Day 2: A Very Touristy London

Monday, 17 Oct ’16

This is what 8 a.m. Monday mornings in London look like – roads are already witnessing jams, gorgeous women (or maybe it’s their wardrobe that has me being appreciative) are crossing the street to get to the nearest underground station and men (tall, bulky, smart), with coffees in their hands, are brisk walking to their workplaces. It is exactly the kind of Morning morning I wish for back home. Smartly dressed people, coffee and croissant in hand, walking to work. But no one walks in Mumbai. Well, not the kind of walking they do in London, anyway.

Monday mornings in London
Monday mornings in London, with a bit of rain thrown in

#Goal 2017: Walk more every day

What’s the plan for the day? To simply tour the city. Like a tourist.

9 a.m. and I’m in front of the Big Ben. There’s something surreal about capturing that moment, the imprint of that exact time. That hour of the first day of the week when I should be holed up in my cubicle, encased in a glass building. But I’m not. Not on this Monday at least.

20161017 1411.jpg
The clock strikes 9 @Big Ben, London

Through Trafalgar Square to  the Strand (passing the London Court where Gina Miller was scheduled to have a hearing, her supporters standing outside the Court with EU flags), I get to St. Paul’s Cathedral, my destination.

The Cathedral, in its present form, was built after the Great Fire of London in 1666 by Christopher Wren. Wren, one of the most famous English architects, designed 53 churches in London. A quote attributed to Wren goes thus:

Sir Christopher Wren
Said, “I am going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls
Say I am designing St. Paul’s.”

Edmund Clerihew Bentley, Clerihews: Biography for Beginners (1905)

A thirty minute stroll, receiving a quick history lesson, and admiring the Baroque architecture, that was the experience of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Throw in the sights of the Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, the famous shopping locations of Harrod’s and Harvey Nichols, as I weaved through the streets – and that was the action packed into half a day.

P.S: This holiday has me discovering a lot of history, and so I’ve decided to turn into a student of history, albeit a self-taught one. 

After lunch, was the time to return to the Tower of London. I say return because a) It was my second visit to the Tower and b) The history of the Tower and the people who have been associated with it has fascinated me for far longer that any other historical place. Whether it is the executions of three queens – Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey that took place here or the mystery surrounding the children of King Edward IV, the fascination this place holds for me lies in two things – it being a part of Tudor history and getting a chance to retrace the steps of some of the most famous and infamous characters in history.

There were things I knew of and took the time to refresh my knowledge – e.g. the history of the bloody tower and the mystery of what happened to Edward V and his brother, Richard, Duke of York, after they were imprisoned in the tower by their uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later crowned as Richard III of England).

There were things I didn’t know of and discovered them as I toured the grounds – e.g. the Beauchamp Tower and the graffiti carved on its walls by the prisoners of the 16th and 17th centuries. The most famous perhaps, and the most hear-rending one, is the one that says IANE (reads as Jane), believed to be carved by Guildford Dudley, husband of Lady Jane Grey (often called the nine-day queen of England).

View of the Tower Bridge from the Tower of London
View of the Tower Bridge from the Tower of London

Ended the evening with some freshly made traditional ‘Fish n Chips’ being sold right outside the tower. Crisped to perfection, they are exactly what one must sample when in England, a typical English dish found on almost every menu in the country.

Freezing rain compounded my problem and as I got out on the main road I realised I was lost. Booked a Uber that took ages to arrive. It kept showing 12 minutes of waiting time even after 12 minutes of me waiting for it. Got frustrated. Cancelled it. Lost a few pounds as penalty. Hailed a taxi. Got back to the hotel.

And crashed.

Early morning start tomorrow. I’m going to go as far up north as I have ever been in my life. At 52° N.

Any guesses where I’m headed?

Stay tuned for the next update to find out.

Hint: It’s also known as the Venice of the North

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