9. Diary Entry: London

Thursday – Day 6 of our Excursion – Trip to London

The day started out normally with a little hangover at breakfast. But since we had to leave Eastbourne late the day before we could sleep in a little bit longer than usual. The trip wasn’t that eventful. We arrived at London and were promptly stuck in traffic for 30 minutes. After a brief detour to buy our Day Travel Cards, we finally disembarked from St. Pauls at about lunchtime.

Central St. Pauls – Chancery Lane – Holborn

Piccadilly Holborn – Covent Garden – Leicester Square – Piccadilly Circus

What to do when you’re in London, one of the leading metropolis in all of Europe? What exotic place or famous restaurant would a mere pauper student go to? We sat down at Pizza Hut and ordered the afternoon buffet. After filling up on Pizza, Pasta and some salad we visited the M&M shop. Similar to Harrods, no one ever buys anything there, yet it is always worth a visit to see their newest concoctions and merchandising. From there we wandered on to Trafalgar Square where we saw a musician playing Ed Sheeran, one of many musicians playing Ed Sheeran we encountered that day. Also, there was a guitarist who played on a slightly battered guitar. He however played classical Hungarian folk music and was actually quite impressive. Our group however decided that we should move on quickly to get to one of the most clichéd sights yet.

Bakerloo Charing Cross – Embankment

District Embankment – Temple – Blackfriars – Mansion House – Canon Street – Monument – Tower Hill

Tower Bridge. We saw it. Then decided to find a pier to book a boat tour over the river Thames and since we had the Day Travel Card we were given a 1/3 reduction of the regular price. Thus happily we set out to a 30 minutes trip from the Tower of London to Westminster. One of the captains of the vessel we were on gave the audience a commentary of the city as we went by the different popular sights. Among the usual likes, such as the Globe Theatre, London Eye and the Millennium Bridge we also saw the oldest pub in London, dating back more than 500 years of English history. Sadly, we could not go to the Globe as I had hoped, because the play I would have wanted to see was starting at 8 o’clock in the evening and we were leaving at about 9. Also there is a very good bar down the River Thames, close to Blackfriars. It’s called the Founder’s Arms. I had visited it a few years ago and was looking forward to have a drink there again. But we didn’t have time. When we walked off the ship, our tour guide held out a charity tin for the crew. While helping us over the ledge of course, which strangely enough compelled all the passengers, including us, to be generous tippers. Sort of. 50 pence is a rather small price for not getting thrown in a river, in my opinion at least.

District Westminster – Embankment

Northern Embankment – Charing Cross – Leicester Square – Tottenham Court Road – Goodge Street – Warren Street – Euston – Mornington Crescent – Camden Town

When we arrived at Camden Town we experienced a certain reluctance to go on in that part of London. The first few roads after the tube station are littered with tourist traps and souvenir shops. But when we found the Horse Stable Market, the scenery changed. This labyrinthine hive of stalls at Camden Lock was clearly something most normal tourists wouldn’t even know about. There were artists and shops that catered to the local populace. The abundance of food stalls offered samples of their inventory and all the prices we saw at the stores were negotiable – something heartily missed by me in the good old ordered Germany. Sadly, we arrived there at about closing hours so we could not explore all of the area, but still go for some food. Jonathan and I went for a chicken burrito. Camden Lock left such a profound impact on me at least that I would gladly visit the market again. The most fascinating shop we came across was called Cyberdog. This establishment, which doubled as a disco I supposed, sold to a subculture that had completely passed by public awareness: Rave mixed in with Cyberpunk. The former getting more and more of a revival in recent times, the latter being dead for at least two decades. At least as far as I knew. But apparently it had remained strong in some parts of the artist community in Camden Town. Since we had to be on time at the bus station, we passed by the shisha bars and local pubs to reach our tube station.

Northern Camden Town – Mornington Crescent – Euston – Angel – Old Street – Moorgate – Bank

Central Bank – St. Paul’s

Arriving a little early at our bus stop we did what we always did in such a situation: Go to the nearest store – a Tesco Express directly by our drop off point – and buy an assortment of sweets, sandwiches, water, beer and other goods which were needed for the usual routine of sitting and drinking in the kitchen into the morning hours. Since that went until 5 o’clock in the morning – which somehow no one noticed until it was too late – the gravitation towards the trip to Leeds Castle was slim for most excursionists.

This was my favourite day of the excursion. I have seen London about a handful of times and it never paid off that much. Camden Lock and the boat trip however were something fresh and new, which made the entire business of being stuck in traffic and the endless Ed Sheeran impersonators not only bearable but the entire trip worthwhile. I hope to be on the next excursion just so I can spend one or two more days at Camden Market.