I can make up a thousand arguments in my head only to remain silent in real life
I woke up really early and hadn't gotten much sleep the previous night either. It was the day of Vishu, a religious festival celebrated in Kerala. When the day of Vishu begins, one is supposed to wake up to the sight of their prayer room decorated with lamps, flowers and things you hold dear. Falling asleep after that was nearly impossible. So with a 2 hour sleep in my inventory, I walked to the Guildford station for my train at 6 in the morning. Like the loner I am, I would rather unalive before asking someone for help deciding or designing an itinerary. So, without any preparation or research, with the pocket money I had just received from my parents back in Oman, i set out on a rather lazy, lonely journey. Here's how it went.
It was a surprise, my train arrived right at the time it was supposed to contrary to my past experiences. Finding a seat wasn't an issue, because it was practically empty. In half an hour or less, I got out at London Waterloo. It was confusing and huge (I rehearse my McDonald's order thrice, this was beyond overwhelming). So, I just followed the small crowd of people who had got off the train along with me, hoping that they're heading for the exit (thankfully, they were).
Upon reaching the gates, I started fumbling between my debit card and the ticket in my hands not knowing which is the one supposed to be swiped or inserted. After a whole 30 seconds of observing people, I pushed in my ticket and walked out. That was 10% of my social battery draining in less than 5 minutes of arriving in London.
To go to the left or right was the next dilemma, there were escalators and doors in every direction. Took me 3 minutes to turn on maps and look what was around before selecting a destination and turning the directions on. The first thing I stumbled upon was an average dressed man asking for change. Like the dumbass I am, I dug my pockets for my wallet only to realize midway that he wasn't asking for a change instead of a note. Made some inaudible excuse and resumed following the map to the London eye.
Mistake number 1? Too early. I myself couldn't figure out what I had in mind when I came this early. After a photoshoot of London Eye from 3 or 4 different angles, I proceeded to walk to whatever was nearby which happened to be Big Ben via the Westminster Bridge. The view from the bridge was refreshing. The pigeons along the bridge add a nice touch if you diregard the p**p on the road. At a distance, the Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster basked in a golden glow under the morning sunshine; a sight to behold indeed. With not much people around, the view was uninterrupted and I just stood there for a few minutes, idle and thoughtless just staring at these magnificent buildings to the left and the wheel overlooking River Thames on the right.
The next plan was unclear and without a prepared itinerary, I decided to walk around until I stumbled upon something worth exploring. Walking around for quite sometime, I came across the Whitehall Gardens and decided to wander around it. Nothing much to see here, except it's a nice walk if you want to drown in your own world, it was basically empty other than one or two joggers who passed through. Walking out of that, there is an extension of the same through to the Victoria Embankment Gardens which is equally mesmerising if you're a fan of nature. The wheel is visible pretty elegantly from here along the breezy riverside.
Leicester Square was up next. I came across the flag pole that holds the 26 Confederation flags as a commemoration of the Swiss Centre building that used to be located around here. The Swiss Glockenspiel is located right behind the pole with a clock, bells and some figures around in a circle. The iconic hub is a myriad of cultures, entertainment and what not. If you come with a budget, you might want to keep your curiosity at bay, because exploring everything can be heavy on the pocket. (If you have no friends, social life or the need to explore everything, you're on the safer side like me.)
Anyway, at a five minute walk from the Leicester Square you can find the very talked about China Town, a collection of restaurants and cafes. I walked the entire place only to realize everything opens after 11 or 12 (it was still 89 or 9:30). So, I decided to come back later and walked to Trafalgar Square. It was the same with a bit of NYC vibes, I have no idea why I felt like that. By the time I had walked around the entire place, it was close to 10.
It was the only thing I had on my itinerary for which I booked the ticket on a Friday; the changing of guards ceremony at the Buckingham Palace. I fancied anything minutely military for a long time, so this was no surprise. I made my way into the Buckingham Palace Garden and had a mocha from the Colicci Ritz Corner at the entrance. Would recommend if you have been running low on energy. They offer ice creams and sandwiches as well. Once, I had reached, I spoke to quite a few strangers about random stuff (completely unlike me, I just felt like socialising for a second there). Some of them were tourists, others were residents of other cities here for a good holiday. Then, the wait began, it was surprising that almost 2 hours before the ceremony, the place was already getting crowded. I got to stand real close to the palace boundary, but behind this 6 feet tall woman.
After an hour of sipping my mocha as slow as possible and downing it after realizing, waiting anymore would make it cold; I opened social media for a while draining my battery to well below 50% from a solid 80% when the ceremony started. Then it began, my view was the backs of people who were really taller than me, my 5 ft self could only watch more than half of it from the phone of the dude recording in front of me. Things I noticed other than the ceremony (which I obviously couldn't because of my height) was the architecture. So while it felt like my backpack got heavier as minutes went by, I took my own time to admire the neoclassical architecture of the building, given there was nothing else to do. Two things I noticed was; first, that in the Royal Coat of Arms on the pediment of the palace, the unicorn seems to be chained while the lion wasn't. The second being that on the pediment on the rightmost part of the facade, there was a plant growing. I don't know why I noticed these, but well whatever.
After getting out after the ceremony, I needed to charge my phone while allowing my shoulders be free from the burden of the backpack for a while. So I sat at a bench as soon as the people on it walked away. It was sunny but not unbearably hot, so I left my turtleneck and jacket on. The charging took a good 2 hours for which I simply sat watching and brushing off the twenty spiders that rapelled down onto my bag from the trees above. Special shoutout to the pores of flowers that would fall right on the phone screen. I came across an elderly couple who had just sat down on the bench to take a break from the protest they were a part of to address climate change and its impacts.
Once I had about 25% charge in my phone even after 2 hours (thanks to me deciding it was a good idea to scroll through the gram while it was charging), I stood up, heading next to Hyde Park which was the first place that caught my eye on the map. It was a long walk, to and through the park with nothing much to watch. A huge crowd of lively, young people, some just lying down on their picnic mats, some skateboarding, some having their drinks or ice creams and some just walking along.
After coving the entire area on foot, I decided there was nothing that caught my attention except the swans in and around the lake, the dogs that came for walks with their parents and view when for a second the clouds covered the sun.
It was time I headed back to China town as the hunger was finally getting to me. Thanks to the total messing up of my eating schedule after coming to the UK and my lack of cooking skills, one meal a day was basically how I lived now. I walked another hour to find a restaurant and decided I would try starters from different places. I ended up having dimsums, hotdogs, sushi, soups, chicken wings and things I dont remember names. After the meals, I walked around hoping to find the shaved ice place I saw earlier in the morning. I circled the entire place about 5 times and I still couldn't find it. So I settled with a place called Wangyoo that had a cafe and an gaming cave alongside. I had a mango rice pudding drink. As fancy as it sounded, I couldn't drink it for more than 5 minutes. The lack of sugar and the flavors not getting along pissed me off; had to bin it right outside the place.
At the end of the day, I felt like I had seen so much yet seen nothing. One reason I personally don't like day trips is the lack of options and knowledge that leads to artificial experiences because you end up doing what someone on the internet suggested you to in a restricted amount of time.
So, by 8 I boarded my train back to Guildford and that was the end of a day in London. As a first time solo travel, I would like to think I failed in many aspects of enjoying the trip, but again, all that falls under the 'experiences' category, doesn't it?