Ahh welcome home! That’s what it felt like arriving in London. For the first time in eight months I could read signs on the road and packets at the supermarket, I could speak to people normally without having to use sign language, the cars were driving on the left side and I could understand all of the announcements in bus and train stations. And (apart from a hard time in immigration trying to convince an officer who thought I was some broke backpacker who was going to work illegally at a pub that I was just here to see the London Eye and Buckingham Palace) I felt welcome.
London was a great city as I think most agree. It’s bustling, trendy and beautiful. It’s modern but also has some impressive old buildings. Being the cheap backpacker the immigration officer knew I was, we didn’t even go into a lot of places like Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace and we didn’t take a ride on the Eye either. We liked to admire things from the outside, it was much better for the bank balance.
Although, we did get to go to a lot of museums because they are all free in England. So even though we’d been to plenty in Germany and then Paris, we visited the British Museum and the Imperial War Museum, which were both stand outs. The War museum didn’t bombard you with information, rather it relied on the artefacts and objects to tell the story. It had a wreckage from a bomb in Iraq, a sub machine gun from World War One and a suitcase radio used to secretly transmit messages during the Cold War. The British Museum’s collection rivals the Lourve as one of the best in the world. It’s Egyptian exhibition was amazing and took me back in time to my visit down the Nile.
Oxford was also a beautiful town. Unfortunately, it was raining the whole day we were there so we couldn’t go punting down the river or walk amongst the university gardens. At least, I figured it was more authentic, this is what it would be like to go to university in England, raining and cold weather all the time!
We also took the bus from Bath on a day tour to see the stones that have awed and confused humanity for centuries. The new visitor centre explains all the possible theories people have behind the meaning of the Stonehenge. Was it a burial ritual site and cemetery? Was it a temple dedicated to God? Was it a place that people believed had healing properties? Was it a celestial observatory aligned with the solstices? We’ll probably never know but it was another example of how incredibly smart and innovative human beings were even thousands of years ago.
Brighton was a surprise. The tacky carnival pier was beautiful at night and the trendy backstreets of the Lanes easily took up an afternoon. We even happened to be in town on a huge weekend Gay Pride Festival, purely by chance. On the Saturday there was an exuberant parade that took over the whole town and had loud music, colourful floats and people strutting around in costumes. Unfortunately, we had to leave back to London half way through which meant we had to cross the parade’s path somehow with our backpacks on, preferably without being noticed. However, as it turned out we had no choice but to cross in between two floats, Scotty even threw in some dance moves as we crossed for his six seconds of fame.
I got to see a lot of fantastic places but two weeks in England was too short. So I’ve put it back on my list and I’ll return again one day. In the meantime it’s back to a foreign country; looking the wrong way before crossing the road, deciphering packets in the supermarket and asking “parlez vous anglais?”.
*post adapted from my trip here in July 2015 and from my previous blog elishasbigtrip.wordpress.com