Taking a break from writing a 15 page essay to write this blog. I know, it seems kind of weird taking a break from writing by writing, but writing a blog is much more fun. My second day in London was full of very popular touristy things. First, I set out for Buckingham Palace which was beautiful but so crowded I could hardly see through the mass of people. Compared to all the places I’ve visited thus far, London has been the busiest. It’s also getting closer to summer so I know tourism is about to spike and any trip from here on out is going to be claustrophobia inducing. Even the back of the palace was full of people and I was done staring at it. To be honest, I might have been more excited to see Chipotle than the palace, oops. I enjoyed the gardens around Buckingham palace much more than the palace itself as there weren’t as many people. I walked around this area for a little while before heading to Westminster Abbey.
On my walk toward Westminster, I saw Big Ben off in the distance. I knew Big Ben was under construction but I still thought I’d be able to recognize the iconic building. Nope. Big Ben was so covered in scaffolding there was no telling it was even the right building. In fact, some random fellow tourist got my attention to ask me if that was indeed Big Ben and after I said “yes”, he seemed very disappointed. Same dude, same. There was only one visible face of the famous clock, but otherwise it was entirely unrecognizable. Oh well, maybe if I get to come back to London later on in life, I’ll actually get to see it scaffold-free and it’ll be that much sweeter.
Nearing Westminster Abbey, I decided to stop for an iced coffee and have a little break in Parliament Square Garden. It was nice to stop and enjoy the views for a little while. Sometimes those are the best little moments of a trip. Just sitting in the grass, enjoying how life has brought me to visit these astounding postcard-worthy places. Ooo, also a quick shoutout to London and Europe in general. No unnecessary plastic straws! As you can see in my shameless selfie, the straw they gave me was made of paper. Most places in Europe have been banning plastic straws to better the environment and I’d love to see the U.S. follow suit. I can’t name one time in Slovenia where I’ve been given a plastic straw which is amazing. I’m actually considering writing a blog about how eco-friendly Ljubljana is compared to the United States. Sorry for the short mental detour… back to Westminster. As I walked closer to the Abbey, there were a few street performers, including a man playing bagpipes. Here, I’ll share a video and bless your ears as well. Haha, oh the bagpipe.
Westminster Abbey was beautiful but the line to get in was unreasonably long and there was an entrance fee. Most of the churches I’ve come across have had free entrances so anytime one costs money, I’m a little less likely to see the inside. I’m a traveler on a budget, sorry. Look at that beautiful gothic architecture on the outside though, geesh.
Next up on my cliche London day I walked over the Westminster bridge to get a closer look at the London Eye. The London Eye was immensely larger than what I had imagined in my head. Part of me wanted to experience taking a ride on the oversized ferris wheel so I checked out ticket prices. After seeing how much it would set me back to be locked in a glass box with 24 strangers for 45 minutes just to make one revolution of the wheel, I thought I’d rather just observe it from the ground. Also, for those of you who thought it moved at a typical ferris wheel pace…wrong! The London Eye moves so slowly, you can barely tell it’s even moving. Just thought I’d enlighten those who’ve never been able to see it in person. I know if I had bought a ticket, I would have been excited for the first five minutes then incredibly bored the rest of the ride.
Near the London Eye there was a fish and chips restaurant flooded with people, so I figured it was about time to eat something. Disappointingly, I don’t like fish so I ordered chicken and chips instead. Nothing to write home about really. Tasted like bland fried chicken and fries. Sorry London, but everyone already knows you aren’t famous for your food scene. The food wasn’t great, but the view was beautiful as I found a ledge looking out over the Thames with a good view of London. After finishing my food, I walked through Jubilee Garden to the Golden Jubilee bridge where I walked back across to the other side of London. The National Gallery called my name and I filled the rest of my day with art.
Okay, I won’t overload you with all the photos of the magnificent and iconic pieces of art I was able to see because it would be an entire gallery. Seriously, pieces from Van Gogh, Monet, Rembrandt, Jan van Eyck, Botticelli, Da Vinci… the list goes on and on. The National Gallery was stirring with visitors, normally I’d find it annoying that I couldn’t take a photo free of people in a gallery, but I had an exceptionally fun time taking photos of other people enjoying the art. Looking at all the ways people observe art is really interesting, from taking selfies, sharing with a loved one, looking through someone else’s phone camera, drawing a re-creation, or looking at the painting right in front of you in a book. After all, art is interpreted differently by each person. Every painting, though it may be the same, is distinct dependent on the beholder. Enough of my rambling, here are the photos I took of complete strangers at the National Gallery.
So I was having a jolly good time at the National Gallery and was nearing the end, when a man in his late 30s came up next to me while I was looking at a painting. He made a comment about the paint color of the room and how it was different from the others and I was like yeah, that’s an interesting point. I’m not one to be rude to people so of course I responded to his comments on the art. From that point on, this man creepily followed close beside me to every painting I went to. Standing way too close for comfort, I kept stepping further and further away from him and stopped responding to his comments on the art. I really thought this guy would take the hint but he sure didn’t. This older guy was determined to make the rest of my time at the museum incredibly uncomfortable. Luckily, I had already almost seen all the rooms of the gallery so I was able to tell him I was leaving just to escape the awkwardness. It wasn’t so easy though. Before I left, he asked me if I wanted to go have a drink with him, which I definitely did not. So, I told him I didn’t drink and I’d rather just spend the rest of my day alone. Sort of brutal and also dumb because now this random stranger knew I was alone. Wow, I’m really not great at talking to strangers and I was super anxious. Now that I was on high alert after angering a creepy stranger, I left the museum in a rush to get as far away as possible. Of course I had on my bright yellow backpack so as to be super identifiable in a large crowd. Way to go Katrena, you told him you were alone and you have a backpack the color of the sun in a crowd of muted colors, awesome. Freaked out, I naturally called my mom for comfort and then called my older sister for someone to call me an idiot I guess(haha, thanks Kass). I ended up walking down the road to a very busy McDonalds where I ordered a coke(with a paper straw) and hid out in the basement seating area until I figured the coast was clear and I headed back to my airbnb. Fun times in the hustle bustle of London today.