Day 61 – London

Peep / Day 61 of 64 / 09 July

I woke up today at 8am, and I had breakfast at the hostel once again. This included breakfast is really handy: I got some pancakes with bacon and a coffee.

The main plan for today was a Sandeman’s Walking Tour of London, as seems to be the tradition for me in Western Europe so far. The tour started at 10am at the shopping area of Covent Gardens.

Our tour began with a small and stereotypical English alley, which our guide said acted as J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for the alleys in the Harry Potter series. From there, it was a short 10-minute walk to our next stop: Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column. One of the most iconic features of the column are the 4 “lions” pointing away from the base of the column. Now, lions is in inverted commas because calling them “lions” wouldn’t be true to history. As the columns were built before zoos and the Animal Planet even existed, the sculptor of the Nelson’s Column “lions” didn’t have a proper point of reference for what a lion actually looked like. He had never seen a look before, so, like any sane artist, he used his dogs as a reference instead. And true enough, if you stare at the 4 “lions” up close and for long enough, they really do begin to resemble little doggos.

Pride themed traffic lights in the Trafalgar Square area!

Admiralty Arch.

After Trafalgar Square, we headed to The Mall, the iconic red-paved road that leads to Buckingham Palace. Along the way, we passed by Admiralty House and St James’ Palace. And while we were at St James’ Palace, a cavalry parade passed by us too. We waited at St James’ Palace for the daily changing of the guard, but after about 15 minutes, our guide got word that the parade was cancelled for the day: something about a broken down motorcycle escort.

So, we moved on to Buckingham Palace. After we were all done taking photos of the palace, we headed to our final destination: the Palace of Westminster and the Queen Elizabeth Tower, also commonly and incorrectly called Big Ben. The tour ended at 1pm, and from Westminster, I left for the suburb of Croydon.

Why was I going to some random suburb of London? Because Croydon is the setting for probably the best British TV series of all time: Peep Show. And I was going on a pilgrimage to the building that the main characters lived in on the show: Apollo House, known in real life as Zodiac Court. If you’ve never even heard of Peep Show before this, I highly recommend that you fire up YouTube or Netflix right now and check it out. Forget this blog, Peep Show is way more entertaining.

Some of my favourite scenes from this brilliant show.

I still can’t believe this building actually exists.

Anyway, after my little fanboy moment, I had lunch at a cool container park inspired venue: Boxpark Croydon. I ordered some fish and chips.

After lunch, I hopped onto a train and headed back to London. I alighted at London Bridge Station and walked to The Monument to the Great Fire of London, which I reached at 4pm. The Monument is a climbable column that was built to commemorate the Great Fire of London. Why is it climbable is the main question I want to ask here. I climbed to the top, and sure there were amazing views, but I totally obliterated my calves and thighs in the process. Still, at only 5 GBP, it’s probably the cheapest observation point in the whole of London.

From the Monument, I made my way to Westminster Pier to board my City Cruises boat tour of the Thames. The river cruise started at around 5pm, and it took us an hour to reach the end point of the tour, Greenwich Pier. Along the way, the friendly crew pointed out all the important landmarks along the Thames, including the towers of Canary Wharf and the old houses that once served as warehouses.

For my final stop of the day, I headed to the Royal Observatory Greenwich, which serves as the reference point for GMT/UTC +0. In fact, the Royal Observatory IS GMT/UTC +0. I arrived at the Observatory at 6.20pm and spent some time there admiring the view. The hill the Observatory is situated on gives you a nice panoramic view of the city below.

To end a beautiful day, I had a dinner of bangers and mash and a pint of beer at a local pub. Once I was done with dinner, I headed back to Paddington to get some rest.

– Ryan

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