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Report 2023: Two Weeks in the Cotswolds and London
By Deva from USA, Fall 2012
Page 8 of 15: Day Eight: London, Baby!
We departed Chipping Campden with fond hopes of returning one day, and set off on our second week of vacation: in London!
We took the bus to MiM and then caught the 10:50 train to London. It was a Saturday, and the train was very crowded, but fortunately there were luggage racks at one end of the car where we could stow our large suitcase. We arrived in Paddington Station at 12:30, and decided to grab something quick for lunch from the shops. Bob had a sandwich from M&S, I had chicken tikka masala from Sainsbury (cheap and just as good as average restaurant version). We then purchased Oyster Cards from the kiosk -- in retrospect we might have done better to get the seven day pass, but didn’t realize it at the time. Though I am not sure that would have taken us to some of our more distant destinations, like Highgate.
We decided to take the bus to Chelsea, so we could see more of the city. This was fun, but would have been better had we had two smaller suitcases, as Bob hurt his back wrangling our larger single case up to the top of the bus, and we had to switch once in Trafalgar square. But it was delightful to see the city from the front of the upper level of the bus, swooping along the streets! And the bus let us off almost directly across the street from our apartment in Chelsea.
The apartment owner (we rented through AirBnB) met us at the apartment and showed us around. She was very helpful, and directed us to nearby sites and the Waitrose around the corner. Bob took a nap, and I went out to explore. I found the Waitrose as well as some old favorites from Paris: Pain Quotidian and Amorino. I got gelato from the latter to celebrate: Mascarpone Fig, Pistachio and Speculoos. Yum!
Once Bob woke, we headed out by bus (the schedules were quite confusing, but there was a simpler version in my Rick Steves guidebook that listed a few of the main lines that run through the popular areas) to Saint Paul’s, where we were planning to join a London Walks “Ghost Walk” at 7:45. We were early enough that we took some time to walk around, visiting the Millennium Bridge with a lovely sunset view of the Thames and the Tower Bridge. There were many extra lights up for the Olympics, and various events going on over on the South Bank, lending a festive atmosphere.
Saint Paul’s was very impressive. It hadn’t been a site I was all that excited by, but actually being there, staring up at the immensity of the structure, was awe-inspiring. I would have loved to visit inside for one of the (free) Evensong services, but we never had the chance.
We had a quick dinner at Pizza Express -- very tasty salad of rocket, gran padano cheese, & balsamic dressing and a plain pizza we split.
With a chai from Starbucks to fortify us, we set off on our tour. The crowd was thankfully not too large (these tours are just “show up and pay”). Our guide was excellent, very dramatic and excellent at making everything come alive. The sites themselves were not especially stunning (this was mostly in the old City portion of London, which I found less charming than some other areas) but we did find plenty of interest, such as the walls still pitted with damage from the Blitz, and the old graveyard where people have heard a monk singing. Our guide actually sang the song, very haunting!
We took the bus back home, once again grateful that it stopped so near the apartment!
It was a full day, perhaps a bit too full! I was finding London kind of overwhelming after the Cotswolds, so crowded and busy and noisy! And also missing my friends, feeling a bit disconnected from the rest of life.
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