London

April 01, 2013-LondonPanoramic-3514

April 01, 2013-LondonPanoramic-3514

Downtown London as seen from the 32nd floor of an apartment building.  The two most recognizable buildings are the two on the left: the Shard and Gherkin (30 St. Mary Axe).

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I decided to strap my Newton running shoes to my bag, as a week without doing anything physical besides walking wouldn’t help my preseason for this summer. I stupidly didn’t bring any cold weather running gear to Rome for some reason, so I threw on my shorts and long sleeve dri fit shirt and headed out the door for an early morning run through London.

I knew we wouldn’t be able to see all of London in two days, so I wanted to run to a place that was interesting to me, and maybe not the other guys. Hyde Park it was, the home of the 2012 Olympic Games Triathlon. Looking at google maps, I knew it was basically southwest of our hostel, so I just headed west and took a left whenever I hit a dead end. About three and a half miles later, the fields of Hyde Park popped up in front of me, and I ran down to the pond. I’m probably 50% sure I was on the side where the transition area was, which was really cool. The park itself was pretty active for early in the morning compared the streets I had just run through. Joggers, cyclists, and even horseback riders made their way around the park.

HydeParkThe Serpentine in Hyde Park

I booked it back to the hostel (I was cold and wanted to make it to the all important free continental breakfast!) to wake up my friends and get ready for the day. After some coffee, toast, and cereal, we headed back to King’s Cross to catch a bus to meet my friend Greg from high school. I was excited to see him again as we had somehow been in different parts of the US off and on for the last few years, and he had my all important jacket so I didn’t have to worry about pneumonia anymore.

April 01, 2013-LondonStPancrasStation-3506 St. Pancras/King’s Cross Station

Greg took us into his apartment building, up 32 flights, to see a beautiful view of London (shown above). I’d say there’s probably no better way to start off the tour of a city than through a beautiful panoramic view. He brought us by the Gherkin (also known as 30 St Mary Axe), and a few other skyscrapers in London’s financial district. Once we reached the Thames River, he pointed us in the direction of the London (Tower) Bridge and a couple of other cool sights to see, then he had to head back to hit the books again.

April 01, 2013-LondonInSideOutBuilding-3526 Lloyd’s Building (or the Inside-Out Building) was one of the first buildings to start the trend of Bowellism, which has all stairs and elevators on the exterior of the building.

We walked down to the Tower of London. Before venturing by, we took the advantage of eating fresh at Subway. The tickets into the Tower were over £15, so we unfortunately had to skip the tour and just walked around the tower and saw it from the outside. I was actually a little surprised at how many people were in the area, hundreds if not thousands of people, all in a small area near the river. LOTS of student tour groups. We walked around and up onto the Bridge.

April 01, 2013-LondonGroup-3553The Group in front of the London Tower Bridge

The tour across the bridge was far more reasonable, so we got the joint ticket between the Tower Bridge and the Monument (more about the Monument later). The Tower Bridge first gave you a little political background, along with a gallery of other famous bridges in the world, a short engineering videos, and view of the engine room. The Bridge itself was an extremely impressive innovation for its time, by being able to raise the bridge in 90 seconds. They did a great job turning the walkways into the exhibits.

April 01, 2013-LondonBridgeWalkway-3572 The First Walkway with an exhibit about other famous bridges.

April 01, 2013-LondonBridgeBook-3578 This walkway highlighted famous author/illustrator Miroslav Slasek This Is London. Grant and I oddly enough began reading a book in another store about Venice that was done by him before we made the connection.

From the Bridge, we walked west towards the Millennium Bridge. On the way, we passed what Londoners call the “Armadillo” or City Hall (Mayor’s Office). We got relatively close to the Shard and a few other cool buildings.

April 01, 2013-LondonScam-3602 Caught a quick photo of a scam commonly seen in Europe.  He was surrounded by his whole ‘crew’ of players until someone gave the call to pack up and walk away cause of police.

April 01, 2013-LondonShard-3544The Shard, just finished last year.

The Millennium Bridge leads directly towards St. Paul’s Cathedral. The building itself is very large, but they sadly charge another £14 fee for entry just to view the inside! While we want to experience all of these possibly once in a lifetime sights, we all have to pay for food for the next month.

April 01, 2013-LondonStPaul-3645St. Paul’s Cathedral

April 01, 2013-LondonSquirrel-3668  Some dude feeding a squirrel that looks like Zach Galifianakis…

We walked from the Cathedral to the Monument, a tower built to commemorate the 1666 fire that destroyed 13,000 plus buildings in London. After 311 steps, you’re at the top with 360 views of London. Not too shabby.

We decided that Indian food would be the thing to get for dinner. We went to a top rated place on Tripadvisor called Spices. It was tucked away isn’t the north part of the city near Camden. They had a 5-course dinner for roughly 10 pounds, so that seemed like the best way to try a few new things since I’ve only had it once before. I ended up getting a Lamb Chaat, Chicken Ceylon, Garlic Naan, Babylon Aloo, and Pilau Rice. Delicious!

With it being a Monday night, we took the Tube to Piccadilly Circus to walk around the area deemed the “Times Square” of Europe. There were loads of broadway shows, bars/clubs, and restaurants. They had the signature illuminated billboards as well. It was a little crazy because every club promoter was desperately trying to get us to go to their club that was “loaded with girls” or “easily the best club in London.” In nearly every case, the club was virtually empty! One guy even tried to offer us dating advice. They really try to tell you whatever you want to hear.

We walked back to the hostel and it was time for bed!

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