The novelty of a double decker bus as a regular form of transportation in London was just one of many things that made me really enjoy exploring this world city. Hopping off the train in the morning and getting on a red double decker bus I would always hurry to the second level to secure one of the highly praised ad sought after front seats with the big window looking out over the streets directly in front of it. To see the surrounding sights of London from an elevated viewpoint gives one a sense of power yet separation from the surroundings, making it somewhat of an alien way to experience a new city, but in the best way possible. So camera in hand and my face close to the window in the front seat on top of the bus I watched as London slowly passed me by with a huge smile on my face and my eyes wide open to take in everything I possibly could. I even purposely took a longer route that would wind its way all the way through Westminster into the City of London so I could see everything from my royal seat atop the mighty double decker bus.
I went into the City of London, now the financial district to meet Emily, my father’s cousin who, along with her husband where kind enough to house me during my adventures, so that we could have lunch together on her lunch break in Spitalfields. First I made a quick stop in the Leadenhall Market that has been featured in the Harry Potter movies and when I visited I could see clearly why. Despite its small size it was really wonderful to behold. Wandering with my face up turned looking at the hanging flags, colorful banners, and glass ceilings stretching like long arms of a cross above the hallways of the market.
I walked from LeadenHall Market to Spitalfields near where Emily works but on the way took a quick peek at a beautiful train station, the Liverpool Street Station that was a wonderful mixture of old brick buildings housing the modern train station as well as being surrounded by some of the most iconic modern architecture there is in London. Hidden amongst glass faced skyscrapers, it was an interesting juxtaposition.
Leaving Spitalfields and Emily to return to her lovely place of work I wandered around and decided to return to St. Paul’s Cathedral and from there go to the South Bank and wander along the river. I made sure to enjoy every street that I wandered down on my way to St. Paul’s.
It was interesting to lay in a nice little field below St. Paul’s and look up at its large dome, thinking of St. Peter’s in Rome, remembering how just a few short weeks prior (that felt like years ago,) that very similar dome had been my beacon signaling me home any where in the eternal city of Rome. I could stand anywhere in Rome and look for the dome of St. Peter’s and know, if I could see the Vatican, I could see home only a few short blocks from it; knowing if it was in sight, I was never far from home. To lay by the way side of St. Paul’s, a beautiful mirage of my now distant home, and think that the dome of St. Peter’s will always mean home to me, even though I will never again be able to look at my wonderful little apartment on Via Cola di Rienzo and call it mine. It was a sad realization, realizing your home is no longer your own, realizing the place that became my safe haven when the noise and clutter of Rome became to much is no longer a place I can return to. I miss Rome dearly, even amidst the splendor of exploration and world travel, I sat in that field knowing, no other city I would encounter could ever be what Rome now is to me. But that will never impede my ability to deeply appreciate the places I visit and the things I see, but it makes it plainly apparent the difference of being a traveler adrift in the endless sea of wonders this world has to offer, and the anchored resident trying to fight the current that tries to whisk you away because you know how important this place is to you now, knowing that if you don’t fight to stay, you will never know what it was to fight for a place you love.
After letting that realization sink into my heart, I continued on, letting the current of all things new whisk me away from St. Paul’s and the memories of St. Peter’s out onto the very interesting and very modern Millennium Bridge. The dome of St. Paul’s present, but diminishing in the distance as I walked farther and farther out over the bridge surrounded by the metal wings of its structure above the Thames River, cloudy and dark below.
Continually looking back over my shoulder to take in the view of London as I traveled closer and closer to the South Bank, taking the occasional look out over the river to the surrounding structures, I stood between the two sides of a magnificent city.
On the other side the entire vibe changed, there were musicians playing by the riverside, young people lounging, tanning on green fields below towering museum buildings, and various street performers including a woman dressed in a maids outfit (and not looking particularly happy about it) serving tea on little carts, a trumpet player who teamed up with a Charlie Chaplain look a like, and some break dancers.
I really loved the South Bank of London and walking along it back towards Westminster, I walked the entire Queen’s Walk, a nice pathway along the river that weaves through tons of museums, wharves, food stalls, and even a skatepark. It was a place so full of relaxed joy and happy activity taking place all around me, it was hard not to walk along the path smiling ear to ear.
Past old boats anchored for eternity, clock towers leaning over wharves, and many a person reading scenically (which I deeply enjoyed and eventually took part in myself) I wandered down the Queen’s Walk feeling like a princess. These two readers where my favorite, the girl perched above the Queen’s Walk sign reading a red book that she had just begun and the man all in white, leaning casually on the banister with all of the City of London in the background.
It was a warm beautiful day which made everything even nicer and more pleasant. I wandered into a side courtyard full of adorable shops and restaurants that made me want to stop in every single one and buy something, but instead I settled with some pictures.
After the food stalls and cute restaurants I found the skate park and a little book market where I bought the tiniest copy of Milton I have ever seen, maybe 3 inches tall because when is it more appropriate to buy a book of Milton’s works than in England… especially when it is tiny.
Finally rounding the corner into Jubilee Park I began to see the super iconic images of London, but this time from the other side. The London Eye, Big Ben, and the Parliament building looming across the river with the sun shining bright behind it, casting the structures’ shadows across the bridge and water. There was even some sort of carnival going on in Jubilee Park that seemed fun but was packed with people so I moved on quietly, enjoying the peace of the river for the clutter of the festival.
I concluded my day with another scenic bus ride to a tiny little alley way with an adjoining courtyard that I had heard about called Neal’s Yard. Seeing pictures of it online I had to go find it. It was a little difficult because I didn’t know its exact location and didn’t have an iphone to look it up on, so after wandering down as many alleyways I could find, I finally found it and was not disappointed.
It was really quite small but full of so much color and life that it was totally worth it. filled with adorable little restaurants and people sitting under the japanese maple trees drinking wine, smoking, and laughing together. The people there seemed just as colorful and full of life as the walls reaching upward around them.
Soaking in the color in the fading light as I had soaked up the sun during my wonderful wanderings on the Queen’s Walk I concluded my second day in London and wearily, but happily returned to the station to catch my train home after another tiring day on my sore feet. But the soreness meant nothing knowing that my feet had tread on stones previously unturned in places all over Europe that I had always hoped to visit.