hotel until 2:30 PM. This meant I had quite a few hours to kill before I could rest properly and I hadn’t slept, but for maybe an hour on the plane. So what could I do to pass the time? Explore the classic tourist sites, of course!
I dropped my luggage off at the Sheriff Hotel and set to walking about London at 8 in the morning. I knew I needed a currency exchange, breakfast, and tourist attractions and thanks to Google Maps… that’s exactly what I got!
It took me a little while to learn how to navigate the winding, flat bordered streets, but I eventually got sorted and made my way down the two miles of roadway to Westminster Abbey, Westminster Palace, Big Ben, and the River Thames.
It was a damp, chilly morning with a stiff breeze, so I gladly paid the 20 pounds necessary to tour Westminster Abbey. You think the outside is stunning? Wait until you get inside! I’m speechless, really. I wish I could have taken photos to share with you all, but they requested we not and, it being a holy sanctuary for the many parishioners and those buried there, I respected their request.
I can tell you this, though… I spent the morning lingering over the Unknown Warrior, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Queen Elizabeth I, Mary – Queen of Scots, Robert Browning, and Geoffrey Chaucer…. along with many others who are entombed within and beneath the church. I can also tell you that I’ve never really cared about ceilings until I walked into this cathedral of a church. While I couldn’t take photos inside the main building, they were permitted in the cloisters and outer connected chambers.
It was absolutely spellbinding. If you are ever in the area and have a chance to spend a good hour or two, I highly recommend this one. It’ll bring back a strong dose of understanding and appreciation for craftsmanship and spirituality.
After leaving the Abbey I walked across the street to see that big ol’ clock and take a peek at the Thames. Westminster Palace (also known as the House of Parliament) is also an architectural masterpiece. I didn’t go inside, but walking it’s land-side perimeter certainly added a graceful awe and respect in my gaze.
By this time I was freezing. Absolutely frozen to the core. Shocking, really, since I left Wyoming in negative degrees and it was 51 in London. I suspect the moisture in the air has much to do with the chilled feelings. A hot meal and some tea would do the body good, so I set out to seek refuge in a local pub.
I ordered a pie, immediately tracing my thoughts back to Sweeney Todd, and opting for a vegetarian one… you know… just in case. The gravy was to die for. And the herbal tea brought life back into my bones. The problem was, by then, I had been up for 24 hours straight and the warm, satisfied, full belly was putting me to sleep quickly!
I scuttled (yes, scuttled) to my hotel and begged to be let into my room early. They kindly obliged as it had just been cleaned. When I opened the door I was greeted with the most beautiful thing I would see that day – a bed.
A brief overview of the room and I hit the pillow hard at about 1:45 PM. I woke up briefly around 8, but went back to sleep a few hours later. Exhaustion had fully taken over. But hey! I beat jet-lag in the process and am now right on schedule with the new time zone!
I have to admit, arriving at the airport and getting in a cab was about all the courage I had in me at the beginning of that day. It could have been the long day of travel, the lack of food, being there alone, or just the sincere desire to be able to relax, but I was spent. My adventure tank was on empty and my confidence was really low. I was determined not to be spotted as a tourist; I really just wanted to blend in. I didn’t really feel comfortable in London until I turned a corner and found myself in a throng of other tourists doing their tourist thing – taking classically cliche photos of all the sites… exactly what I wanted to do. So even though I was alone, I had a community there filled with members from all over the world. It was a great feeling, to feel at home with strangers, and I’m grateful for the boost in confidence it gave me.
Next stop – Paris!