London, for some this blog post may seem a bit stupid, but for me personally this was a very relevant trip.
You see I have never been “overseas”, and when I got the opportunity to visit our London office for work, I could not keep the excitement hidden! The original plan was to just go for a Thursday and Friday but I asked the boss if I could please stay the weekend and spend some time in London as I have never been overseas before! She agreed and I was extremely happy and thankful!!
Visa was applied for, interview was done and visa was issued! I was on my way for my first overseas trip! Arriving at Heathrow early morning, I was surprised at how smooth everything went. I thought I would have a hard time as I have never been to such a big airport before and I was nervous that I would get lost, or go to the wrong building, or have issues at Customs, but nothing at all. All went smooth and I got outside the terminal building, was picked up by the boss man and went straight to the office.
Work was work, so I’m not going to bore you with the details. They booked accommodation for me at a very nice hotel in Egham called Great Fosters. This was incredibly fancy pants for me as I am used to pretty low standards and camping! That evening I had a very weird and very expensive meal in the posh French Restaurant with the boss. It was nice and all, but I am not a foodie and I think the hoity toity food was lost on me! I almost fell off my chair as I saw the wine list and you could order a bottle of French wine for £ 3,500! I just had some Jameson. Jameson is about as fancy as I get.
Funny thing that struck me was when I looked out of the office window at about 16:00, it was dark….. I understood why and everything, but it was just so weird. It was November and in South Africa, not even in the middle of winter it gets dark that early! I must admit is makes life pretty miserable to leave home and arrive home in the dark every day…. But I guess during summer you have the upside again, you win some you lose some as they say!
Friday afternoon I left the office in Egham at about 15:00 and I headed off to experience my first UK train/tube ride. Yeah, laugh all you want, but for me this was a big deal! It is so efficient and I made my way to my tiny hotel room in Bayswater, close to central London where I would be staying for two nights. Bayswater would be my base from where I would try to see as much of central London as I possibly could in two days! The evening was spent walking around Bayswater, having some beers in pubs and meeting a super cool French girl who was streaming rugby on her laptop while the pub was watching football on the screens. She said she hated football as it was a pansy sport and she wished they would show a proper sport like rugby! We had a few beers and watched some rugby. Nice!
Saturday morning I got up early do start my exploring! I had no idea where to go or what to see, so I just made my way towards London and would just go where I felt like going!
I strolled through Kensington Gardens, past Kensington Palace and Round Pond, and I immediately fell in love with large open park spaces in big cities. I just loved seeing the people running, walking, sitting on benches reading, kids playing, people walking dogs. Everything just felt so peaceful even though you are in the middle of one of the largest and busiest cities in the world! I would find myself doing this (going to a park in a big, busy world city) on every trip I have done and every large city I visited since this first London trip.
I was a proper tourist those two days in London, and I could not care one bit looking like a proper tourist! I took pictures of stuff, I went to Starbucks, I sat in a street café, I even went to Harrods!
Some pics of my walk about London:
I decided to give the London Eye a go. There were no ques, so I went for it, very happy that I did, just a pity the weather spoiled the view a bit.
I must admit, there were two things that really stood out for me in London, one was Westminster Abbey. It is absolutely beautiful inside. You are not allowed to take pictures inside, so I cannot show you what it looks like, but believe me, it is worth a visit! I spent some time wondering the abbey and looking at all the tombstones of some very famous people, including Isaac Newton. It was fascinating, and so beautiful.
The second thing that really stood out from me in London was spending the evening in Trafalgar Square. I felt the same vibes as I did in Kensington Gardens earlier that morning, but this time it was a bit more lively and buzzing. I then also realized that I love the hustling bustling vibe of a big city at night just as much as the quiet peaceful vibes in the park. It is so sad that we cannot really experience this big city open air night vibes in our own major cities in South Africa. Maybe just maybe in Cape Town a bit, but in Johannesburg and Pretoria, sadly, you will not easily wander into the city center for a nighttime stroll and general wandering around. This is very sad……
Sunday I decided to go and see the Madame Tussauds Wax people. To be honest, it sucked! It was so packed with tourists that you could barely walk in there. The wax figures are not all that impressive either, anyone who said that they are so lifelike that it is hard to tell the difference, must have been blind, as any fool can spot they are not real from a mile away!! The only thing that caught me was to see how tall Prince William and Harry really are. William is 6’ 3” and Harry is 6’ 2”. So not short shits!
In hindsight I should have skipped Madame Tussauds and gone straight to the Tower of London. By the time I got to the Tower I was fast running out of time to get back to Heathrow. I needed to catch the flight back so that I could still be in time for work in Johannesburg the next morning!
To summarise my first trip overseas would be to call it a very quick splash & dash trying to fit in as much as you can in as short a time as possible. I hate travelling in this way, but in this case I had no choice. I must admit that I enjoyed it tremendously, apart from Madame Tussauds. I loved it, and my wish for travel grew. I wanted to see more places, sit in more parks, hang out in more public squares and meet more weird and wonderful people. I needed to! Luckily for me, later I had the opportunity to do this more, in different world cities.
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