I slept surprisingly well the first night, and woke up early - which was good. I usually didn't have much energy at nights to deal with what had happened during the day, and since I often woke up early, I could take some time in the mornings to go through the day before and also to prepare myself for the day that was in front of me. Not bad at all! :-)
I went down to breakfast at about 7.50 a.m., it was nice that a continental breakfast was included in the price of the hotel room and I have to say, for a continental breakfast at a relatively cheap hotel, it was quite satisfactory - we got cereal and milk, juice, toast, ham & cheese, boiled eggs and coffee/tea. Quite nice and quite sufficient ... I'm not the kind of person that can cope with a "Full English Breakfast" at 7.30 in the morning!! :-)
I went back to my room to collect my things but was out and about at around 8.20 a.m.
I took a walk down to Bayswater Road and went into Hyde Park at the Victoria Gate - what a perfect way to start the first day in London! The weather was absolutely perfect, it was quite chilly (which I like!) but the sun was out and it was a beautiful clear blue sky! I took a long and quite calm walk through Hyde Park, down to the "end" of the Serpentine, ended up in an adorable little Rose Garden, where I actually made a friend! :-) There are lots and lots of cute little squirrels in the parks of London, and when I was about to walk out of the Rose Garden I spotted one next to a tree, quite close to the path I was on. I stopped, and then he rose up on his hind legs, looking SO cute! I grabbed the camera and took some photos, and then he decided to come closer (people feed them all the time, so they are not at all as shy and jittery as the squirrels we have here!) ... and closer ... and closer ... and ended up jumping up on a pole right in front of me!! So adorable!! I wish I had had something to give him ....
Since the weather was still good, and they had said it would be worse during the afternoon and the following day, I really felt I should try to go on London Eye - felt like it would be more fun to go if it was sunny than if it rained ... and then I just completely made a fool of myself - well, almost anyway.
I guess I can blame it on the fact that it's been a while since I been to London and this was my first day, or something - but I ended up thinking sooo wrong!
So, I was down at Hyde Park Corner, and needed to get to Parliament Square - by bus (still haven't mastered the underground, but I will hopefully get back to that in another entry!)! Felt like, no, probably no buses will take me straight there ... maybe I can catch a bus from Oxford Street. Yeah right, it's actually quite a bit to walk from Hyde Park Corner to Oxford Street ...
After having walked for a while I realized, I'm not sure that there are any buses going all the way from Oxford Street (technically Marble Arch) to Parliament Square ... but I do know that bus no. 12 stops at Parliament Square. One problem, it starts at Oxford Circus! Okay, maybe I can take a "short-cut", walk straight through and come out at Regent Street, and catch the no. 12 bus from there.
(Yes, no need to tell me, I just thought about it all the wrong way!!)
This is what I in the end actually did, which was madness. It was so far to go, and all the streets in London are like a giant big maze, nothing just cuts straight across. What I also hadn't thought of was that I'd be crossing right through Mayfair - which is this really posh area of central London where all the high-fashion boutiques are ... boy, did I feel out of place!!??!!
I finally ended up at Regent Street, but my feet were absolutely killing me at this point. Naturally, I went the wrong way on Regent Street and ended up having to walk all the way up to Oxford Circus, before I could finally get on a bus and rest my feet for a little while.
I got off the bus at Parliament Square, and I really really love that place, it's amazing!! I ended up taking quite a lot of photos there, then walked across Westminster Bridge and took even more photos! ;-)
I walked over to London Eye - and learned something else there! If you want to visit London Eye, no matter when, book a ticket in advance!!! There, lesson learned!
The queues were really long, although I have to say I am surprised that it didn't take longer time, at first I thought I'd be standing in line until late in the afternoon! Once I had gotten my ticket and got out of the ticket office, it turned out there was another queue to get on the actual wheel.
But, again, it went pretty smoothly and it didn't require as much waiting as I thought it would.
When we approached the wheel they had a full security check with body scanners and the whole nine yards - again, I realize the necessity and I think it is good, but it does still make me a bit uncomfortable!
I was also quite surprised about the fact that they don't stop the wheel for people to get on and off (had actually wondered about that before as well), they have this really long ramp and the put people in different lines and you basically have get on (or off) while the pod you are in is still moving! I mean, it's not moving fast or anything, and they can stop the wheel if it's needed, but I got a bit stressed about that, so it felt a bit scary to get on (but it worked out quite well).
The tour on London Eye was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, it was absolutely fantastic!! I took a ton of photos and, to my surprise, I didn't even feel uncomfortable about the hight!! I usually get dizzy if I have to climb a kitchen chair, I don't dare to walk the roof on our summerhouse, which is low and fairly flat, but riding this giant wheel, which is 135 meters (!), was quite all right! :-)
I won't go on and on about it, but the half hour it takes for the wheel to go around went way to quickly and I gladly would have stayed in there and gone one more time! :)
However, my feet were hurting before and after having stood still (well almost, you can move around in that pod, but not that much), both waiting in line and on the wheel, I really really needed a rest!
I took a short break, but for some reason I didn't feel like I could just sit still and do nothing ... so I started walking again! :-)
Went over Westminster Bridge, took more photos, went over by Westminster Abbey, and took photos and continued to walk along Victoria Street and tried to find New Scotland Yard, with the cool sign outside ... but no luck! According to the map I should have walked right passed it, but I didn't see it! :( Continued a bit along Victoria Street and turned at Buckingham Gate, and walked up to Buckingham Palace! It's really an impressive sight to see, that's for sure. Walked around there for a bit, and took some photos (duh! what else?! *lol*). The flag was raised so The Queen was apparently there!
From Buckingham Palace I went to St. James' Park, I really like the parks in London! :-) Walked there for a while, went over the bridge and finally found a bench to sit down (by this time, I thought my feet were about to fall off!!). Didn't sit long though, as a few benches over there was this extraordinary old man, feeding the squirrels and the pigeons and the other birds from his hands. It was the most amazing thing, the squirrels jumped up on his knee and ate from his hand!! Other people were taking pictures, and so of course I had to get up and do the same! :-)
And then I continued walking ... Apparently the path I was on was closed due to construction work, so I walked back, crossed the bridge again and continued toward Whitehall - and I met the Pelicans! *lol* They are totally cool!! :-)
Walked passed the Horse Guards and onto Whitehall, and further up to Trafalgar Square. At this point I also realized I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, and maybe a meal, and a place to sit down, and a bathroom, would be a good thing. But of course, once you start looking, you don't find it!!
I had in mind that there was a McDonald's low on Regent Street, near Piccadilly Circus, so I took a bus from Trafalgar Square - but of course I didn't find it!! By this time I wasn't feeling well at all, so I took another bus to Oxford Street and figured I'd have to be able to find a burger on Oxford Street ... yeah, well ... sort of ...
Found a sign for McDonald's at Bond Street Station, went in and found it eventually. It was really hectic and stressful but I placed my order, and saw that they had "seating downstairs". Okay, down some really horrible stairs (with my feet barely working and balancing a huge tray that was not easy) only to find like 7 tables, all totally crowded, and no restroom!!! Gahhhh!
I had to eat my burger standing up, still hadn't found a bathroom and it was hardly the relaxing break I had been hoping for, that's for sure!!!
It was still fairly early, but I really didn't know what to do ... my feet were not in a good shape, and I had eaten so fast I felt sick - but I still didn't want to just "go home". I ended up taking a bus out to Queensway and went there for a little while, headed over to Kensington Gardens, but it felt like the rain was going to start any minute, and I really really didn't feel like walking any more - I was seriously scared I would injure my feet to the point where I wouldn't be able to walk much at all for the rest of the trip, not good! - so even though it was rather early, I went back to the hotel and tried to relax a bit.