My relationship with sleep is on the rocks right now. Just when I thought I wasn’t going to fall asleep this morning (after waking up at 3 AM), the sandman visited me at 7 AM and allowed me three more hours sleep. Just enough time to get some rest and let the morning crowds clear out of the tube stations.
I set out for Lancaster Gate tube station (literally a 3 minute walk from my hotel), plan in hand.
First stop of the day is Covent Gardens. Quite often, I don’t really know what to expect in London. I just know that it’s a famous place and I should go see it. Turns out Covent Gardens is like a big market with high end shops contrasted by booths for handmade artistic goods and sprinkled with some different places to grab a bite or pick up a souvenir. It was nice to walk around and check out the different shops that I don’t usually see in Canada. But the most I did with my money was withdraw some cash from the bank machine.
Next I visited Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. Walking out of Charing Cross tube station is like something from a movie, because you walk up the steps and right there, boom! Is Trafalgar Square. I seem to remember mumbling something to myself along the line of, “Oh! Okay…it’s right there. Sweet!”
Of all the places I visited on my own yesterday, I think Trafalgar Square was my favourite. It is so much bigger than I imagined; I didn’t expect it to cover so much ground. I had always thought it was Nelson’s Column, the four big lions and nothing else. I would have been wrong. There are two huge fountains, multiple statues (including an enormous thumb, which I failed to take a picture of, but did eat lunch underneath it), plus the National Gallery is right at the back…so, actually a really easy stop for tourists.
I took a few pictures around the square, forcing myself to trust a few strangers not to run away with my phone (the past experience of losing my phone in a foreign country has made me paranoid) and then picked up lunch at Pret A Manger (upon the insistence of my older sister, who has a strong love affair with London). I got my lunch to go, because I have always wanted to eat a salad while sitting on a bench under an elongated, house-sized thumb. And that’s just what I did.
The National Gallery is free to enter, as are a lot of the big museums in London. I’m not much for guided tours inside of museums; I learned a long time ago that I don’t have the patience for them and would much rather take a peak at the paintings that catch my eye (they all have plaques next to them if I wanted to know more). Maybe this is the lazy way of doing things, but don’t we all tourist differently anyway? It’s a gorgeous building, inside and out. Lots of space to walk around and some really magnificent artwork on display.
I headed out from there to Piccadilly Circus. I’ve never been to New York, but I immediately thought of Times Square. I walked around to window shop a bit, and then headed to Tottenham Court Road tube station. I was meeting friends there a bit later, so why not check it out early and get the lay of the land. Turns out there is a Primark right outside the station exit (one of the exits), which is a clothing store I wanted to check out. My friends had talked about it before and it piqued my interested. It’s a great store – cute clothes for low prices. If H&M and Old Navy had a baby, it might be called Primark. I wasn’t prepared to shop for clothes or try anything on, but if I lived in London I would surely have a Primark closet.
It’s nice being on my own schedule during the day, because when I’m tired I can do something about it. So I headed back to the hotel for a nap before meeting Tom at Tottenham Court Road tube station for 6:30 PM.
I didn’t wait long before Tom showed up. Big hug and then off for fish and chips. Tom had hunted down a good place for some grub, as proper fish and chips are usually something done at the seaside, not inside of London. We found a corner table at The Rock and Sole Plaice before Anise arrived shortly after (she must have tip-toed in because I didn’t expect the hug from behind). Cod for me, haddock for Tom and chicken pie for Anise. It was very tasty and I was so full I couldn’t finish all my chips in the end.
Steph arrived just before we finished eating. From there, we walked a comedy club (it’s Top Secret) where Tom had already purchased tickets for all of us, snagged refreshments and some seats not too close to the front. I thought the show was really good. Four comedians were scheduled for the evening, all increasingly funny (and the first one was quite good, so you can imagine by the end…). Started off with a Jamaican from Bristol, then a guy from Scotland (I think?), a lanky bearded American with a very twisted sense of humour, ending with a gay Scotsman who “doesn’t look gay!” I was a bit worried I wouldn’t get all the jokes and English references, but in context they all made sense so I wasn’t completely clueless.