Monday, December 7, 2015

Strolling Alone in London

Green park
I travel to Heathrow airport almost every month but I have only gone out to visit central London twice.  The first one was with my classmate in medschool and her sister and the second one was last November 2015 and I was all alone.  I have no problems travelling alone in airports because they have very big signage on where to go next.  It is different in the streets, you can easily get lost.  It was really exciting, in my mind I already pictured myself strolling along the streets of London once again.  Just a mere mention of the word “London” gives me a sense of joy.  One item in my bucket list already checked.  This year is also the first time where I have really ventured outside the airport to see the sites.  In the previous months I was able to see some sites in Aberdeen, Scotland.  I haven’t had much confidence last year to go outside the confines of the airport.  Namibia safari would have been nice.  When I was in Angola, I didn’t have the chance to go outside the hotel also because no one was there to accompany me.

Autumn leaves and the blue bird (did you spot it?)

I arrived in Heathrow airport terminal 4 around 12 noon.  Surprisingly, the cue for the immigration isn’t that long and the immigration officer was very fast in putting the stamp on my passport as soon as she saw my visa.  In retrospect, I realized that my travel to London was only a few days after the bombing in Paris, that’s why there were so many empty seats in the plane.  In the airplane though I had second thoughts in going to central London.  But I when went outside the arrivals area, my mind was fixed.  I immediately went to the information counter and asked the best way to go to Buckingham Palace.  The lady looked at me and said, “Don’t you want to take a rest first?”  I explained to her that I only have one afternoon to see some sites because my next connecting flight leaves tomorrow. 

Buckingham Palace

There are many ways to go to central London from the airport.  You can take the bus which is slower.  You can take a taxi which is way expensive.  The most practical way is to take the train, which they call the “tube”.  This is very convenient for tourists since you can buy a card which take you to all the zones (1-6).  Zones 1-6 have almost all the must-see sites in London.  The day travelcard costs 12 UK pounds (853 pesos) and you can use this card to all the stations for the whole day.  

Queen Victoria Memorial

The travel from the airport to Buckingham Palace was approximately one hour.  However, it doesn’t seem like one hour to me, it felt less than an hour because I was busy looking outside, I was busy observing people.  London is a multiracial city.  I think every nationality is there.  Everytime the train opens its doors the wind gushes in and I can feel the autumn/winter chill around 13 deg Celsius.   My stop was Green Park station.  13 deg C for me was very cold, I was alternately holding my bag with my right and left hand just to get the chance to put one hand inside my coat. You could not mistake me for a tourist because I was bringing my travel bag with me hahaha… I didn’t drop it in the hotel to save me some time.  

Memorial Gates

During this trip I was able to see the Green Park, Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park.  Hyde park is the largest park in London.  

Wellington Arch

Green park was a great site.  It has so many huge trees with brown and yellow leaves in preparation for the winter.  There were so many tourists, so I just followed them to the palace.  There were families taking some pictures and group of friends just hanging around and some doing cardio exercise.  It’s definitely a breath of fresh air amidst all the tall buildings around.

Hyde Park

Buckingham Palace is a magnificent view.  It’s a rectangular castle with great walls.  It looks grand because we all know that it is the home of the British royalty.  I didn’t catch the changing of ‘The Guards’, it’s a colorful spectacle to watch here in Buckingham.  There is also a huge monument in front of the palace which is called the Queen Victoria Memorial.  It commemorates the death of the queen in 1901.  There were so many places to take selfies and everyone around me was doing that. After a few minutes, I proceeded and walked along the edge of Green Park to go to Hyde Park.  I was told by my friend, who works in London, that there is a Winter Wonderland there.  “Oh lovely!” (in full British accent).   At the corner of Green Park, you can find the Memorial Gates.  These gates serve to commemorate the services of men and women who volunteered to fight for the British Army during the two world wars.

I crossed two streets and passed by Wellington Arch to reach Hyde Park.  I saw a food station by the entrance gate and suddenly felt hungry, realizing that I didn’t eat lunch because I hurriedly took the tube to get there.  I bought a hotdog in a bun with onions for 4 pounds (284 pesos), so cheap if we won’t convert it to pesos. 

Winter Wonderland

 Hyde Park is bigger than Green Park.  I immediately looked for the direction towards the Winter Wonderland.  Before reaching the wonderland, I saw a squirrel up on a branch, first time in my life.  At first I thought it was a chipmunk, I might find my brothers (Theodore and Simon) there. Lol.  I also remembered the rabbit I saw by the street in Aberdeen.  It’s wonderful to see cute animals in the middle of the city.  There is also a huge lake, they call Serpentine, in the middle of the park which houses different kinds of fowls (ducks, geese and swans), what a sight!

A real Christmas and my bag.  :)

The Winter Wonderland is like a carnival in my place.  There was an ice skating rink which was very apt for the holidays.  A lot of food stations scattered everywhere.  I felt hungry again.  Before I went back to the train station I bought a double cheeseburger for 5.5 pounds, quite expensive but worth the size, I was not able to finish it.  I surveyed the place, Christmas feeling is really in the air.  There were lots of Christmas trees and lots of rides and attractions.  One day, I will bring my family here.  My kids would love this place.  We might even start practicing ice skating in SM Seaside for a start when I go home. 

Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park

Since it is winter time now, the sun already started to set around 4:30pm, so I decided to head back to Heathrow airport.  I reached terminal 4 around 5:30pm and was able to take the bus at 6pm to Gatwick airport.  I should have taken the train straight to Gatwick but I didn’t know about that, next time then.  I will travel to my next destination tomorrow.  

Hyde Park

It was indeed a very tiring day, from Manila to Abu Dhabi and to Heathrow then straight to Buckingham.  I thank the Lord for the safe travels and also want to thank International SOS for my job!  Dreams come true, they really do, we just have to keep the faith.  More articles and pictures to come.  For now, let me have some cold San Miguel Beer.  

Gatwick, London Airport

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