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To Paris via London – Part 1 – London

Summer, which always warms and fills my heart with peace even on a rainy day. I can start my flight to London on a lyrical note. In Latvia, the weather is perfect, the sunset is perfect and inside there is a feeling of a job well done. On the way to the airport I run into the weekly dance party to Latin rhythms. Only three dances, but that’s more than nothing. The dance studio organising the event is El Paso Social Dance Studio. At the airport, time flies and soon the iron bird is moving its wings.

I would like to mention the fact that for the first time I wrote a poem for my second book of poetry on the flight, but less about poetry this time. This time the inner peace is about finishing my Master’s studies and taking a break from the marathon of the last six years. The songs in my headphones take me back to the near and further past, and give me goosebumps. Outside the window, the moon is shining in the distance and we are approaching our first destination. As we fly over England, all the clouds slowly disappear and the moon is seen in its full glory. It is a warm and very summery night outside. Stansted Airport looks very full on this night and there is at least an hour-long queue for passport control. There are a lot of tired and gloomy faces around, but soon the queue is cleared and I can get on the bus to go to the hotel to get some sleep, as I will have to get up very soon. We are almost at sunrise in central London. A few photos of London by night, then quick check-in to go to the bed.

– Night view of London’s skyscrapers

Morning comes very quickly, and as you could guess, I didn’t want to get up. There are several sightseeing attractions scheduled at specific times, so sleeping is not an option and I have to get up. The ease of use of London Underground is something I’m used to from last time, so if you live close to a metro station, this is the transport of choice. If you want to save money, you have to look at the underground zones, but otherwise you can top up your metro card (already bought on a previous trip from Oyster) and have fun underground, for about three euros per ride.

The first place to visit is Madame Tussauds museum. Tickets were bought some time ago, but online booking allows to change the time freely and my arrival is delayed by 30 minutes. Visitors are let in by groups at booked time and everything is done quickly. Ticket control. Bag check. And we’re in. At first the elevator goes two floors down and we are promised that the new celebrities will be welcomed on the red carpet, but we are not that famous and there is only a red floor. At first it seems that there are a lot of people, but this is a misconception because all the big gatherings are at the first wax exhibits, the celebrities of the world, where thousands of pictures are taken every day. We are not far behind and we are getting shots of real celebrities. Real wax celebrities. The museum also has themed rooms, such as the film “Aliens”, “Star Wars”. And of course London’s infamous fires. This museum is definitely worth a visit.

– Arnold Schwarzenegger
– Tom Cruise
– George Clooney
– Mental power fight with Darth Vader
– Darth and the fight against him
– Yoda (training with a strong Jedi)
– The scariest views from the museum

Next stop Aquarium. Aquarium is one of the tourist attractions, right next to the London Eye. Here, rushing through the events, it has to be said right away, there is nothing special, and after the visit there is a feeling of emptiness about what you have seen. Only the chance to physically touch a starfish and the curious penguins are memorable. Everything else is gloomy and grey, but perhaps in keeping with the climate. I remembered a tropical house in the Granada Science Museum, where also was an aquarium. Like day against night. Here in London, even the protective glass was a bit unclear, although the sharks looked spectacular, but the unclear view feeling was distracting. I only recommend a visit if the weather outside is bad and everything else has already been seen.

– A brief overview of the aquarium

As I mentioned, London Eye or Ferris Wheel is right next to Aquarium and promises spectacular views of London from above. The weather is very good, warm and sunny. Before using the attraction, the feeling is positive and we are ready to catch the sights. The queues for this attraction are already a little bigger, but they move forward quickly and our cabin begins its rotating circle. London’s concrete jungle is easy to see, but the view from below is equally good. There are some eye-catching views. Overall, this attraction is interesting, but one that is enough to enjoy once.

– London Eye from Westminster bridge
– View of Westminster bridge and Abbey (church) from London Eye
– London Eye at the end of the evening, when suddenly the clouds begin to disappear and a colourful sky opens up

The day is in its second half, but there is still plenty of time. Next place to visit is Tate Museum of Modern Art. I didn’t get to see this museum last time. The words combination “modern art” says that the exhibits would be peculiar and not all comprehensible. There are rooms that I personally find uninteresting, but there are also rooms where you want to stay and explore longer. For every modern person’s taste. After a visit to the museum, a list of things to see today is finished. I can eat and spend the rest of the evening in peace.

– The name of the museum from the “back yard”
– A room dedicated to the history of wine (probably art made after wine tasting)

On the way to the hostel, I spoted some peculiar sculptures, which turn out to be a sculpture project of 28 chimpanzees. The sculptures are located next to the above-mentioned museum, on the way to Tower bridge. Each sculpture is accompanied by a plaque with various facts about chimpanzees.

The second night is already normal by an hour count, so getting up is voluntary. Today I have to go and watch the changing of the guard at the palace. And it is expected that there will be a lot of tourists, and an ocean of hands with mobile phones. The changing of the guard takes place at fixed times, but it is preferable to arrive at the palace at around ten o’clock in order to get to a somewhat sensible sightseeing spot, and then about 90 minutes for the whole process to be over. Crowds of people are already waiting for us when we arrive at the palace, but we manage to find a good spot to watch what is going on. Two marches in, two marches out and the almost daily ritual is over. Outside, it is almost 30 degrees in the shade. Looking at the huge hats of the guards makes me feel even hotter. Some tourist asks me if the queen will be here, but I must upset her because today she can only look at the kings and they are right in front of her. I did not reveal this fact to her, because not everyone needs to know all the secrets.

– The crowd in the central square in the front of Buckingham palace
– First echelon with musicians at the front
– An ocean of hands with smartphones and other devices to capture what they see
– One of the changing of the guard

As the changing of the Guard ends, the crowds quickly begin to disperse and we plan a visit to Westminster church. Back in the spring it was closed and not open for visitors. This time it is open and we must see it. The queue looks long, but just 25 minutes and we’re in. A building with at least eight centuries history and many burials of famous people. As my travelling companion informs me, originally only kings were buried here and no random persons could get here. Today, however, things have changed and the last burials date back 25 years. It is a beautiful building both inside and outside.

– The tail of the queue, suggesting a long wait
– A courtyard view of the British flag
– Just before sunset, across Thames

It’s time for a eating break, and what could be better than an unhealthy McDonald’s. Ordering food is a bit of a mess because the machine doesn’t print numbers and orders are mixed up. Also, I wasn’t given a coffee, but it was brought to me after I asked, even though I don’t have an order number to show what I ordered.

The next plan is St Paul’s Cathedral. A building with a huge dome on the outside. Inside it looks even more impressive. Not much to see inside, but it’s beautiful. The building looks much bigger inside than outside because of the massive walls. Without going into much of the history of the building, I can say that it is a building worth seeing. This cathedral was the end of the scheduled sights of the day.

– Central entrance of the cathedral
– View of the cathedral from inside
– Inside view of the cathedral’s central dome, a spectacular sight in person
– Two identical statues of the fallen in World War I (inside the cathedral)

Time to improvise. My travelling companion goes to a concert, and I’m left with a solo walk around the city. My first thought is to check out one of the city parks, but looking at my watch, I think I can make it to Harry Potter stop.

– Eye-catching Saint Pancras hotel together with the train station

– The shop is closed, but the platform is always open

The shop was closed, but I see a lot of interesting buildings on the way, so it’s not sad and I choose the nearest park, which is Regent’s Park. On the map I can see it’s a very big park with a theatre, a zoo and other attractions. I take a random walking route based on the map and go into the park. The first thing I notice are the countless people. Bottles of wine, champagne and other beverages are open for every group, from two to more than ten people. Others have already entered their sleep phase around eight o’clock and are sweetly sleeping on the lawn. There is a huge expanse in the middle of the park and various sporting activities are actively taking place there. When I get to the rose garden, I pull out my camera to capture the beautiful flowers and the names given to them.

– I notice in the distance the following combination of sun and crane

In the evening, I walk along the main streets towards the centre, observing what’s going on around me, looking at the shops I could visit. The city is slowly shifting into another mode. In the centre, I meet up with a travelling companion to go to a bar and have a beer.

Saturday morning started very calmly, because today is free time, with no scheduled plan. My travelling companion has plans for the morning, so I leisurely get up and go to the local shops, which I noticed on yesterday’s walk but were already closed. A few purchases are made.

– Tea and sweets from London
– The strike march, long queues and lots of people

Next, I meet up with a travelling companion, and together we go to the nearby Camden Town market. A district of small shops surrounded by a huge number of people. The streets are full of people. There are lots of shops. On every corner you can eat local food. One of the shop has real rave music, with real DJs. Great atmosphere, and a good clothes and accessories. The shop in the club. So punk style. We also meet some punks in the street listening to loud music and “punking”. Dressed appropriately, of course. A travelling companion has to go to another concert soon (Queen with Adam Lambert). In the meantime, I stay in the area of the shops to complete my tour, which ends with buying a few items of clothing. The end of the evening is quite peaceful, as the next day is a bus trip to Oxford. We have to get up relatively early, we will be walking all day.

– Entrance to the shop (It’s also Pride week in London and there are rainbow flags on every corner)
– Entrance to the shop on the basement floor, with a real DJ
– One of the punks who stepped on the lantern
– Each signboard is for different shop, and it’s just one of the little streets

Last day in England started with a planned trip to Oxford. The morning is early compared to other mornings. The scheduled departure time is 8:30, but we still have to get to the bus stop. The morning started in a bit of a rush. My legs are rested and walking is easy, but my companion does not find it so easy after the concerts visits. When we arrive at the bus station, we don’t really understand where our bus stop is. A local worker sends us to the train station, because this bus does not leave from the station. After 10 minutes we are at the railway station, which we have already passed through because it is on the way to the bus station. The assistant at the railway station kindly explains to us that this is the railway station and we have to go back to the bus station. All the people involved saw the tickets. So we walk back to the bus station. And there, at a special information point, we are finally told clearly that the bus stop is somewhere near the train station. You can already guess what we feel inside, that we have to go back again and that the departure time for the ticket has already been missed. Nothing to do, we go back. At the train station we notice a sign on the bus OxfordTube, but we bought the ticket from NationalExpress, which also operates at the bus station. That was the big unknown. We decided not to go inside the train station, but to walk past the bus. The stop sign says that they don’t take passengers here, but there is a man with a vest standing on the side, whom we approached and found out, yes! This is the right bus. Nobody was stressing about the time. We are on the bus and the day can start with a little stress.

After about 90 minutes, we’re in Oxford. A small town with beautiful Gothic architecture. Practically everyone has heard the name of this town. Great minds and English books. There are several places to see in the city, but they all have a common style, so I’ll just mention some of the places we saw (we didn’t get to see everything we wanted to, as not everything is open and the day is short).

– Morning coffee after arrival to Oxford
– Next to the bus station is the old Oxford castle and prison (Not much left of what you see in the historic photos)
– A bit of a rainbow here too, even on the pavement
– This old system still seemed to work
– Tourists can take boat trips on Oxford canals (no need to paddle)
– Bodleian library, accessible only with a library card (Oxford university)
– All Souls college courtyard, next to the library
– Old Bodleian library entrance. One of the oldest libraries in Europe
– Christ church college. The inner courtyard was shown in the Harry Potter movies
– Gothic style around every corner
– Wooden calculator at the Museum of the History of Science

It’s Sunday, and the crowded streets disperse by 18:00, when all shops are closed. We can go back to the bus. This time we know where the bus is. We go to the bus station and get on the first bus back to London.

Back in London, we’re taking the last sunset photos, as it was getting dark when we arrived, but suddenly and unexpectedly the last rays of the sun appeared. Everything. We go to the hotel to sort out our things and get ready for our transfer to Paris. We go to bed around three, but have to get up in one hour. Of course, we are late. When we check out of the hotel, we try to call Bolt taxi, which moves in the wrong direction on the map, and after few minutes cancels the order. We look for the next one… thinking about whether we’ll make it. Out of nowhere a London local taxi appears at the hotel door asking if we ordered a cab, of course we say no, but we asked how much it costs to get to the station we need. The price is good and he takes us. Great. Looking at the clock, we’ll be right on time, 15 minutes before the gates close. The taxi drives like the driver knows all the streets by head (I had heard this was one of their taxi licence tests, but I hadn’t taken it seriously). We arrive at the station on time and can queue up to have our documents and luggage checked, just like at the airport. The queue is not long and we are soon inside. Morning coffee. The train departs exactly on time. The ride will take about 3 hours, but I slept whole ride.

– Sunset view of London’s skyscrapers and the River Thames

All the best London, but Paris is waiting.

Read more: Part 2 Part 3

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