Exploring London: Day Two

Waking up in a youth hostel isn’t so bad… if you didn’t wake up every hour that night when one of the seven others shifted on the plastic mattresses, started snoring particularly loud in a dreamy state, or chuckled at a YouTube video because they, themselves, couldn’t sleep. All in all, it was terrible, but as well unrested as we were, me and four other friends got up to start our day.

Even though breakfast consisted of only cornflakes, cheerios, or toast, I had a good start to my morning. I looked around the crowded room and realized what I was looking at; about 40 foreigners, who all seemed to speak different languages, sitting at picnic benches, talking to strangers in a language that was neither their first, yet, a common language to communicate with each other their experiences. I, myself, had the pleasure of talking to a woman probably of late-middle age from France. She was very sweet. We talked about many things, but what stuck out to me was how many different countries, including the U.S., that she’s traveled to. It’s been dawning on me lately that more people than not, have been to at least one state in America. I’m going to put aside for now the fact that the most visited states in the U.S. seem to be either New York, Florida, or both. On the other hand, it was interesting to talk to this woman at breakfast and see how her views of the world differed and her reasoning for being in England at that time. She was traveling just like us. Imagine that. I’m not sure how to explain it, but the moment has really stuck with me.

After breakfast ended at exactly 10 a.m., we checked out and headed to the nearest tube to get to the British Museum. It’s a free museum, therefore, it was top priority on my bucket list of things to do in London. It was fascinating. The museum is sectioned into rooms of different eras and cultures. There was a room for everything from the Vikings to the Egyptians, and everything else in between, before, and after. I do have to admit that my favorite part was imagining what these 8-inch bronze Roman sculptures (my best guess) would act like if they came alive at night, like in Night at the Museum.

We didn’t spend much more than an hour exploring this wonderful world of history because we were getting a bit hungry, as it was about 1 p.m. at this point. We headed back to the underground and went to London Liverpool St. When we came up from the underground, we looked around while trying to orient ourselves when suddenly a stranger started grabbing onto the back of someone in our group! We all turned around ready to pounce on whoever it was, but as soon as we did, we realized that it was the woman from France we had been talking to earlier at the youth hostel! She only grabbed onto us like that because she didn’t really know any of our names and couldn’t shout out to us. It was really exciting to have gone separate ways and end up in the same location at the same time only to meet once more. 

We started wandering around trying to find a good, inexpensive place to eat. We passed a homeless man on the sidewalk. He was sucking on a lollipop and came off as a bit creepy. He had black, chipped teeth; grey, unruly hair and beard; and overall seemed to glare at me when I looked him in the eye. We walked on, and after taking way too long to make a group decision about where to eat, we settled on turning around and going to KFC. KCF is not quite the same as it is back home. Their burgers were labeled “fillets.” It was rather confusing to us Americans for some reason. There was, however, one of us who proceeded to get stir fry noodle-type food from the Asian cuisine store next to KFC, because the KFC food she had previously made her sick. As we cramped ourselves into a small corner of the crowded fast food place, most of us had to eat standing up. Michala, who had gotten the noodles from next door, didn’t finish even half of her meal, decided she didn’t want to waste it, and thought about giving it to the homeless man who we had seen previously. I found a new plastic fork and a napkin while she grabbed her leftovers, and we headed outside to find him. He seemed a bit startled as we walked up to him, but once he heard us ask if he would like the food, he sparked right up. His eyes seemed to sparkle with gratitude. All prior creepiness vanished.

We still had a few hours left until we had to catch our train back to Colchester. We decided to pass it by with an adventure across Tower Bridge. Tower Bridge was really fascinating to look at. It’s just a regular bridge, yet it does seem to capture a lot of people’s attention. We rode the bus across it, got off, and walked back so we could say we rode across it and walked across it. It took about 10 minutes to get from one side to the other by foot. We wandered around in some tourist shops because what else do you do when you’re in a foreign country and don’t know where else to go? We also got to walk across the London Bridge. It was quite difficult to get across without singing the nursery rhyme, so I’m glad it didn’t actually fall down. 

On the other side of the River Thames, the sound of church bells was getting louder. We decided to follow it and find the church where it was coming from. It didn’t take us long at all, and it ended up being the Southwark Cathedral. Old churches are amazing to look at. The structure is always so detailed and thought out. The cool thing about this one was a sign that said William Shakespeare’s brother was buried somewhere in or near the Cathedral.

At that point, we wandered our way back to the train station and sat down in Starbucks to wait the last hour out. We were exhausted. Looking back on it, the trip we took to London was super cool, but two days is not nearly enough to see everything and really enjoy each place. Next time, it would be cool to stay longer and learn more about the history of London.

Tip for the day: Traveling in groups is a safe and fun way to travel, but it can also be more difficult to keep everyone together and make decisions about what to do.