I’ve been putting off wrapping this thing up because every time I start writing this last part, I don’t have my journal, where I kept a list of everything I did. Also, it’s hard to write about something that happened months ago at this point. Maybe next time I go on a trip, I’ll write about it right after I get back? We’ll see.
I started my second-to-last day, a Monday, by visiting Westminster Abbey, which I’d visited when I was 12. I barely remember specifics of that visit, other than being impressed by the tombs of Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I, both of whom I was very interested in at that time. I figured it wouldn’t be a bad place to revisit, so I took the Tube there and stopped to take some selfies in front of Big Ben and the London Eye before getting on a rather intimidating line.
I waited in line for probably twenty minutes and listened to other people’s conversations. Once inside, I took my time walking around, reading the memorials to people who lived, for the most part, centuries ago. The overall experience was not as exciting as I’d remembered it being when I was younger. This time, I felt annoyed at being jostled by other tourists, all of whom had their ears glued to the handheld audio tours they hand out at the entrance. Out of guilt and some sense of obligation, probably because I’d paid an entrance fee, I made sure I saw every bit of Westminster Abbey that I could see, except for the gift shop and cafe, which I think are kind of tasteless things to have in a church, even if that church is a tourist attraction.
From Westminster Abbey, I walked to the British Museum, which was not exactly nearby. My route took me to the edge of St. James’s Park and behind 10 Downing Street. I thought briefly about going to see Buckingham Palace but I felt like that was something I only needed to do once in my lifetime. I ended up in Trafalgar Square, which was an interesting coincidence. A scene in the book I’d been reading the night before took place there. While I was figuring out which direction to walk in from Trafalgar Square, I realized I was hungry, so I stopped into the 800th Pret a Manger I’d seen that day and bought a cheddar and pickle sandwich. I ate it on my walk to the museum. I knew I looked gross, but it’s not like I was going to run into anyone familiar.
At the British Museum, it took me a really long time to figure out how to access the exhibit I wanted to see – Germany: memories of a nation – and that made me grumpy. But once I got it all sorted, I had a really great time. The exhibit told the history of Germany through art and artifacts in a really manageable yet thorough manner. It wasn’t super crowded. And I felt pretty at home with the mostly elderly crowd, especially once my fatigue and sciatica kicked in. At one point, I sat on a bench for a while next to two older men and listened to them talk about Hitler.
I wandered around the permanent collections for a very long time. By that point in my trip, I was museum-ed out. I can barely remember what else I saw. I know that I walked through some rooms with stuff from Roman Britain. I saw the Sutton Hoo hoard, which was a must for me while I was there. And I remember at least a room – or two – full of clocks. I also twice visited the bathrooms, which were podlike and an awful shade of orange, clearly someone’s idea of what the future would look like decades ago.
When I left the museum, it was raining. I bought a a shitty umbrella at a shop full of touristy knickknacks and walked to the closest Tube station. I got in a car with a bunch of uniformed schoolgirls chaperoned by their teachers. They were probably around twelve-years-old, all chatty and earnest and still trying to get attention and approval from one teacher in particular, who was clearly exhausted. The girl across from me was eating a bag of prawn cocktail-flavored potato chips, which intrigued me, though I never remembered to buy a bag before I left the UK.
I had no idea what I was doing in Notting Hill. At least it had stopped raining. I followed Google Maps, walking along beautiful residential streets, until I found Portobello Road. I remembered someone had told me to go to Portobello Road Market. I thought it was like…fine? I don’t know. I bought some silly souvenirs for my roommates and myself from one of the stalls. I walked into a few random, cutesy looking shops and ended up spending a stupid amount of time at a Cath Kidston without buying anything.
It was almost sundown and I’d thought I might try to walk by Kensington Palace, so I started heading toward Kensington. I promptly got lost. It got dark and for a while, I was the only person walking along a street lined with really, really nice furniture stores. I ended up hopping on a train at the first station I saw, which was High Street Kensington station, which I later realized is like four blocks from Kensington Palace.
That evening, Katie and I went to see a Jane Austen-themed improv group called Austentatious. (At a pub in Islington called The Old Queens Head.) They describe their performance as “an entirely improvised comedy play in the style of the wondrous & witty Jane Austen, based on nothing more than a title from the audience.” That is exactly what it was like! (It was really good.)
The next day – my last full day in London – I did a bunch of stuff. At this point, I’m bored writing about this trip, so I’ll give you a quick rundown of how I spent my remaining time.
I went to the Tower of London. However, I forgot that it was Remembrance Day, so I had to watch an official Remembrance Day ceremony taking place on a big screen while standing in a crowd of thousands before I could get my ticket for the tour. Then I did the tour and it was great.
I walked along the Thames to St. Paul’s Cathedral. And then didn’t go inside. Just like, walked around it.
I spent my afternoon shopping. I went to Selfridge’s Food Hall for lunch and picked up a few little gift-y things for people back home. Then I walked around Liberty of London literally for hours. It was really maybe one of the most fun things I’ve ever done by myself. And then I checked out Sister Ray Records, which was close by.
I took the Tube to Whitechapel, where I was meeting Katie and Chris for dinner. I was super early, so I stopped into a little crepe shop for a coffee. I did some writing and charged my phone until it was time to go to Tayyab’s. Dinner there was definitely an experience for me. I hadn’t eaten Indian food since probably 2009 and have a really hard time handling anything spicy, so I was kind of nervous for our meal in general. (Note: I was the one who’d suggested we get Indian food in the first place, as I had put it on my London to-do list.) I think I maybe had a mild allergic reaction to something, but I liked most of what I ate!
I said goodbye to Katie that night. And in the morning, I said goodbye to Chris.
And then I was off to Iceland!
P.S. I’ll write about the two days I spent alone in Iceland soon, I think.