The bus from Cardiff was stuffy and bumpy… I was feeling a little sick so I knew Sam was feeling terrible. Luckily it arrived in London early, not late as we’d been warned, and we jumped off seemingly eager to explore London, grateful to be out of the bus and in the fresh air.
It was a few hours before we could head to the home of our Warm Showers host, Max, so we found some maps and brochures, and sat down in a food court with public wifi, to plan the next couple of days.
It was confusing – there was the London Pass, where you pay for the pass, then get free entry to selected sights. But some of the biggest attractions were not part of it. And of course it was quite a big outlay of cash. We had some half price vouchers given to us on the coach… but did we want to go to those places? And then there were lots of places that were free to visit – so could we stick to them? I spent time working out different price options and circling places on the map… not really coming to any conclusions but confusing myself more.
We went for a night-time stroll to Buckingham Palace, hoping to see the queen return from a night out in the city but satisfying ourselves with snapping some photos.
It was getting late so we headed to the station to follow Max’s directions to his place. But the metro station was closed. Someone had ‘fallen’ in front of a train and the line was closed. We checked a bus map – maybe one of the buses we needed to get to Max’s place came this way… but no luck. We resolved to walk to a station on the line we needed and then follow Max’s directions.
We arrived at his place late – almost midnight. And then we sat up talking until 2.30am.
It was a relaxed but interesting day. We started at London Tower, and caught a ferry down the Thames, laughing at the amusing commentary provided by the crew. It was a great way to see many of the sights, including the Tower Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe, London Eye, Big Ben and some amazing buildings. We got off at the Westminster pier and walked towards Trafalgar Square. On the way we passed by a crowd outside the Horse Guard building so we joined them in time to watch the inspection.
At Trafalgar Square a series of public performances were underway under the banner 'Liberty'. It seemed to be a festival dedicated to and performed by those with physical and mental impairments. We saw some girls with down syndrome perform a ballet, a deaf girl sing with her band, acrobatics tricks and wheelchair basketball. There was a large crowd and a great feeling. You could see the joy in the eyes of all the performers.
We saw some Piccasos in the National Gallery, and were intrigued by the portraits in the National Portrait Gallery, reading the short commentaries and then imagining the raison d'etre behind their respective visages. We could have spent more time in the galleries but were disappointed when they said closing time and kicked us out.
In the evening we walked to Curzon cinema in Soho, passing through the West End and Chinatown districts where we sat through 40 minutes of ads and previews to eventually see the Argentinean drama The secrets in their eyes.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia