Day 1: Piccadilly Circus + London (19th July 2015)
Made my way to the Hotel
Having found my way to Piccadilly Circus fairly easily, I tried my luck at continuing on to Russell Square. It was easy enough, and made me more familiar with the London Metro. The journey back was a check list of London-isms.
I even got my first sighting of a Red Phone Box, this is definitely London.
Yet, upon arriving, I was too early for check in. Thankfully, the hotel was willing to hold onto my luggage in the meantime; a literal weight off my shoulders.
I spent some much needed time sitting in a cafe, and preparing myself for the remainder of the day. Ordering a coffee was easy enough, and I was delighted to receive change in cents rather than Shillings and Pence. Frustratingly enough, the Hotel and Cafe Wifi did not work, and had not worked for days… so much for Internet-included accommodation.
Got my phone fixed
After resting for a few hours; I headed back to Piccadilly Circus to find a busy and bustling Apple Store. I joined the tech support line, and mooched off the free WiFi to update the world on my progress.
The Apple Tech was a very friendly lady, with tattooed arms, and a London accent the BBC would be proud of. Not wanting to sound like an Apple shill; but my phone was fixed, for free, before I even knew they’d diagnosed the problem. However the SIM I bought had been destroyed, so getting Mobile in Europe would be more difficult than I’d hoped.
Outside of the store, Piccadilly Circus had started to get busy with everyone finally waking up. The sun was amazingly bright and hot, so as a precaution I went back to my hotel to grab my Sunnies and to find a bus tour. Things were starting to look up.
Took a Bus Tour
Now fashionably dressed for the warm weather, I hopped on one of the Original London Bus Tour tours, hoping to finally get a look around London. All required Tickets were easily purchased at the hotel and could be redeemed at any time, very convenient!
The busses are hop-on-hop-off and have several different routes around the city, with many of the routes intersecting at various hotspots around the city. The Bus leaving the hotel went along the Museum Route, which went past many of the prestigious Museums and Galleries that London has to offer.
However, I wanted something a little more substantial than just Museums. I was here to see some of the larger tourist highlights. In yet another cruel twist of fate, one of the more scenic routes bypassed my current route… at Piccadilly Circus.
Took a Better Bus Tour
While the tours did intersect, the next bus stop was still a block away from me. Feeling naked without a working GPS, I made a harrowing dash to the next stop, and easily boarded the next tour bus that went past. This was probably the best decision I made that day; all thanks to Paul, our tour guide for the rest of the journey.
As the tour promised, there were plenty of the big sights of London…
We were even lucky enough to hear Big Ben during one of our laps of Westminster…
What really made the tour, was the commentary supplied by Paul; While he covered the common highlights, it was the more unique locations that caught my interest: Houses where famous people had died, Hotels where treaties were signed, Pubs where the likes of Twain, Hemingway, Dickens and Darwin had been known to frequent.
By any regards, my day could’ve been done by now. Yet it was only Lunchtime, and again, I was at Piccadilly Circus…
Found a Steak and a Pint
While getting off the bus, I asked my Tour Guide for suggestion for a Historic Pub with cheap Steak and good Beer. He picked well, the Silver Cross Tavern was old, very old. It was originally opened in 1674, after having been a licensed brothel beforehand. Funnily enough, it might be the only legal brothel in London, as the license for prostitution, issued by Charles I, has never been formally revoked. With enough history lessons for one afternoon, I wandered in for some Grub.
While the service was fantastic (with a Waitress holding a seat for me), the allergy support was not the best. Rather than taking my order for Steak and adding a note to remove Onions; I was handed a giant Tome listing every allergen in their meals. Yet, not a single allergen I cared about was listed in it, not that I was in any state of mind to read through it.
I did my best effort at smiling, returned the book, and repeated my order. After all of that, my meal still came with Onion Rings, which were quickly discarded. But enough griping; the steak was great, and the beer only confirmed I would be enjoying my time in London.
I enjoyed the Beer that much, that I forgot to write down the name of it… guess I’ll have to return and check out the taps again.
Grabbed an Urgent Coffee
Sleepy after a good meal, and needing a boost to last the remainder of the day, I headed back to my Hotel to check in and have a short nap.
Feeling more rested, I popped into a rather inconvenient Convenience Store over the road, to see someone about my SIM card issue. Not knowing fluent Russian, and holding what looked like a working SIM card, I was treated with suspicion and challenged to pay £15 for a replacement card. Which was about 3 times what I had originally paid for it… So I decided to resolve my issue at a later date, and at another store.
Thankfully, there was a Cafe down the road, which provided a well needed jump for my attention levels.
Feeling more awake, I resumed my original Bus Route for another Tour of the city, really just to relax while seeing more of the city.
Found an American Diner
One of the announcements on the Bus, was the night tour of the city. I had two hours to go before that started. Asking at one of the tour staff for a good place to eat, I was directed further into the chaos of London. In a state of exhaustion, I somehow wandered into an American Diner…
Instead of being handed a Book-of-legal-protection, I was handed a Gluten-Free specialty menu; which came complete with a sub-list of items that could be prepared for people with allergies. I ordered a simple Hamburger and a Coke and tucked in.
Sadly, I enjoyed it so much, that I didn’t stop to take any pictures of it (plus I was getting crazy tired by this point). The bun was just about perfect as far as Gluten-Free bread goes. I regret nothing about eating at Ed’s Easy Diner.
Found a favourite Pub
Making my way back to the Bus stop, I still had 45 minutes to go for the night tour to start. Plenty of time for a Pint.
Taking advantage of the tour staff again; I asked for directions to a decent Pub. I was given two locations, the first one didn’t seem that appealing in name, but it was much easier to get to than the second. So that was that decision made.
I found O’Neill’s Tavern very interesting before I’d even gotten in. At the door were two of the biggest bouncers I have seen, and they were busy holding back a group of middle-aged English blokes, who had already had a few Pints from the look of things.
You’re not letting me in, because i’m shaking?!? What about him? He’s shaking, and she’s shaking, everyone is shaking and you’re letting them in, but not us!?!
- One very unsteady English gent
To the chagrin of the British, I was allowed in without a second look. The Tavern was absolutely stunning. While being quite cozy, it was rather large, with an open second floor overlooking the bar below. There was a giant mirror that went from the bar all the way up to the very high ceiling.
While the current iteration of the Pub had only been around since 2001, the building itself had quite a history to it. In the 1960's, it was a nightclub known as The Flamingo Club; where the Beatles where known to hang out, and Georgie Fame recorded “Night Train”. In the 1970's it was the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, where the likes of The Who, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and Kool & the Gang where known to play. The 80's and 90's had The WAG Club, which was very trendy and exclusive club, and was where David Bowie filmed the MTV video for “Blue Jean”.
Today, it’s just a Pub, but it’s a fantastic one at that. With a great selection of Beers and Spirits, I settled on a Pint of St. Austell Tribute Cornish Ale and took in the atmosphere.
Definitely one of the better Beers, and better Pubs I’ve experienced in my life.
Went on a Night Tour of London
Making my way back to the Bus stop (and wondering if I should’ve ordered another pint), I jumped on the Night Bus. It was the same path as the previous tour I’d taken, only without the guide and with more of London’s nightlife.
While you may have noticed, I haven’t taken a picture of Tower Bridge (the one everyone mistakes for London Bridge). This due to me wanting to take a better picture at night; however London’s famous weather finally caught up with the lovely sunny day I had just had, and I spent most of my bus ride downstairs, away from the downpour. This forced me to take pictures from inside the bus, and sadly none of the pictures I took of the bridge were worth showing :-/
At the end of the tour I was dropped off (yet again) at Piccadilly Circus. By now I had the trip home worked out, and I was able to quickly make my way back to the hotel and off to a good night sleep.
Not before taking a few selfies…
This was a good introduction to my European Holiday, but I would honestly still be happy if I achieved half as much in a day, but who knows what tomorrow has in store.