Love for London

. I'm not much of a planner so a good portion of my time in London was spent wandering around and exploring the city, along with a two day excursion to Wales.  I'll spare you the minute to minute details of my trip, instead sharing some of the things I considered to be highlights of my time there.

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1. Hyde Park

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After arriving in London, I boarded the tube and got off at Piccadilly Circus for no particular reason other than that I had heard of Piccadilly Circus and knew that it was within two miles of the Paddington area hotel I was staying in. I wandered around the area for a bit before deciding to make my way toward Paddington and the easisest route to my destination just happened to be through this great park. On an unseasonably warm day (78-80 degrees Fahrenheit), the park was filled with people enjoying their lunches in the sunshine. What I had predicted to be a thirty minute walk turned into a ninety minute excursion as I explored the grounds (okay, truthfully, I got a bit lost as the park is enormous and it took the navigation of several paths to find the particular exit I was looking for) but I did get a chance to enjoy a CliffBar and coffee lunch on the green overlooking the Serpentine.  For the next few days, Hyde Park became my scenic route of choice for promenading back and forth to Central London. After seeing the park at various hours of the day, early morning seemed to be the nicest time for a stroll as the park is quite empty and peaceful at that time. It becomes much more crowded around lunchtime and at dusk.

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2. The Borough Market

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I can't tell you exactly where I learned of the Borough Market but I'm very glad to have discovered it. Tucked beside London Bridge, dozens of vendors congregate weekly ever Thursday through Saturday to offer a variety of delectable goods ranging from upscale chocolatiers  to spice merchants to grocers stocked with fresh, organic produce.  I'm not one to buy knick-knacks so the majority of the gifts that I came home with were purchased here, including truffle glaze, English porridge, a variety of curry blends, chocolate pasta, fudge, chocolate bars, oh and more chocolate. I also had a great lunch from a vegetarian stand that consisted of a quiona veggie burger with a side of vegan coleslaw and beet salad finished with an authentic British flapjack (which have now become one of my favorite things on the planet).  On another note, Brick Lane Market was another one that I truly enjoyed but I have already mentioned that a bit in this post. 

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3. The Tower of London

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Following my shopping spree at the Borough Market, I headed back across the river and a little further east toward the Tower of London. This was the one site that my father had insisted I visit as it was a place that really stuck out in his mind from a visit years ago.  Though £20 to enter the grounds, a guided tour is included as well as access to the building housing the Crown Jewels. Everyone has heard at least a portion of the history involving the Tower but to stand within its confines, knowing full well of those who, so many years ago, stood staring down their fate in the shape of a sharp blade, well, it's incredibly eerie and almost overwhelming in its way. The six ravens pacing upon the Tower Green do not bring a great deal of comfort either.

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4. Tate Britain

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After spending nearly $40 to see the Tower of London, I found the free attractions that London offers even more appealing, such as the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern. As I mentioned previously, I enjoyed the Tate Britain much more than the Tate Modern, but wouldn't suggest one over the other as art preferences are so varied. Personally, I felt the Tate Modern was not laid out very effectively, with vast amounts of space being completely wasted, and overall, did not find myself connecting to very much of the work displayed, but again, this is all subjective. The Tate Britain was kind of a spontaneous visit as it was along a wayward route I was walking one afternoon, so I decided to take a peek in. I'm incredibly glad that I did. The galleries that stood out the most to me included those that housed more classical pieces of British work, stemming from the 1500-1600's as well as a gallery showcasing three series selected by the photographer himself, Don McCullin. I've mentioned a bit about him in a previous post; his work was exceptionally heartfelt and evoked feelings of compassion within me.

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5. The British Museum

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Another free destination worth checking out is the British Museum. Days could be spent exploring this colossal museum, which holds the Rosetta Stone as well as superior Ancient Egypt and Greek collections. The museum's main staircase is breathtaking in and of itself, it's size so monstrous that it feels other-worldly. I spent several hours perusing the galleries, still only managing to see a small portion of the antiquities. I recommend the South Asian gallery (in room 33), which documents the development of the region's three most popular religions--Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism through sculptures and artifacts. If you're unsure of which galleries you'd like to visit, I'd suggest running through the gift shop quickly and taking notice of any items that may strike your interest. It's a pretty easy way to get a visual overview of any museum's offerings so that you may later find the respective galleries.

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Don't forget, you can check out all of my photos from this trip on Flickr!

 

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