I’ve been exploring London – and so far I’ve already visited the British Museum and the Tate Modern. Normally I hate the place – but I’m trying to be open minded.
After stopping for a coffee at Starbucks and watching some bubbles outside I’m now on my way to the Natural History Museum via Big Ben.
I’m being a shameless tourist and I’m taking photos of everything.
According to Google Maps the NHM was 31 minutes away – and I since usually walk a mile in around 16 minutes, this should have been a quick journey.
I’d resolved not to use public transport, lifts or escalators for the duration of the day. London is flat and accessible enough to make walking everywhere I needed to go easier than most places.
However one thing that I hadn’t reckoned with was the sheer volume of people walking along the South Bank on a Saturday afternoon.
When I arrived early in the morning the streets were largely empty, and consequently I made good time – but by 2pm the pubs and restaurants on the South Bank were crammed. People were spilling out onto the pavement everywhere and there were multitudes of them with pretty much no urgency to go anywhere at all.
It felt that their only reason for breathing was to continually slow my now sedate pace of progress.
As I walked I found it pretty much impossible to get any kind of speed up – and since I’m now a fairly brisk walker I find this quite irritating when I’m on my own. If I’m with people I rarely notice how fast I’m going because I’m usually chattering – but when I just have places to get to (in this case before they close at 5.50pm) I get a little impatient.
After some pretty glacial progress I was getting quite huffy, and in order to turn my frown upside down I decided to take a time out, give up trying to pass or walk around people and just stop for a little while.
There was also some cool graffiti to look at (which in my view looked way better than some of the art in the Tate Modern) whilst I waited for a break in the legions of people.
This unfortunately never came – and after around ten minutes or so I gave up hanging around for a lull in the traffic and accepted that things would just take a while. I slowly made my way forward, past the London eye and the colourful living statues (taking ever decreasing baby steps forward) until I finally made my way onto Westminster Bridge.
It had taken me an hour and twenty minutes to walk a mile and a half to Big Ben – which was unfortunately barely visible thanks to its current renovation and repair.
Since I’d eaten pretty much all of my carrots and apples between the British Museum and the Tate I decided to nip into what is quite possibly the most cramped Tesco Metro in the UK opposite the houses of Parliament and grab some other bits and bobs to munch.
I had a few miles to go yet and my stomach had begun to rumble.
It’s basically a long corridor with shelves either side and tills at the end, and they only let you in one door and out of another. As shopping goes it’s rarely as unpleasant as this.
I felt like a sheep being forced through a dip – but still I managed to get what I needed.
Once I’d loaded up with provisions I headed off again – soon finding myself in St James’s Park – which seemed like as good a time as any to have a sit down and recharge my batteries.
By this point my feet were beginning to ache – but even so I was still really rather enjoying exploring.
As I watched the world go by and double checked the route ahead two young German girls asked whether it was ok to sit next to me on the bench.
As they sat down chatting in their own language I was just unwrapping my lunch. As with my bag of carrots at the British Museum earlier it may be considered by some as… a little unconventional – but from a calorie and energy perspective it was just right.
Although there was nothing unusual about my piri piri chicken pieces I was also indulging in a guilty pleasure of mine.
As I chomped down on it I heard the conversation stutter and slow next to me as the Germans looked at me out of the corner of their eyes.
I didn’t realise that I had this craving until I wandered through a field and decided to experiment around a year ago.
I just grabbed a fresh corn cob from a nearby plant (naughty I know) that was warm from the sunlight, ripped off the leaves and chowed down.
For anyone that’s never eaten raw sweetcorn on the cob – I highly recommend it. It’s a free rather than speed food in Slimming World terms – but it tastes SO much better than the cooked alternative.
Plus it makes Germans look at you like you’re odd – which is always amusing.
I gnawed my way through two of these, popped my rubbish In the bin and moved on – directed solely by the voiceover from Google Maps.
Doing as I was told I crossed the river and as I did I glanced to my right – and noticed that I could see the London eye in the distance.
My progress may have been slow (it was now 3.40pm) but I was making it nevertheless and appeared to still be moving quick enough to get to the Natural History Museum.
Pretty soon I was passing a rather quaint little residence that’s maintained on a shoestring budget.
Honestly – it’s a wonder they can afford a gardener.
Maybe they fund it with the nearby public toilets – which had now gone up from 30p at Marleybone (already a criminal price) to 50 frikkin pence around the back of the palace on the way to Knightsbridge.
Honestly – how anyone can manage to afford to go to the loo in London is beyond me. Treating yourself to a tinkle a couple of times a day would led to a bill of £365 per annum – which is £205 more than my water bill comes to EVERY YEAR!!!
Of course – I’m not the intended audience for this shameless chiselling.
Foreign tourists with consequence free odd shaped coins to throw away and people that drive sports cars are the ones that use such facilities.
By now I was in the land of the rich and shameless and realised I was a man with a charity shop tastes wandering through Knightsbridge.
Everything I was wearing probably cost less than a latte in one of the hotel or casino lobbies nearby.
Here the shops were exclusive and ridiculous. Money was no object and the designer clothing passers by were wearing and the acres of fake bosoms visible everywhere seemed to paint a picture of excess without consequence.
The traffic profile too had suddenly (and very noticeably) changed.
There were still the environmentally friendly Toyota Prius Uber taxis and ubiquitous London busses everywhere – but now, mixed in with them were also petrol guzzling Range Rovers, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and boat sized Bentleys.
The people driving these (it seemed to me) were unphased by the local congestion charges and were so well off that it really didn’t matter to them what they drove or how much it cost them to move from A to B.
Getting there in shameless opulence was all that mattered.
Here it was totally OK to park in a bus lane as long as you did so in a ridiculously expensive Ferrari.
I decided to duck into a nearby wine bar and use their toilet for free.
Screw them. I refuse to pay.
Rarely has an act of defiance been so satisfying on multiple levels.
As I ducked out without buying a single thing and rushed off in the direction of the NHM I noticed a shop opposite Harrods that made me smile.
Regardless of the excess on view everywhere in this small Mecca for the uber rich there was one place intent on selling absolute CRAP – and you have to love them for it. When faced with the likes of Harvey Nichols just over the road these guys were enthusiastically peddling the worst tat imaginable.
I wanted to hug them when I saw it. They were my heroes.
It was like someone was raising two fingers to wealth and without a care in the world saying ‘buy a cheap crappy Royal wedding keyring – it’s way more fun than the expensive crappy things over the road.’
Then – mere moments later I was finally at the NHM. I had arrived JUST IN TIME to see what my friend promised in part two.
THE ROBOT FRIKKIN DINOSAUR!!!!
I couldn’t see it….
I’d been sold a lemon!!! This dinosaur was of the boring ‘historically relevant’ variety, not the cool ‘stamp all over you in an animated Jurassic Park style frenzy’ kind.
Try as I might I could find NO ROBOT FRIKKIN DINOSAURS!!!
However I had arrived with just under an hour left before closing time – and since I now had a rather annoying blister on my left foot I thought that I might as well have a look around before heading back to the train station.
For the most part it was fun – but I don’t think I’ll go back.
The annoying thing was that I’d passed the Victoria and Albert Museum on the way and almost gone in there instead.
Oh well – you never know until you look.
I headed outside and stood by the Science museum looking at my GPS map. I only had another 2.1 miles to walk on my blister and then a mile and a half walk back from the train station in Warwick to home.
I carried on – making my way through Hyde park, and along the busy streets to Marleybone.
As luck would have it I arrived at the Station with just 5 minutes to spare before my train and immediately hopped on for the 90 minute journey back to Warwickshire.
The train chugged out of the station bang on time.
Whist I watched the world pass by I also engaged in my final hearty snack of the day – which I’m sure the lady from Birmingham next to me loved because I sat thoughtfully crunching away on celery for a whole hour and a half next to her.
When I finally arrived home at around 7.30pm (14 hours after leaving the house) there was still the small matter of an evening meal to take care of – and nothing seemed like it would hit the spot at that moment better than some roasted vegetables and butternut squash crinkle chips.
This barely touched the sides – as I was famished!
All in all I’d walked around 19 miles, burned nearly 4000 calories and cranked out around 35,000 steps.
I think internet I may have been wrong about London.
Sure – it’s not perfect – but it’s alive and diverse. There’s annoyance and fascination to be found in equal measure and from the laughing policeman I met genially greeting all of the people in St James’s park to the dodgy looking ‘yoofs’ on scooters I passed (as quickly and quietly as humanly possible) in Hyde park there was never a dull moment.
I was amazed that I crammed so much into a single day – but also that I managed to do every last bit of it on foot.
Not bad for a guy who couldn’t walk to the end of his road a couple of years ago!
I think I may have to go back and have a look at the rest…