Sunday, December 14, 2014

Trip to London - Day 1 Exploring London

It was only about 1PM UK time when I finally settled into the hotel. This is my first trip to... anywhere. I wanted to explore. When I first found out I was traveling to the UK, I promised myself that I would see everything. I really wanted to note cultural differences and experience another country not just go there and lock myself in a hotel room when I'm not at the office. Though my family probably wouldn't have been keen on me exploring alone - I did it anyway (shhhhh...don't tell them). 

First, I walked around the area by my hotel. It's nice - very modern, very business-y. This area is a little like New York but cleaner - a lot cleaner. It was during this exploration that I realized that ordering coffee here is much different than at home. This time I was able to get coffee, but I had to describe as "drip coffee". The barista then proceeded to confuse me again asking "do you want it white?". Apparently, this means "do you want milk in it?". Ultimately, that was the max excitement in this part of town and it certainly wasn't what I wanted to see. Modern and clean are great but I wanted history and culture. 

Of course, I had a list of the things I wanted to see in London. You know, the usual list of tourist spots including Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abby, etc. Unfortunately, hours are extremely limited for touring on Sundays.  So, I hailed a Black Cab (they are everywhere in London just like they are in NYC) and asked the driver to take me to the Tower of London. 

This was my first Black Cab experience, though I am quite experienced with NYC taxis. NYC and London cabs are NOTHING alike. London cabs drive cautiously and the drivers are polite. I am not sure how I feel about that. It kinda made me miss NYC. Anyway... the Black Cab is very distinctive. The cars look like something out of a 1940's movie. The back seat is extremely spacious. Though, I am not very tall, I have no doubt that Wilt Chamberlain would have fit comfortably in a London Black Cab. 

It turned out that the Tower of London is just a few minutes away from my hotel. The minute I stepped out of the cab, I was in awe. I went there not really knowing what they Tower of London was - sad but true. I only knew that it housed the Crown Jewels. I was thrilled to find it was so much more. The Tower of London is a true Medieval castle complete with dungeons, steep winding staircases to high up towers, and knights in shining amour. I will admit that the Crown Jewels were lovely (inside the Waterloo Barracks - one of the buildings within the Tower of London), but those jewels don't compare to the architecture and stonework of the buildings - magnificent!!! 

My favorite was the White Tower built by William the Conqueror in 1075. Wow! I wasn't sure I could make it up (and back down) all those winding stairs. But, it was worth it. I also had the chance to see the Tower Green where Henry the VIII sent some of his wives to be executed and the chapel where a couple of those wives are buried. I also saw the Bloody Tower, named because of the torture that wan conducted there and possibly the location where the princes in the tower were murdered. This all sounds really morbid now that I think about it - but I got to walk through history today regardless of whether or not the history was pretty. 

Best of all, there was a lovely view of the iconic Tower Bridge

Finally, I closed out the day with fish and chips and lemon-aid. 

Though it isn't very British, I asked the waiter for Ketchup for my "chips". He brought out two kinds of Ketchup. One was a traditional ketchup. The other was called HP Brown Sauce. Really and truly, the USA has got to learn about this stuff. It was sooooooooo good. Its made  up of tomatoes, malt  vinegar, molasses, and dates. Yum! 

As for the lemon-aid, I am not sure if the waitress was mistaken or if the UK calls it something different. This wasn't lemon-aid like we have in the USA. This was more like 7-up or Sprite or something. It was good, just not what I expected. 

Overall, it was a lovely day exploring the UK. I hope I will have the chance to do more while I am here. Either way, I have tons of pictures that I will upload to the blog soon. 

For now, its bed time in the UK. Good Night!


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