Travelogue Days 2-4: Grand London Walking Tour

london walking tourWhat’s it like to walk from the edge of Shepherd’s Bush on London’s far West end, all the way to Waterloo St around Southwark? The answer is very hard on the old feet. This personally invented London walking tour concluded with going back up the edge of the Thames, across Westminster bridge and finally to a SoHo underground station, reaching a total of around 9 miles of walking.

There are some reasons an epic walk like this is worth it:

  • You quickly learn the city, much faster than relying on the trams.
  • You discover a lot of places you’d otherwise never see.
  • A large amount of exercise
  • Bragging rights

Departing the “Monkey in the Trees” hostel at 11 AM, by the time I had returned it was nearing 9 PM.

The brunt of the journey involved a VERY long march from the Shepherd’s Bush market area, to Cromwell Road (passing the giant Natural History Museum), which connected to Knightsbridge Road, that led to the royal parks and the Buckingham Palace area. This was a short distance from the Westminster Bridge.

My original destination was the Lower Marsh, which is a famous vagabond stomping ground. I discovered it not far from the Westminster Bridge a block behind a huge hotel (The Plaza). It was definitely a bit more “grundgy” than the rest of the streets I’d seen.

I decided I wanted to eat at the most authentic London eatery I could find. I ended up traveling up toward Waterloo Road (named after that time the British beat a guy named Napoleon), and I found a fish & chips joint called The Fishcotheque, which you have to admit is a pretty awesome name.

Despite it’s promise of great fish, I felt more like a meat pie (you cannot escape them in London), and so a beef and onion pie with chips was quickly in order. It was just fine, and the prices were very good, as well.

Meaning to return straight across the Westminster Bridge, I somehow got lost, ending up instead overshooting the bridge and coming back up and around across the Lambeth area, overlooking the Thame, including Big Ben right around sunset. This made for a good opportunity for photos.

Although I was beginning to feel exhausted, I pushed onward, hiking all the way back up to the bridge, and returning to the Westminster area. I passed the major houses of parliament; noting how oddly close 10 Downing St. (the UK’s equivalent of Pennsylvania Ave) was to the major tourist sprawl; a block from a McDonalds, and no major security presence to speak of. I guess they are a bit more laid back than the Americans.

Up I went into SoHo, returning to Chinatown, and then finally making it back to the underground off Oxford St. This took me back to Shepherd’s Bush Market station, another mile roughly from where I was trying to return to (Monkey in the Trees Hostel).

Now at last I feel I understand the city, at least geographically speaking–enough to call myself a London-expert-tourist, maybe? I don’t know. I will say that I avoided most of the massive lines (I mean queues) for places like Westminster Abbey. As amazing that building looked on the outside, it was almost US $30 for a brief tour of the interior. It’s not that I cannot afford this; I just realize such experiences are often disappointingly short-lasting compared to the amount of time you spend in queue (the line wrapped around the street, and it was the afternoon on a weekday), and suddenly I’m down thirty dollars that I’ll never see again.

Maybe I’m just growing cynical about how I travel, but I prefer a hole-in-the-wall cafe full of locals than the major tourist sights that people wait hours to see.

Since this grand tour, I’ve quieted down a bit, sticking to the Shepherd’s Bush area near my hostel. The last couple of days have been extremely cold, wet and foggy–which I assume comes with the territory out here. However, it’s bad enough that when I step out the doors, I look like Kenny from South Park.

I can immediately spot the true locals because instead of wearing four layers, they’ll stick to a single thin coat and jeans. I’ve even seen a lot of joggers who decide to show off the strength of their frozen balls by wearing tiny pink shorts during their runs. This has become a bit of a phenomenon, as i see these guys everywhere I go. Is thermal endurance running some type of sport that I’m not familiar with?

Till next time….

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