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Arriving in London

Once upon a time, when taking the Meyers-Briggs test, I debated between whether I was a “P” or a “J.” The P/J designation is how a person prefers to deal with the outside world. Do they want things to be structured and planned out? Or do they prefer to be more spontaneous and take things as they come?

For the longest time, I thought I was a “P.” Then when I was planning a trip to Tofino with my mom, brother, and sister-in-law I caught myself writing trip details on index cards. Nope, I’m definitely a J.

Our itinerary.

We took off from Vancouver on the evening of Wednesday, June 8. We had a direct flight that took us over the Arctic. I started watching this television show I had heard about, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (more on that later), before I fell asleep.

We landed in London around noon. While taking the tube to downtown London it really hit me what was happening. (I’m taking the tube! Into London!).

We stayed in a hotel near Spitalfields Market. We were within walking distance of Brick Lane, Whitechapel, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and the Columbia Flower Market (much more on that later). Whitechapel is where Jack the Ripper carried out his grisly crimes, so I tried not to think about that too much while walking the streets at night. I know, I know, it happened a LONG time ago and the streets of today are very different from the streets of then. But as you’ll see throughout this trip that as I’m exploring the places where all this fascinating history I’ve read about has taken place, I want to try and tap into that experience by imagining myself there. Some places it’s easier to do this than others.

Our hotel was decent for the price, but I booked a less expensive room without a window. Remind me not to do that again! Windows are worth it. It felt like sleeping in a cave. We turned on the television to the local news to figure out how to dress for the weather.

We grabbed delicious Indian food for a late lunch/early dinner on Brick Lane. Then Neil had a little work to do so he found a Starbucks while I took a nap first at the hotel, and then inadvertently in one of the most comfortable chairs I’ve ever sat in (and I’m not just saying that because of jet lag.) Once we got change back from spending a few of our bills, I geeked out about holding actual British pound coins in my hands.

Finally, we had a couple of hours to take in the sights.

First we walked around the Tower of London. It was surreal to see, with my own eyes, a place that I had read about and imagined so many times before.

Here was a castle! A real castle! And not just any castle, but the TOWER OF LONDON! Sorry Craigdarroch, you really can’t compete.

We then walked to Tower Bridge. It was built between 1886 and 1894. Fergie sang a song about it! Well, she sings “London Bridge” but we all know she was picturing the towers of this bridge when she sang it. In the colonies this is what we all pictured “London Bridge” looked like until we became better informed.

We admired the view of the Thames and the Tower. The Shard is the tall glass skyscraper on the left. A name and an architectural style that actually makes me think it is literally scraping at the sky.

The Thames! T.S. Eliot brooded along the shores of this river! Well, Eliot and many other novelists and poets, but T.S. Eliot is the one that readily comes to mind! Sweet Thames run softly till I end my song…*

In addition to the White Tower, which is hiding behind the trees, you can see two of London’s hilariously nicknamed towers, “The Walkie-Talkie” and “The Gherkin.” Try to guess which one is which. Later in our trip, we went to the top floor of “The Walkie-Talkie” building to get a view of the city in a place called “the Sky Garden.”

Better image of just The Tower. I’m trying to imagine myself in a boat hundreds of years ago, just casually paddling by.

Traitor’s Gate! Beware!

We went to The George Inn for a pint. I was interested in checking out The George because it is the oldest pub in London. It is also “the only surviving galleried London coaching inn.” (Apparently many of the others gallery inns were destroyed during the Blitz). A coaching inn catered to travelers who rode in stagecoaches and mail coaches. Fresh teams of horses could be hired to replace the tired teams. I wasn’t sure what a “galleried” inn was so I looked it up.”Galleried” refers to an architectural style in which long, narrow rooms (almost like a hallway) are used**. They were popular in Elizabethan and Jacobean houses on the upper floors (thank you, Wikipedia.)

The pub can be traced in historical records to 1542, although it is noted that an inn probably existed in the same location for a long time before that. It was rebuilt in 1676 after a fire. William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens have frequented this establishment. Shakespeare might have even put on a show here! Looking into the courtyard, you can see how that would make a decent theatre venue.

I forgot to take a picture of the actual inn itself, not just the courtyard, so I have borrowed the following image from Wikipedia.

We walked down to the waterfront and came across this replica of The Golden Hind, the ship that Sir Francis Drake used to circumnavigate the world between 1577 and 1580 on Queen Elizabeth’s behest. Queen Elizabeth!

We ended the night by stopping for a pint at The Rake. Unfortunately, it was too dark at that point to take any decent pictures. We then went back to the hotel, and that was the end of our first day. 35,331 steps in total.


*Wait, upon re-reading the poem, I think I might actually have a chance of understanding it now. At 19 I had no clue what most of the references meant. My fault for taking a class in Modern Literature in my first year. At 19 I didn’t know what there was to be so moderny (ahem, “modernist”) about.
**Side-note, the Wikipedia page for “long gallery” tells me that “in the 16th century, the seemingly obvious concept of the corridor had not been introduced to British domestic architecture; rooms were entered from outside or by passing from one room to another.” I don’t know why, but I find this fascinating.

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