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Published: November 15th 2010
It doesn't take long to figure out the underground tube and how to get from A to B - it's so easy to use! The thing that really baffled me was how packed every cabin/traincar is and the amount of people squashed into each one. The tube comes every 3 minutes or so for each line...I don't even want to do the math but it's amazing to think that it's like this the majority of the day. Just goes to show how many people live and travel in London. Now dare I ask the question about how they're going to host the Olympics and fit more people into the underground? Having survived living in an Olympic town, the amount of people is scary. Good Luck London! =)
I slept okay and woke up pretty early in the morning then snoozed for an hour and a half. I woke up and met Miranda at the National Gallery. Miranda is a good friend of mine who used to live in Whistler, but had to return to the UK (she's Irish though) because of visa issues. I hope she can get a work visa soon and come back for the summer, she's my mountain biking buddy!
The National Gallery has free entry and was a great museum. I really like the impressionism period and saw works by Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, and Picasso. One of the famous ones was Van Gogh's painting of the sunflowers. He has I think 5 Sunflower paintings and one was on display in the museum. A local painter by the name of Clive Head had some amazing paintings that he had done of downtown London. Very very realistic to the point that some of his artwork looked like actual photos rather than oil on canvas. He paints with a neat perspective - he skews the reflection in shop windows to show more of the street than what would be reflected in reality.
After that, we didn't know where to wander off to next and chose to walk through St. James Park towards Buckingham Palace. It was a pretty nice park - I can only imagine what it looks like in the springtime with all the oak trees with bright green leaves making a shady walkway alongside the river. I saw a few swans even! They're massive birds compared to the geese, mud hens, seagulls, and ducks all quacking and chirping about the muddy banks. On a side note, the British seagulls are much smaller than North American seagulls and they have a pointier beak with just a spot of red instead of a curvy beak with a bit of orange/yellow. Their feathers are also black instead of grey and they're quiet! Very proper seagulls. haha.
Just as Buckingham Palace came into view the sky opened and the heavens poured a giant bathtub of water on us. I've encountered rain like this before but usually get a warning and prepare myself for a water attack. This felt unnatural and just as I had wished I brought my umbrella, powerful gusts of wind soaked me to the bone instantly. An umbrella was too late now. My jeans were so drenched that they stuck straight to my skin and water was running down my boots since I was already saturated. I didn't enjoy Buckingham Palace because of Mother Nature's distraction, but silently I still said hi to the Queen.
A few circles down the street and Miranda and I finally sought refuge down in the tube, taking it to Canary Wharf - the business district of London. We met up with my investment banker friend, Deb for some lunch. He didn't have much time but we had a good half hour lunch break over some great cheap Indian food.
Still soaked and worried about catching a cold, Miranda and I went back to the flat in Westminster to warm up and have a cup of coffee. I spoke on skype with my mum because I had to change my travel plans. My friend's car that I was supposed to borrow to drive Miranda and I down to Bournemouth turned out not to be insured, so instead of going way down south I figured I should head north and visit my aunti, uncle, and cousin in Manchester. I arranged my arrival in Manchester the next day. Just as I could feel my toes drying, my friend Laura who used to live in Whistler gave me a call saying she's ready to meet Miranda and I for a drink and a chat. We didn't even have a chance to drink a sip of coffee and we were out the door heading to Victoria station.
Miranda invited a friend of hers, Dale, who lives in London. The four of us found a pub called The Elusive Camel (very odd name for a pub). Over some Sauvingnon Blanc, Laura and I caught up and had some good laughs. It's great to see people that used to live in Whistler. Sometimes when you say goodbye, you never know how long it really is going to be before you see them (or if you ever will again).
Dale and Laura had to work the next day, so Miranda and I continued on to meet her brother and his girlfriend down in Brixton (which is outside of London by a bit). Caught the tube there and met them in a classy quiet pub. A nice spanish beer accompanied me. I'm going to have to get used to beer - not too much of a fan but compared to Canadian and America beer, the beer in the UK goes down a lot easier.
We finished the evening off with one more drink at another bar that was definitely more relaxed and had a great live band. The band had a lead singer from San Francisco and the other two members playing the guitars/banjos were British. Their music was upbeat and folky. I had a Gaymer's pear cider which was good and not too sweet.
Called a night and took the tube home, ready for bed by 23:30. Met my friend's girlfriend, Laura, at the flat and chatted to her for a bit. She seemed really nice.
Manchester is the next destination!
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