United Kingdom · 4 Days · 14 Moments · July 2018

7 July 2018

Check-out time! It was an early morning for us, as we had to check out of our Airbnb bright and early with just 4 hours sleep. But we still had hours to kill before our flight at 7pm. I naively assumed visiting Stonehenge would be an easy day trip for hauling heavy luggage. I was so wrong.

6 July 2018

While Alvina took potion making classes at the Cauldron, I dragged my exhausted butt a few miles away to the British Museum. It was worth the long walk and tired feet. The highlight of the museum is the Rosetta Stone. Patrons crowded around it, so I struggled to capture a clear picture, but I stared at the rivets of the Egyptian hieroglyphics. I literally teared up at the experience of being among an object of such historical significance. Other exhibits of note: the statues recovered from the decaying Parthenon, the extensive mummy collection (including Cleopatra’s* mummy), and one of the Easter Island heads. I hate to say it, but British imperialism resulted in one hell of a museum collection. Apparently, the museum only displays a shocking 1% of their collection, some 88,000 objects. I spent some time wandering the gift shop, then retired to the subway and, eventually, home. * Not the famous Cleopatra.
Introducing the Arcelormittal Orbit. A 114.5-metre-high sculpture and observation tower in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, London. It is Britain's largest piece of public art, and is intended to be a permanent lasting legacy of London's hosting of the 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, assisting in the post-Olympics regeneration of the Stratford area. Both an observation tower and a slide, we elected to ride the slide all the way down. It is the world’s tallest and longest slide. I kinda wish I ordered the go-pro video to see how dumb my face looked going down.
Breakfast at a local coffee shop called Estate of Coffee in Streatham Hill. Pictured: mango-passion fruit polenta cake, chai milkshake, banana salted caramel cupcake, some tasty toastie.

5 July 2018

From the Eye, we tubed in the London Underground straight to Piccadilly Circus station. Well, I wish. We actually walked to Waterloo station (shoutouts Stephen’s college town) in search of a delicious fish and chips place. We found one — but they were cash only. Instead, we ventured to a hip place called Poppies. The golden battered fish, though the usual cod, was unique because the skin was cooked on. The fish was nicely complemented with a British cider. Picadilly Circus, aka the SoHo area, is a really happening spot. There are a ton of gay bars (which are pretty much exclusive to gay men) and trendy food places, and it’s the home of the West End theatre district. Soho, near Chinatown, is the only place you can get a boba in London — and that we did. Since water is not free, I scarfed down a mango milk. We also checked out a crowded pub called The Three Greyhounds. Also had an ale there. Lots of rowdy British men.
After sightseeing the remains of Large Benjamin, we headed across the River Thames to check out the London Eye. It was getting quite late at this point — about 9pm! The cost to ride the Eye was about $35. I hesitated, but ultimately decided against it. The name Coca-Cola London Eye 👁 stirred my anti-capitalist sentiments.
Big Ben is neither big nor Ben at the moment. His facade is under construction, but his clock hands are poking out. I would have liked to see the iconic clock sitting among the Thames skyline, but alas. The Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey were, as expected, quite the sights to see and ridiculously picturesque. We didn’t have time for any tours, so I just admired the architecture from afar.
Buckingham Palace! I didn’t see the Queen’s Guards, puffy hats in-tow. I didn’t see Meghan or Kate. I did, however, see the extravagant gates surrounding an impenetrable palace. I mostly ruminated over how much I wanted to be invited inside. The fountain pictured is a monument dedicated to Queen Victoria.
The Tower Bridge tour tickets also included a free trip up the Monument (lucky us). The Monument — or the Monument to the Great Fire of London — is a column that stands tall in the midst of the city, constructed from 1671-1677. Everything in London is freaking ancient. The mesh barrier on the viewing platform was added in the mid-nineteenth century after a string of suicide attempts — you’d think protective barriers are modern. There used to be inscriptions blaming Catholics for the Great Fire, but they were chiseled out. We climbed a total of 331 spiral steps, upon which we were gift a certificate of completion. My legs were so wobbly afterwards and are still sore as I write this.
British chips!
We did, however, spent money on a tour of the Tower Bridge, where we marveled at the engines pumping coal into energy to power the drawbridge. We walked inside the pedestrian “tube” of the bridge, and on the sky floor, looking down at the traffic below. I could only manage to meekly put my feet on the corner of the floor; Alvina was more daring. After completing the tour, I was lucky enough to catch a sighting of the drawbridge opening to let a large cargo ship through. Apparently, the bridge only opens about once per day.
After a full night of sleep, Alvina and I embarked to the Tower Bridge and Tower of London. It didn’t really hit us that we were in London yet — we felt as if we were in an alternate universe in America with funny accents and crazy drivers. We took the famous double decker bus across town (from Streatham Hill) and across the London Bridge. The Tower’s massive size can’t be overstated. Upon seeing such an iconic piece of history in the midst of a metropolis — William the Conqueror built the castle on the heels of Roman wall ruins in 1066 — I nearly cried. Unfortunately, we didn’t take the Tower tour and see the Crown Jewels, as the tour was quite expensive. We did, however, admire Anne Bolelyn et. al execution sites from afar, and inspect a drawbridge where Medieval prisoners were brought into the castle.

4 July 2018

Spent July 4 in London celebrating with drinks, pizza, and lots of sleep.
First moment in London...not impressed. #thanoswasright