Happy New Year folks! I hope your celebration was exactly how you planned, however you chose to spend it. As for me, I rang in 2013 on the river Thames in London, England! Over half a million people came out to the festivies, and it was the single most exhilarating and equally terrifying NYE I have ever had. A DJ spun the biggest hits of 2012 leading up to the firework show at midnight that was amazing. But, right after the last explosion, the massive crowd all turned and funneled through the same area on the tube. I was pushed and herded and almost trampled. Being surrounded by that many people in a completely foreign place was enough to trigger the deep seated claustrophobia ( thankfully captain Morgan helped calm my nerves)...
1/1/13.. The next day we spent time in Trafalgers Square, and caught a glimpse of the New Years Day Parade. We also discovered a part of London called Camden Town, which is like an English version of the Charleston Market amplified by 500. You can literally buy anything there, and it's possible you may run over if you stand still long enough.
My companions had to return to their own regular routine, and since I am on vacation I opted to stay behind for a few extra days alone. I spent the rest of my New Years Day at the British Museum, enjoying over 8 million works in this museum established in 1753.
1/2/13.. A trip to London wouldn't be complete without the ride on a double decker bus! I joined a hop on/ hop off tour as a way to get around the city without too much hassle. I visited many literary hotspots, everything from where Ian Fleming lived and wrote James Bond, the row of homes that inspired Mary Poppins, Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame. I was thrilled when I was able to see the Reform Club, which is where the character Phineas Fogg made the bet he could make it around the world in 80 days.. He comes from the book of the same name, which I LOVE.
I also got to spend time at Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard, but I want to go back tomorrow when the crowd isn't so thick. The English are so full of pomp and pageantry, I love it but at the same time, giggle at the ridiculousness of it. After that, I stopped by the National Gallery for awhile to gaze at the paintings of Davinci, Renoir, Van Gogh, Monet, Brect, and many others.
My next stop was Westminster Abby. This place has been on my list for years, so I literally had a slap stupid smile on my face as I walked through the gate. Seriously, the poor guards might have thought I was high. I spent over 2 hours in here, looking at all of the detail, the history, and sitting in on mid afternoon prayer. The self guided tour they provide is narrated by Jeremy Irons, who is one of my favorite actors. You might recognize him as the voice of "scar" in the lion king. They don't allow photos inside any of the museums or churchs, as it degrades the artifacts. I truly wish I could share these magical things with you, but even photographs do not do justice to the majesty. I was reduced to tears at one point, I was so moved by the history, the beauty, and the sheer magnitude of time that this place encapsulates. It was founded in 1080 A.D. Every coronation and 16 royal weddings have taken place here, and it houses the tombs of all of the literary and historical figures we all learned about in school. I looked around and I was the only weirdo crying, I guess I looked like that weird, lonely American cat lady to those around me.
I took a quick lunch break and hid from the rain on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral, which is one of the tallest domes in the world, and a center point of the English culture. Among these events, Winston Churchill's funeral was held here, as well as the wedding of Princess Diana. This was another moment where I just cracked a huge smile, while I sat alone of the steps of the cathedral. So many people rush by these places, and I've taken my time in each of my stops today. I decided it was better to spend quality times in the places that truly interest me, than rush through as many "must sees" as possible.
Traveling alone allows me to be as deep in thought and observant as I want to be, and I've greatly enjoyed the time alone. I didn't speak to anyone today besides the quick "thank you" or "which way to this place". Also, the Asian traveler stereotype is so true.
Resuming my journey, I skipped around the House of Parliament and Big Ben, Victoria Stage coach station, the Royal Courts, and Park Place. Everything museum and attraction wise here closes around 4pm, so my efforts turned towards Piccadilly Circus. Piccadilly is a huge shopping area, similar to King Street in Charleston meets Times Square. Again, the sheer number of people is astounding and it makes me feel very small in the seas of people.
Some lady tried to steal my coat from me, after it "accidentally" came free from my purse. By the time I noticed it was gone, I panicked and started searching all over the 4 story department store I was in. After frantically searching every place I had been, I decided to go to the top of the store and look down to play a game of "I spy". Sure enough, I spotted a lady with my coat in her pile of clothes shopping, and rushed down the flights of stairs to get to her. She claimed she found the coat hanging up on a rack, and thought it was for sale. She even refused to give it to me, until I pointed out I had no jacket, only a scarf and its 30 degrees outside. C'mon lady, seriously? It's an American old navy coat... In England. One of these things is not like the other!
I have 1 more day in London, in my 3 night, 4 day stay. After that, I am off to Dublin, Ireland. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.
PS. It's become impossible to have my hair down due to frizz and wasted effort trying to style myself out every morning. It's come down to how can I get ready fast and stay warm. This is why in every picture, I am wearing what looks to be the same outfit and hair. I've skipped the makeup for over a week now, and I've worn pants every day. Its so weird, and I can't wait to get back to pretty dresses and pretty hair.