I’m On Tuesday, June 30th, I awoke with eager anticipation, because I knew that my family would be landing shortly at Heathrow! After a two-hour flight delay and long battle with the luggage distribution, my parents and sisters finally arrived, and off we went to explore London.
The day before while I was on my own, I wandered around the city as I had done two weeks ago in Rome. I really appreciated this time to explore and get my bearings; even though I was already quite familiar with London, this time alone to immerse myself in the heart of the city was priceless. London is my very favorite city in the world. There is so much history and culture — everywhere you look, there is a grand monument or historically significant building — yet there is something almost quaint about it. The British place great value on comradery and the outdoors, so people of all walks of life inhabit beautiful parks and gardens scattered around the city. Plus, you can sit in any pub (there are quite a lot to chose from) and instantly feel welcomed and at home.
On my stroll around the city, I walked through some of London’s most famous areas: hopping on the Tube, I traveled first to Leicester Square to pick up our London Passes. Gazing up at all the mega-shops and theater posters, I stopped and listened to a band play for a few minutes and popped into M&M World as a nod to my best friend from studying abroad (love you and your silly ways, Anna). Leicester Square is a bit like Hollywood Boulevard: this is where people go to try and make it big, and the movie theater is where London has all its premieres (Magic Mike XXL was the night before). Transitioning to a more classic English feel, I walked past Covent Garden and into Trafalgar Square, where I sat on a fountain and ate my sandwich from Pret A Manger. I very much love to people watch, so pausing to look around at the many tourists, school groups and locals on their lunch break was very interesting and a great way to observe the city. Now, I began my way through the Westminster neighborhood, passing beautiful monuments and important government offices, such as 10 Downing Street, until I finally reached the centerfold of London sights: Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Amidst all the picture-takers, I gazed up at these glorious sights and couldn’t resist snapping a shot, myself. Like seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time, beholding such an iconic landmark up close and personal is still exhilarating even after seeing it many times before.
I then began my walk in St. James’s Park — one of my favorite places in the world. St. James’s Park is so picturesque and lovely, with a small lake and loads of trees and plants. Yes, there are tourists, but a lot of its population are locals enjoying all that nature has to offer. As I walked around, catching glimpses of Buckingham Palace, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. How amazing is it that I get to see and feel and touch this beautiful piece of the world? So many times throughout this transition from college into adulthood, I’ve felt lost and insecure, but right now, in this moment, I was happy and whole. Being young and healthy and independent is an incredible thing, and it’s times like these that make me aware of how precious this stage in my life is.
After making my way to Buckingham Palace, I continued on through Green Park and then to Knightsbridge, where I joined up with Jordan, Alex and the rest of her family (as mentioned in my previous post). Because I had such a lovely afternoon, I was so excited for my family to hop aboard my European adventure!
Our first day, we explored Hyde Park and Kensington Palace, which was located right across from our hotel. We were staying at the Double Tree at Hyde Park, which was a fantastic location and great lodging (I was so very, very glad for the air-conditioning). Hyde Park is breathtakingly beautiful, as it is very expansive and filled with some of the most beautiful flowers London has to offer. Plus, it is home to the royal Kensington Palace, the former home of Queen Victoria and current residency of William and Kate. I kept my eyes peeled for little George and Charlotte, but alas, we did not see them out playing.
That evening, we went back to Harrod’s and ate dinner at our favorite British restaurant, Wagamama, which we discovered on our very first European family trip back in 2004. We called it an early night, as four out of the five of us were all still on Houston time, but we awoke bright and early the next day for the Churchill War Rooms. The Fishers are huge WWII buffs, so this is something we all had been looking forward to for quite some time. This excursion certainly did not disappoint, as we were able to walk through the bunkers and offices where historic decisions were made. I had chills seeing the phone that Winston Churchill used to call President Roosevelt about pressing war matters, and I was awestruck by the map room whose walls are still lined with the Britain’s strategies and tactics. This was an incredible time in history — one that could’ve ended very differently — so I am very thankful to be reminded of the leadership, perseverance and unrelenting optimism that Churchill and the Allies so selflessly displayed.
After walking around more of London and doing brass rubbings at St. Martin in the Fields, the five of us ate a quick dinner and traveled to Piccadilly Circus, home to the play, The 39 Steps. A classic English display of comedy and theatrics, The 39 Steps is a mystery that takes place in the 1930s and pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s films — if that doesn’t sound like something I enjoy, then I don’t know what does. We saw it performed several years ago when the Alley Theater in Houston put it on, but we still laughed and loved it all over again, especially since we were able to see the West End version.
**The quote in this title is by Samuel Johnson, but it is often heard uttered by Warren Fisher, as well.**