So last weekend a scouse (from Liverpool) friend of mine came down to visit me. Being her first experience of the south and in fact, the capital city I relished in the opportunity to take her on a mini “Grand Tour”; first of my hometown – Essex – and then of some of the sights of London.
Now, I’ve only just moved back down myself after having spent four years living in the north, so it was a great chance to rediscover my roots and perhaps discover some forgotten gems from my childhood. As I discussed in the previous blog, I’ve been really lucky to have travelled quite extensively but I didn’t realise until this weekend how much I had neglected my hometown and the very close surrounding areas; London, in particular. Essentially I believe that I became a tourist in my own city.
We had one day to cram as much of London in as we possibly could. Not an easy task when London is huge and every area has its own quirky uniqueness. I decided that the historic and royal landmarks had to go on our list, as did the markets of Spitalfields and Covent Garden; my favourite part of London. So off we went, looking like keen tourists with our cameras and giant maps…
I introduced my friend to the joys of the London Underground, which as a regular user I have taken advantage of but forget how confusing it can be to the unfamiliar. I have also taken for granted the efficiency of the London transport system, despite the weekend closures due to the seemingly never ending maintenance work. This of course can always be rectified by using the city buses, which are also fairly frequent and have the benefit of giving a view of the attractions outside (and phone signal).
Taking the number 11 bus from Liverpool street – after an hour well spent shopping at Spitalfields - we looked out to the bankers home of Bank, naturally, passed St Pauls Cathedral and watched tourists clamber on top of the lions at Trafalgar Square. We got off the bus at Westminster to see Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament along with Big Ben and the London Eye. It was fascinating to see flocks of people - regardless of the horrendous weather conditions - having their photos taken in front of the buildings. I think it makes you look at them differently. The buildings I mean. Well, at least I did anyway.
It was tea o’clock by this time so refuelling was in order. I had myself a lovely cup of tea and a well needed sit down after the stress of avoiding being in other people’s photos. It was then onto the most anticipated part of the day: Covent Garden! Less overwhelming than Oxford Street with a lot more character plus the added bonus of street performers make this my number one in London. It’s even more magical at Christmas. Perhaps because of the Disney store. We raided the market stalls, saw a man juggle swords and flirted with a silver-painted man. It was wonderful.
After a hearty pub meal we got back onto the tube home at around 6pm. To be honest I was quite impressed with how much we had fitted into the day. In addition to entertaining my friend I had also managed to reignite my own love for London. I have even started a bucket list of things I want to do here, which mainly consists of places I want to eat at… There is definitely a clear reason as to why all of these “fancy-camera-tourists” come to our capital city; because its eclectic mix of attractions can brighten up even the greyest and wettest of days.