Chapter 2 – London
grayscale photo of a the house of parliament and westminster bridge
Photo by Deividas Vasinas on

Chapter 2 – London


Ben said it was a simple process to leave the airport and he was absolutely correct. He was also correct about how huge Heathrow Airport is. Pretty sure it’s bigger than my hometown, with a markedly larger population!

But first – did you miss Chapter 1? Find it here.

Ben said it was a simple process to leave the airport and he was absolutely correct. He was also correct about how huge Heathrow Airport is. Pretty sure it’s bigger than my hometown, with a markedly larger population!

A strange thing happened with my phone on the plane and continued in the terminal. The screen was dark, even when I activated the screen. If I was in a darkened corner and looked very closely, I could somewhat make out the apps and words I was typing. I asked at the mobile phone kiosk – she had never encountered this problem before, but she could sell me a replacement phone No thank you.

I was starting to panic. I wanted to leave the airport but didn’t feel confident doing so with a malfunctioning phone. I texted Amy, she asked Ben, he suggested I restart it. Why didn’t I think of that?

I turned it off and back on again. Success!

I dropped off my backpack l at the Left Luggage store. I found a good coffee place, Caffe Nero, and ordered the largest hazelnut latte I could get. I also grabbed a bottle of water from the cooler by the line-up. I was so tired I forgot I was holding it when I said “Just the latte, thanks” when it was time to pay. The barista pointed at the water in my hand. “Oops! I’m so sorry! I just got off a red eye and I’m so tired I seem to have lost my brain!” He smiled and said it was no problem. The lady next to me said she had just gotten off the same flight – not to worry, I’d find my brain again soon. I hoped she was right.

I found my way to the Tube and discovered I didn’t need to buy a transit pass for the day. The turnstile accepted Apple Pay! I just tapped my phone on the icon and it let me in! I could do this all day – getting on and getting off – and the fare would adjust as I went so I was never overcharged. Brilliant!

I consulted the map on the wall, hopped on the tube, and off I went on my grand adventure.

Picadilly Line map

The London Tube is a lot like the C-train back home in Calgary, except the cars are smaller, and there are more of them – up to five or six cars at a time, instead of three or four in Calgary. Looking out the windows as we rolled past neighborhoods I could see parks with playgrounds, small backyards or “gardens” of flats in row houses, industrial areas, larger apartment buildings, industrial areas, schools and sports fields. Nearly every garden had a vegetable patch.

There weren’t very many people on the Tube, probably since it was no longer morning rush hour. It took me about 45 minutes to get to my destination – Green Park. This is the closest stop to Buckingham Palace. From there I could easily walk to most of the historical sites I wanted to see.

I will share pictures, but please manage your expectations – I am NOT a photographer!

Path through Green Park, London
Canada Gate leading into Green Park from the roundabout in front of Buckingham Palace

I was grateful for the new cushioned insoles I bought before I left home. They had good arch support and were very comfortable – perfect for traipsing about London for several hours.

Buckingham Palace. It’s much smaller than I imagined.
Monument of Queen Victoria, in the center of the roundabout in front of Buckingham Palace.
Another view of Queen Victoria monument. During the summer this pool is filled.

Across from Buckingham Palace there is a beautiful green space with a large pond, called St James Park.

Pond at St James Park
View of Buckingham Palace from the bridge over the pond.
View from the opposite side of the bridge. You can see the Eye to the right.
So many pigeons! This is a favorite roosting spot, close to the path and benches where people feed them bread crumbs, despite several signs advising against feeding the wildlife.
Heron at St. James Park
Did I mention the pigeons are well-fed?
So are the squirrels…

I walked through the park toward the River Thames, where I hoped to find more historical sites. I was not disappointed…

A guard at the Household Cavalry Museum
A mounted guard at the Household Cavalry Museum. These horses are very well trained. The public can go right up to them and take pictures with the horses.
Double Decker bus. I wanted to hop on and take a tour through the area but I didn’t have enough time.
The red telephone boxes are still around the London Core. There was a huge line up of tourists taking pictures. I had to sneak this one from the side.
A couple of snappily dressed doormen.
Monument to the Women of WWII
Monument to Millicent Garrett Fawcett, an English politician, writer, and feminist. She campaigned for women’s suffrage and tried to broaden women’s chances for higher education.
Monument of Spencer Compton, 8th Duke of Devonshire. I was enamored by the architecture behind him.
Big Ben and the House Of Parliament. I got closer but it was very difficult to get good pictures with hundreds of tourists milling around.
Much better photo from a google maps contributor. But I did stand on that bridge!

All my meandering worked up an appetite. I decided to visit an authentic British Pub that I had passed earlier – The Red Lion.

The Red Lion in Westminster on Parliament Street.
Yorkshire Pudding with gravy and a pint of pale ale.

It took me a minute to figure out it’s a seat-yourself situation. Also, the servers don’t take your order at the table. You have to claim a table, then go to the bar to order, giving them your table number. Then you sit and wait for it to be delivered.

To be honest, the Yorkshire Pudding was dry and tasteless but the gravy made it all worth it. I would have ordered the fish & chips but there was a 45 minute wait for those and I didn’t want to take a chance on getting back to the airport late.

The décor was exactly as you would expect. The pub consists of two levels, with generous table seating upstairs. There were tables and chairs on the sidewalk. Indoors on street level was vey small and narrow, with seating for maybe 20 if you got really cozy.

I wanted to take some pictures inside but there were several people there who were already giving me the “not another tourist” look, and I thought better of whipping out my camera phone to record their afternoon libations. Click here for better pictures and a peek at the menu.

The Westminster Tube Station was just steps away, so I went there to see if I could connect to the Picadilly Line from there and save myself some steps. The station was packed – I think all the tube lines make connections there, but I felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of people and how fast they were all going in so any different directions. I tried to make out the map, but there was no one to ask so I gave up and went back up to the street.

I started to retrace my steps back to the Green Park station. I assessed my level of fatigue and started second guessing my sense of direction. Thank God for Google Maps. I plugged in my destination and brought up the walking directions. I had been going in the right general direction, but now I felt much more confident of getting where I needed to go in the shortest possible time.

Back on the tube with time to spare, I was lucky to get a seat. It was filled with commuters and students in various school uniforms.

I sat next to a lovely woman carrying a very large shopping bag.

She was friendly and I very much enjoyed chatting with her. She was headed to Heathrow as well. She was in London on business and her hotel was at the airport.

We talked about where we were from and what we were doing in London. Me-passing through from Canada to Zambia, her – there for work from Australia. We talked about travel and family and work and life. Maybe she will look up my blog, or maybe not. It’s all good. We parted when we got off at the terminal station.

I collected my back pack from the Left Luggage store. If my calculations are correct it cost me less than $15 to store it for the day. I went back through security with plenty of time for a bite to eat before I boarded my second red-eye flight, this time to Ethiopia.

I found a pub in the airport – part of the same franchise (Fuller’s) as The Red Lion, called London’s Pride. Now was my chance for some fish & chips! This time they sat me and took my order at the table.

Fish & chips at London’s Pride, terminal 2 Heathrow Airport.

It was delicious! It was less battered than I am used to in Canada, which I liked. The chips, or fries, were easily half the portion I am used to, which I also liked. The tarter sauce was fantastic – I asked for more. The green stuff in the little cup is pea puree. Not a fan, but apparently it’s a traditional side dish for fish & chips there.

The décor was comfortable and the wall art was amusing. Lots of room between tables – it is an airport restaurant after all so everyone has a carry on.

Fuller’s Pub Heathrow

Next stop, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia! It’s fun just to say those words I never in my whole life thought I would ever say!!

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