*Author’s note: Sorry that you had to wait for the second part of my London adventures for so long. After falling ill, I was terribly busy with preparing my Master’s thesis defence (It went great!). I hope you’ll njoy this post, though!
From September 8th, 2016 until September 10th, 2016, I celebrated my 30th Birthday with a short trip to London. Here is my account of day two. You can read my account of day one over here.
10am: Where am I? Oh, right. I try to have a relaxed morning. But once again, London’s restless spirit infects me. After a brief breakfast, I’m out and about, doing errands.
11:30am: I’m back on the road with no real destination. At some point I want to visit the Grant Museum of Zoology and maybe even the Hunterium Museum, but other than that, I don’t know. For now, all I want is to see where my feet carry me. As I leave my hostel near the British Museum, I head on to New Oxford Street. I’ve been here yesterday, so keep walking and walking. Street names? I keep walking. I will worry about street names on my way back. But wait, I recognize this landmark. I’ve reached Seven Dials. Ever since I’ve read Dickens’ Sketches By Boz and his sketch on Seven Dials, once a notorious slum, I’m obsessed with returning to this place:
The stranger who finds himself in ‘The Dials’ for the first time, and stands Belzoni-like, at the entrance of seven obscure passages, uncertain which to take, will see enough around him to keep his curiosity and attention awake for no inconsiderable time. From the irregular square into which he has plunged, the streets and courts dart in all directions, until they are lost in the unwholesome vapour which hangs over the house-tops, and renders the dirty perspective uncertain and confined; and lounging at every corner, as if they came there to take a few gasps of such fresh air as has found its way so far, but is too much exhausted already, to be enabled to force itself into the narrow alleys around, are groups of people, whose appearance and dwellings would fill any mind but a regular Londoner’s with astonishment. – “Seven Dials” from Sketches by Boz, Charles Dickens
As I try to remember Dickens’ words, I wish I had more time to explore the literary side of London. In 2016, Seven Dials is nothing like Dickens’ account of it. The vapour and filth of the 1830s is gone alongside its people and made way for tourists and consumers with a coin or two in their pockets.
I Turn my back to the past and keep down Monmouth Street aimlessly. Yet, once again, I find myself in the past as I reach Cranbourn street and then back on Charing Cross Road. In the morning, even a busy place like London can appear deserted. Those second hand book stores of Charing Cross tempt me. ‘Just a brief look’ I lie to myself. Today, however, my mind is stronger as I leave with only one book.
Back on the road. The closer I get to the Garrick Theatre, the more London seems to wake up. I find myself, once again, in a sea of people. Now where to go? On my right is the National Portrait Gallery and for a moment, I hesitate. The artist in me wants to stop and explore the masters of old. But I’m too restless so I keep going. Should I join the masses on Trafalgar Square, on my right? I decide not to as these masses overwhelm me. I keep going and going and find myself on the Strand. By trying to escape one sea of people, I end up in the middle of another one. The past haunts me once more as I’m reminded of Poe’s The Man of the Crowd, a nameless narrator wandering through the streets of London, following a man. Today, I’m the Woman of the Crowd. The only question is, am I the narrator of my own story or am I just an extra which “lasst sich nicht lesen – does not permit itself to be read” (The Man of the Crowd by E.A. Poe)?
Oh, I know where I want to go. I’m on the road for several hours and I’m getting tired. Let’s have a picnic at the River Thames. Near the Waterloo bridge, I find a bench close to the Somerset House and enjoy my lunch. On my way back, I take another route, foolishly thinking I could escape the ever increasing masses. Back on the strand, while trying not to get run over by people, I make my way to my hostel via Aldwych and Kingsway. I’m tired, but I’m still restless so I keep going even after reaching my hostel.
3pm: After a brief coffee break, I head to Bloomsbury St., then Gower St. People recommend the Grant Museum of Zoology as a place when you want to escape the tourist masses and they were right. Upon entering, no one except for two other visitors are inside. Dodo bones, Kangaroo fetuses, Sliced monkey Skulls, exhibit after exhibit is stacked next to each other. The small museum becomes a jungle filled with lifeless beings while another jungle, filled with different creatures, passes by. I stop and wonder why there are human names next to some of the actual animal names. I keep walking and find out that you can ‘adopt’ exhibits. Sadly, the Kiwi bird bones are already adopted.
7pm: After the Grant Museum of Zoology, I went back to my hostel for dinner and some rest. Now, I’m inside the Wyndham Theatre, waiting for No Man’s Land, starring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart to begin. I’m somewhat in disbelief that I’m about to see those two living legends live.
10:30pm: The play was amazing and I wish it didn’t end. Aimlessly, I follow the masses when leaving the Theatre. ‘Why are we leaving through the emergency exit and not through the lobby?’ Is the last thing that crosses my mind before I realize that we head to the stage exit. Everything goes by so quick. First Sir Ian McKellen arrives and I find myself in the second row of excited fans. I’m shaking terribly, but I manage to give him my ticket to sign. Next comes Patrick Stewart. This time I’m too nervous, too much shaking to get an autograph right away. A lovely lady and gentleman help me out and I find myself thanking Patrick Stewart for signing my ticket as well. I nearly drop my phone, so much is my hand shaking. I decide to leave instead of waiting for the two other actors. Only days later, it begins to dawn on me what happened. After growing up with Gandalf and Captain Picard, I still can’t believe that I’ve finally did meet the living legends behind those iconic roles.
11:30pm: Time to go to bed, before I’ll have to get up at 2am to get my early morning flight. It was a great, albeit short time, London. I’ll miss you. Til we meet again!
Do you like my writing experiment? Do you want me to keep doing it this way? Leave a comment down below or like this post!