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Thames or Tems?

7 Jul

The upside of passing out really early is that I woke up at 5am.  Braving the scorn of my fellow backpackers, I got my stuff together and went downstairs for breakfast.  They provided toast, cereal and coffee which was decent of them.  The White Ferry is very recommendable.  With no real idea of what I planned to accomplish today, I ventured out to the Thames and walked up it.  All the while thinking, is it Thames or Tems?  I was preparing myself for an encounter with another traveller and didn’t want to come out of it like a dumbass tourist!  It was dreary English weather, just on the brink of raining down I reckon.  When I needed to go to the loo I happened to find a free one at a train station!  Hoorah!  Paying to piss is beyond my principles and I vowed to hold out.

As I walked I did some noticing.  I noticed that there are a lot of coppers walking about in their funny helmets, even in sections where it’s very quiet.  Security seems to be a big issue here, proven further by the masses of CCTV cameras lurking at every corner.  It is beyond a joke!  I also noticed that the English walk very damn fast, maybe its just me on my tourist stroll but it seems that everyone was passing me today.  But I had good reason to stroll: on the opposite bank were the Houses of Parliament (not sure whether they deserve capitals) and Big Ben (he does).  Most impressive, and I even sat down and waited for the hour to strike so I could set my watch to it.  Further along is the more artsy suburb of town where theatres and street art ruled.  The London Eye, that big ferris wheel, was here and there were already queues for it.  It only does one slow loop and is fairly expensive, so I won’t be ticking it off this time round!  I was satisfied with my walk so far, I’d come a lot further than I thought I would have managed.  I decided my turn around point would be just past the Globe theatre, at the tower bridge.

The Globe theatre – definitely a place for me to visit after my namesake.  The historical Globe was placed in between some ordinary-looking buildings and would be hard to find without the sign posts.  I stickybeaked in the souvenir shop and was overwhelmed by all the Shakespeareness, it seems they’ve gotten any old tea towel and printed some quotes on it.  The plays themselves weren’t too expensive, only 5 quid to view at groundling level (which is a must, I wouldn’t sit in the stands!) however the only thing playing was one of the Henry IV parts and would be incomprehensible for me.  Next time.  Before I crossed the Thames (Tems I decided) I visited the Modern Tate art gallery, and only because its free.  The good thing about London is that everything is free to get into!  Inside I waltzed around, bothered by the point that there’s no price tags on the works to be astounded by.  Saw Monets waterlillies (tick) and a Salvador Dali piece with a reflective river (tick).  Both were cool but I couldn’t help thinking – there is nothing between me and this near-priceless work!  I kept wondering what the fine would be…

From here I came across the Tower bridge and was shocked – the bridge is blue!  Not all of it, the railings are, but enough to give a surreal view.  Is it just me or has it always been blue?  Not sure.  Equally as shocking, but far more expected, was the Londoner wearing his socks and sandles.  Sneaked a few photos.  One of the highlights of the day has to be when I was crossing the bridge and just as I was stepping onto the other side an alarm went off.  Made me jump a little, and then I realised that the bridge was going up!  And I had front row seats!  Too good.  Didn’t even plan it.  On the other side of the bridge is Londons most preserved tower, complete with dungeons and tour guides dressed up in ye olde English clothes.  It looked pretty interesting and was recommended by the Lonely Planet as one of the places to pay for.    Unfortunately I didn’t get to make it here, so its the first priority on my next visit.

It was getting late in the day and I’d started earlier than most.  More collossal old buildings and cathedrals around every corner too!  I started heading back towards the hostel, but through the main part of the city.  It was here that I realised just how close everything is to each other.  The houses of Parliament were basically on the same stretch as Buckingham palace, so I really wasn’t far off having landmarks for all of central London.  At the front of parliament was like a tent embassy, though more for hippies protesting the war.  Seemed a bit disrespectful to be camping around statues of Churchill and Mandela though.  Also came across the theatre with a giant Billy Elliott out the front of it, and a similar one for the We Will Rock You show.  Very busy around these parts!

Back in the hostel I couldn’t believe it but I was starting to come down with something.  My nose was a tap and my head was spinning but I committed myself to having a pint and watching the football final between Germany and Spain.  Felt like a real man drinking from a pint glass – why did Australia choose to ditch these?  Made it to the end of the game, but I wasn’t in a good state and quickly retired to bed.