I’m only the author of the pictures in this article, the text was created by my better half, who is more suited for writing.
London. The city, in which you spend two weeks and still don’t see all there is to see at least in one city quarter. The city, in which you can make one photo of a futuristic scenery full of glass and iron, another with the most historical of history’s menu, and another with chipper little squirrels hopping down the park. The city, where seven years old girls dance on a carnival together with their seventy year old grandfathers dressed in sparkly bathing suits.
We set off for London in the last week of August, having a great deal of assumptions, some uncertain plans, and of course bursting with expectations for England. Both of us have already been in the British capital once, for a short time, but it was not enough. Therefore, we planned the trip and prolonged it during the planing, till the week became nine days.
I’m not in the mood to cover the details of the flight – we decided for a the Hungarian lowcost WizzAir and let it be said only that much that it really was very cheap and we arrived more or lass safe and sound. The hostel was roughly the same – I had a good experience with the Belgrave House Hotel, so we decided to try that again, and once again, the main assets were that it was cheap, the location was great (near Victoria, a station for almost anything except planes and submarines), the staff was nice and this time, even the wi-fi was working. As to the room, if we tried, we were able to turn around, and when we spent a while moving the furniture to and fro, we even got to shower and pack our luggage.
In the end, the main problem of the trip was food, which didn’t occur to us before. We had the pleasure of traveling as a team of one hypoglycemic (I have to eat every two hours and without one warm meal a day, I simply cease to function) and one coeliac (allergic to gluten, lactose and by the way also cucumbers), and we were in a country, where the typical lunch consists of a sandwich and a muffin.
Subsequently, we found ourselves almost every day in the same situation. We were wandering around this or that part of London, looking for a place to eat, which wouldn’t be another Chinese, wouldn’t serve only dishes containing some of the forbidden ingredients, and wouldn’t cost my week’s salary. I eventually got my blood sugar under the level, where I’m still sufferable, and the only thing saving us from mutual cannibalism was the lack of sufficient weaponry.
In the end, we found two sanctuaries. Firstly, when we were rambling around Soho, hungry to death, we stumbled upon a place called Montagu Pyke – a nice pub with Tuesday night’s deal of a steak and a drink (meaning for example a pint of cider) for seven pounds and a burger and drink for six. The food’s good and since it’s a British pub, there’s no smoking. Secondly, we were many a time saved by the store chain Waitrose – it’s almost on every corner and they offer quite a good range of gluten-free baked goods which are unusually edible for England (says the coeliac, I’d say it tastes like styrofoam).
As to London itself – well, it was London. We almost didn’t stop walking through the whole week, had some rain, some wind, some cold and some warm and went around almost all of the main sightseeing points from Tower to St. Paul’s to Royal Albert’s Hall (where we caught a glimpse on the rehearsal of the BBC Proms). Furthermore, on Monday we decided to go to the Notting Hill Carnival for a while, and so we also had our share of crowded buses and crowded streats, layers of trash and layers of MPs and of course the deafening music.
We also tried to go on as many guided tours as possible, since the difference between roaming around the city and roaming around the city with someone able to talk about interesting thing is quite significant. Except a eccentric Beefeater in Tower who looked like a younger brother of William Shatner, we enjoyed London walks the best. The system of going to a certain place in certain time, paying six quid and going for an entertaining walk for two hours really suited us and I must say that in the dozen of tours I’ve been on, I have only had one bad experience (Judy, not good).
Another thing worth mentioning about London are the parks. When almost every institution in the city closes after six P.M., parks suddenly become the tourist’s best friend. It’s one of the thing I love about London. They’re mostly about as big as a regular city quarter, every one contains some magically crazy elements (How about a Peter Pan statue? Tropical waterfall? Menhir? And that’s just Hyde Park), and no matter how many people are in the streets, you can always find a nice, peaceful and quiet place. In the city center. Unimaginable in the Czech Republic.
Parks also contain animals. Mainly the squirrels – cute, cheeky, cute, feedable, cute, photogenic and cute. And apart from squirrels, there are also duckies. London duckies (geesies, swanies and other cuddly edible buggers) remain an ungraspable phenomenon for me. They’re obviously well-fed, extremely gullible, almost willing to let you touch them for a piece of bread, the smaller ones look like an ideal dinner for two people – and still, their numbers aren’t constantly decreasing! No park has a “Don’t eat the duckies” sign right next to the “Don’t feed the pelicans” one. Had I been born in London, feeding the birds would be the least of their problems. Is that the legendary English politeness?
We tried to visit as many parks as possible, partly by day, partly in night. And we also wandered around London, till our feet got sore, but nevertheless, we still don’t think we actually know at least the imminent neighborhood of Victoria. From time to time we went shopping and left most of our wages in comic book and DVD stores, got disappointed while searching for a hat or a steam engine, and in my case, found the most amazing shoes in the world. I’m still thinking about marrying them.
We spent our last day in London in the British Museum, most of which was in the Enlightement Gallery (the room with all the books, we need it desperately!) and then in few of the exhibitions and the gift shop. The British museums in general are a great thing, we spent another hour in the Nature History’s teeny tiny greenhouse, going around and oohing and awing at the butterflies, just a few days ago.
We headed from the British Museum right to the airport, where we waited an additional hour for the delayed flight, after WizzAir sent us a message to come at least an hour earlier, because the airport is crowded (might have been my delusional senses influenced by Oxford Street crowds, but THAT was not crowded). We eventually got home and are complaining since then that we want back to London
And yes. We do want back to London.