Friday, October 22, 2010

#6 - Exploring London Alone

I love to travel.  However, before this trip it has always involved either going somewhere with someone else, or going somewhere to visit someone, or work-related activities (which isn't really travel at all - just sitting in conference center rooms listening to speakers).  So, this trip was definitely a good stretching experience for me; rather than waiting for someone else to have the time and money to accompany me, I just went.
The St. Pancras train station was less than a block from my hotel which made moving about London very easy.
I found it interesting as I prepared that so many people said something along the lines of "how nice it will be for you to go alone and not have to compromise what you want to do or when you want to do things".  I guess that's not something that's been a problem for me in the past - I don't mind splitting up from a travel partner for an afternoon so that we can both see what we want - and, as a single person, it certainly isn't a novelty for me to do things alone when I'm at home.   I guess I should take those comments as a reminder to be mindful of the freedoms that I already experience.
I visited St. Paul's Cathedral on the morning of my first full day in London.
The trip itself was mostly packed with good experiences ... four West End shows, many major museums and art galleries, lots of walking through streets packed with architectural wonders, and time to think about all things I saw.  The last time I visited London, I was thinking about the Tudor and Regency periods, but this time I spent much of my time considering the Blitz and the Victorians.  I would recommend the story "Fire Watch" by Connie Willis to anyone visiting St. Paul's Cathedral; it makes climbing up to the outer galleries and thinking about December 29, 1940 incredibly powerful.
The Millennium Bridge is very popular around lunch time.

Some of this trip's "bests" include the following:
  • best visual effects in a West End show - tied between the animals brought to life by costumes and puppetry in The Lion King and the way Coney Island emerges from the shadows of the past in the first scene of Love Never Dies
  • best lunch - cream of carrot and potato soup with herb bread at Cafe in the Crypt, St. Martins in the Fields
  • best people watching moment - Asian tourists taking each other's photos in front of antiquities in the British Museum without actually looking at the display ... it was all about the photo shoot
  • best "it's a small world" moment - bumping into a high school classmate I hadn't seen in 20 years who was on my flight from Heathrow to Minneapolis
  • art that spoke to me the most- a medieval carved staircase with attached balconies in the V & A
  • best "touching history" moment - being able to actually hold 6 historical artifacts at the British Museum - a Stone Age hand axe, dolphin teeth necklace, 13th century Persian tile, pipe from Ghana, Greek lykthos (perfume jar) from around 400 BC, and a peg covered in cuneiform writing taken from the ziggurat at Ur around 2100 BC - I felt like Indiana Jones
  • The wonderful historian at the British Museum who was running the touch history station.
I really didn't have any truly bad moments in the trip.  A few frustrations included a shop (where I had hoped to buy some gifts for friends) that had moved,  a museum that I wanted to visit had closed (guess I should have gone when I was in London six years ago), and trying to get on and off the tube during rush hour as I hate pushing my way through crowds.  It was oddly peaceful being alone in a crowd of people.
The roses were still blooming in Hyde Park.

It's great to be back home, but I can't wait for my next trip...with or without a companion.
By Trafalgar Square ... this is the only photo of myself that I have from the trip; I exchanged cameras with a British couple there, and we took photos of each other with Nelson's Column in the background.


  1. Wow. Really.

    Good for you!

    I love your "best of" highlights. (Although the former museum curator in me cringes just a little at the "touch history" idea. It doesn't even look like they provided white gloves - egad!)

    That said, I can totally relate to the Asian tourists experience and the soup sounds delicious.

  2. I can't imagine traveling alone.I don't think I would be brave enough to do this, but I think it's awesome that you did. Great pictures! Did you drink lots of tea? ;)