In an attempt to escape the hustle and bustle of schoolwork, I booked myself a trip to London. How often can one go to London for the weekend? Due to the short-term of my decision, I took the bus. Now there are a few things about buses, or “coaches,” as they are known here:
Firstly, I am not a small person but bus seats are mean for individuals much smaller than myself (and the person next to me). While I was fortunate enough to be next to someone encompassing equal amounts of seat volume as myself, there was still not nearly enough space for the both of us. The trip began in Edinburgh and then stopped on its way to London Victoria in order to pick up additional passengers. Because I was a part of the initial journey I secured a window seat which helped a bit.
Yet, and my second point begins here, my bus driver was under the opinion that instead of regulating the heater, he instead put both the heater and the air conditioner on high thinking the effect should even out. I can assure you it does not. Instead, you feel as though your feet are on fire, and your nose may freeze off.
My final point being something difficult to express in words. The trip took nine hours. While it took the same amount of time to get to Scotland on an airplane there was a significant difference. When 60 people are shoved into a small space with a minimum amount of air, significant heating problems and toilet onboard, there begins to develop an odor that cannot be put into words. The smell of people confined and sweating for nine hours is not something I would ever like to encounter again.
The bus trip over, I preceded to marvel at just being in London. I arrived in London at 7am and spent the next three hours searching for any establishment open at such an hour (which is quite a difficult task in the UK I can tell you). Upon finding a small shopping center with a Costa Coffee, I purchased a map and began the task of determining my route for the next two days. Discovering I was only a short walk away from Harrod’s. While the map described the walk as just a short distance, I had forgotten to take into account my inability to read maps. Therefore, an hour and a half later, I finally arrived at Harrod’s to discover it was not yet open. I found a small café nearby and ate a wonderful chocolate croissant while journalling about my trip so-far and reading the paper. After an hour, I was able to walk through the wonder that is Harrod’s. I journeyed to the Harry Potter section and then to the bookstore. The place is huge! I needed yet another map just to get around.
After Harrod’s I was determined to slay the beast that is the London Underground and began my trek towards my hostel. To my surprise, the Underground system is phenomenal. Coming from the US (where there is no real form of public transportation to be heard of) the London Underground was truly amazing. Even with my substantial lack of map reading ability I found the stop needed for my hostel with ease. Crowding aside, the experience was quite enjoyable.
Because I had undertaken the journey alone, I had sprung for a little more expensive hostel. St. Christopher’s was actually pretty good. The room was spacious although it was mixed gender. With the exception of one snorer, it was quiet. The lounge area was nice and encouraged conversations with others. I met some interesting people and it was nice talking to others traveling to London from other areas of the world.
The next day I decided to join a free walking tour of London. It was very informative and my tour guide was great. I had a chance to see many of the main London attractions including the London Eye, Westminster, and the Clock Tower with Ben Big.
The tour was great and mainly took up a nice chunk of time. At the end we concluded at an English pub. I had fairly decent fish and chips. But the best part was talking to others on the tour. I met a man from Alaska, a brother and sister from Minnesota and a couple from Bangladesh. All were very nice.
Afterwards, I walked through the National Gallery. I found the Van Gogh works and admired many different works of art. Then, due to boredom and the increased heaviness of my bag, I once again attended a walking tour. This one as a Jack the Ripper tour. Luckily the tour was less Jack the Ripper focused and more just the darker side of London, which I was thankful for.
At the end of it all, the only thing left was the bus ride back to Edinburgh. A nine hour bus ride is just how I always wanted to spend a St. Patrick’s day. (sarcasm) Only to once again arrive in a city in the UK at 7am in search of a Starbucks.
My weekend in London was altogether, terrifying, wonderful, stressful, and stress relieving. I was a great experience but I would recommend having an accomplice to all the fun next time around. :)