One of the (admittedly very limited) perks of where I live is how fast you can access London while not actually living inside it. So when a friend texted me saying she had a ticket returning from London that she needed to use, and suggested a day together in London, I was all for it. To stick to our budgets, we planned the day in advance and had a list of things we wanted to see which went in a convenient line towards the Thames.
We were considering looking around the Platform 9 3/4 shop as our first stop, seeing as we would both be arriving at King’s Cross within minutes of each other, but as it’s the summer holidays, there was quite the queue going on. How I miss the days when it first arrived, and even when the trolley sticking out of the wall first arrived, and you could look around with no problems… Alas, those days are long gone. (Unless you arrive at King’s Cross around midnight after seeing a show at the West End on a Thursday night, in which case it’s usually deserted and you can take photos no problem. I’ve done this many times.)
So, our first stop was the British Library. Neither of us had visited it before, and while you can’t see much of it without being a member, the atrium was pretty cool, and the shop was really good. A lot of the books they had on display at the front of the shop were to do with the 1917 Russian Revolution and the years afterwards, as they are currently running an exhibition on it.
There were some really ornate copies of the books as well; one of my favourites was this copy of Tolstoy’s War and Peace…
Once we’d spent a good half an hour or so having a nosy around and buying postcards and the like, we headed for our second destination of the day: the British Museum. We had travelcards, so we could have just saved ourselves the time (and the rain) by hopping on the bus or the tube, but if you’re having a leisurely day in London, why miss out on the sights? Plus, I’d brought my new camera with me and was determined to get some good shots, like this one of the Bloomsbury Coffee House:
And this one of Ghandi in Tavistock Square (a place which I had never heard of but hey-ho, that’s what exploring is for):
Not to mention that we also found, rather by accident, the former residence of Vladimir Lenin, who had spent a brief time living in London a few years after the 1905 Revolution. We found this rather fitting, considering the exhibition we had just left. It looks surprisingly humble, sandwiched between a B&B and what is now Albany Hotel. I would definitely recommend blue-plaque-spotting in London, even just for the amusing ones – two doors down from Lenin’s was Jerome K Jerome, an English writer with just a great name.
Some considerable time later, we arrived at the British Museum. I’ve been there a few times before over the years, though not recently. We mainly just wanted to see the Greek and Roman galleries while we were there – after all, you can take history students out of the classroom and all they’ll do is find the history in the real world. Who isn’t at least slightly curious about those two ancient civilisations anyway? I won’t bore you with all the photos of the galleries, just the highlights:
(You may notice, as I have, that a lot of the artefacts in the British Museum are either headless, limbless, or torso-less. A lot of the Egyptian artefacts are missing noses. We actually saw a sign in one of the Greek galleries which informed us that the heads of the statues we were standing in front of were in a gallery in Greece. That’s the real definition of being all over the place!)
Our third destination of the day was a particular favourite of mine: Trafalgar Square. I don’t know why I like it so much, but it just always has such a good atmosphere whenever I’m there. It feels a bit like its own little world, to be honest. We didn’t make it inside the National Gallery, but we did find two Pikachus, two floating Yodas, a floating Grim Reaper, and a Mad Hatter (who jumped out at me and made me scream) wandering around, together with a guitar-playing busker. There was also a thumb statue which I’m fairly certain wasn’t there two years ago, when I last visited… Trafalgar Square can be the most bizarre place.
Time was moving on by this point, so we had to skip the National Gallery in order to make it to somewhere my friend was particularly keen to visit: Westminster Abbey. By the time we left Trafalgar Square, we had actually missed the standard weekday last entry to the Abbey, but on Wednesdays they have half price late entry until 6pm – again, highly recommend. I only have limited photos of Westminster Abbey as photos inside the building are not allowed, but I’ll give you a brief rundown of what’s inside…
When you get inside, it’s a sort of one-way system. The first object (is object the right word?) of note is the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I, which was about as stately and extravagant as you’d imagine. You can walk all the way around it; it’s in a small room off the main floor. Next is Henry VII’s Lady Chapel, which includes the RAF Chapel and Battle of Britain window. On the other side of the Lady Chapel is the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots, again as extravagant as you’d expect. Then there’s Poets’ Corner, where you can find burials and commemorations of the likes of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens.
On the other side of the Abbey, you have Scientists’ Corner, where you’ll find Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. There’s the Grave of the Unknown Warrior and a Sir Winston Churchill memorial, and finally, the Coronation Chair.
And that’s about all we got up to! When we left Westminster Abbey, we got the tube back to King’s Cross rather than walk all the way back up again. I love days exploring cities like this, I always find things I wasn’t looking for, especially in London. Here’s hoping for many more days like it in the future…