Dirty Old River, Must You Keep Rolling (London, Day 2)

“As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset, I am in paradise” — “Waterloo Sunset,” The Kinks

We weren’t up in time for the hotel breakfast (a theme for the rest of the trip), so we discovered Caffe Nero, a local chain. They make the most amazing muffins. I had a white chocolate raspberry muffin, and it was fantastic. Not too moist, not too dry, not too dense, not too fluffy. 

We took the Piccadilly Line from Hammersmith to Piccadilly Circus. It was bumpy ride, and at one point I was afraid I was going to get motion sickness. The car was swaying back and forth quite a bit. Once I was out in the fresh air, I was fine.

Piccadilly Circus

We explored the area around Piccadilly Circus, starting up Regent Street.

Road near Piccadilly Circus

We admired the details on everything, including the street signs. Oh, and it says “swallow.”

Swallow Street

Kristen’s map said that there were “lots of quaint shops” on Brewer Street. Apparently, “quaint” means “sex.”

Quaint Shops

More Quaint Shops

We walked down to Leicester Square, where we had a brief rest on a park bench near the Charlie Chaplin statue. We also noted the location of the Empire Casino for later in the week where we’d be meeting a couple friends.

On we went to Trafalgar Square, passing St. Martin-in-the-Fields church along the way.

St. Martin-in-the-Fields

We took several pictures of Trafalgar Square, and noticed Big Ben just down the road.

National Gallery

View from Trafalgar Square

We debated getting on a hop on, hop off bus tour and went into the tourist information centre on Cockspur Street. (Ahem.)

While we were in there, taking refuge from the wind, we decided that we were already seeing a lot of the stuff that we’d see on the bus tour, and neither of us were really in the mood for riding in a double-decker convertible being slightly chilled and all. As we were discussing this, we spotted a ticket booth with an ad for Wicked. We decided to ask about tickets, and they had some available. On a whim, Kristen asked if they offered any discounts, and we got our 60 pound tickets for 48, so that was awesome. We were both extremely excited to see the show, and to see it at a discount. (Tickets were not available at the half-price “tkts” booth in Leicester Square– believe me, I checked.)

In search of a pub lunch, we found the Captain’s Cabin. I was going to have the Sunday Roast, but they were out, so I settled happily for the chicken and pancetta pie instead. Kristen had the steak and ale pie.

Pub Food

I was not disappointed. It was like a pot pie, but so much fresher. Plus, the vegetables were on the side so they weren’t all squishy. I also had a pint of London Pride ale. They were playing Hall and Oates over the sound system, so I felt right at home.

We walked towards Big Ben and Parliament, passing a monument to the women of World War II on the way.

Monument to Women of WWII

We also saw the Carriage House. Despite the sign, several kids were taunting the horse.

Carriage House

This poor guy looked like he was about to fall asleep.

Carriage House

We passed by 10 Downing Street, where the Prime Minister resides.

10 Downing Street

And then, larger than life, was Big Ben.

Big Ben

Parliament Park is across the street, with a large statue of Churchill and some protesters who looked like they planned to be there a while.

Churchill Statue in Parliament Square

Protesters in Parliament Square

We walked around the perimeter of Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret’s Church, admiring the detail and the architecture.

Westminster Abbey

Then we walked over the Thames on Westminster Bridge, taking pictures of Big Ben, Parliament, and the London Eye.

Big Ben, Parliament

London Eye

It was getting close to 4:00 p.m. when we realized we almost missed Speakers Corner, so we took the tube from Westminster to Marble Arch.

Marble Arch

There were several people still in full swing, with various sizes of crowds gathered.

There were a couple guys giving out free hugs, and we were happy to take them up on their offer.

Speakers' Corner, Hyde Park

We saw a guy arguing against the merits of religion. He was holding up a book and had some plastic dinosaurs at his feet, but nothing bolstered his argument more than the Female Body Inspector shirt.

Speakers' Corner, Hyde Park

There were three men of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faith who drew the largest crowd, but their discussion was getting pretty intense so we steered clear of them. We found much more lighthearted fare from a handsome man who was standing on two buckets, proclaiming his love for Polish women and questioning why women have teddy bears and cats.

Speakers' Corner, Hyde Park

Thoroughly amused, we left Hyde Park and walked down Oxford Street, a huge shopping street in London (and in some parts of the U.S.).

Oxford Street

We stopped into Next, although we didn’t see any home furnishings on street level and were too tired to go downstairs. I saw an adorable black shift dress but again wasn’t in the trying-on mood. Kristen debated buying an umbrella but ended up putting it back. We went through Selfridge’s, which seemed to go on for miles.

Kristen’s map pointed us towards a restaurant called Black and Blue for dinner. We split a bottle of Shiraz, although it was far from the best either of us had ever had. The meal was another story– the burgers with foie gras were fantastic. We also split a brownie with ice cream for dessert.

We took the tube from Bond Street back to Hammersmith. Most of the shops and restaurants were closed, as it was a Sunday night.

On one of our tube journeys, as we were going up the escalator, we heard several guys behind us singing “When the Spurs Go Marching In.” Tottenham Hotspur was playing Manchester United at Wembley that afternoon.

We changed hotel rooms and discovered that the floor they were remodeling was not the bathroom floor, but the wooden stairway leading to the basement, and thus to our room. The main part of the room was similar to the singles, but the bathroom was quite a downgrade.

Bathroom, Golden Strand Hotel, Room 4

The wallpaper was peeling, the toilet seat was slightly askew, and the shower? Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Death Tub:

Death Tub

Note that there was no curtain, so you could douse the entire bathroom with an errant spray. Also note that we were responsible for holding the spray nozzle. There was nothing to attach it to. This made washing hair an adventure. Luckily, the tub wasn’t slippery, although with my lack of coordination, anything was possible.

Also, the washcloths were imported later. So the lack thereof definitely added to the challenge.

As much as I carry on, it wasn’t so bad that we felt the need to complain, though. We were clean and safe and dry.

The icing on my personal cake, though, was when I powered up the laptop and began typing merrily with my new charger. Suddenly, I noticed that the little green “charge” light wasn’t on and I was beginning to lose power rapidly. I shut down the laptop, and tried to wiggle the cord. Nothing. I tried plugging the cord into several different outlets. Still nothing. Perhaps this is the universe’s way of telling me I need a vacation from the internet?

We watched the end of Dancing on Ice, where Roxy got eliminated, then we watched an interview with Richard Branson until we both started nodding off.


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3 Responses to “Dirty Old River, Must You Keep Rolling (London, Day 2)”

  1. dslifton Says:

    Thank you for the title of this post. Now I want to hear The Kinks.

  2. Michele Says:

    Not the Def Leppard version?

  3. dslifton Says:

    That is correct. I also have a live cover of it by Elliott Smith.

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