A Perfect Last Day in London

November 5, 2012 at 8:50 pm Leave a comment

So I sort of forgot that I had just one post left to finish my Europe trip. My Europe trip from summer 2011. Oups? Anyway, better late than never. Story of my life, right?

On my last day in Europe, I woke up in London alone. It was a little unsettling, actually. I had a vague memory of my hostel roommates coming in after I’d already gone to bed, but the bunks had these scraps of fabric hanging around them for privacy, and I felt weird poking my head out from my privacy screen to view my roommates. Plus, when I’m as exhausted as I am at the end of a long trip, if I wake up in the middle of the night, I only have about 8 seconds of semi-coherency before I pass out again. So passing out won, and when I woke up the next morning, the room was deserted.

So I enjoyed the luxury of having my own bathroom, and got ready to spend a perfect last day in London. I was on my own, so I was determined to make the most of the day. And as can be expected, I had a lot of food-related goals for my last day in Europe in the foreseeable future. So I fired up my laptop in the pub downstairs, charted a course, and set out for the Tube station to buy a day pass, by way of Caffe Nero. I’d started a punch card at Nero on the first London leg of my trip, and I was so excited that I’d filled it up and got to begin my perfect last day with a free frappé.

I headed to Oxford Street first, where I ducked into Selfridge’s, one of London’s fancy department stores. Reason? Macarons. I knew that I couldn’t leave Europe without one more batch of real macarons, and Selfridge’s had a Pierre Hermé boutique. The toughest part was choosing just six flavours, as I had a very limited amount of funding for my final day in London. This wasn’t just a question of which flavours I wanted that day, but which flavours did I want to remember for an indeterminate amount of time until either I was able to return to Europe, or I could go to Japan, or Pierre Hermé finally opened a boutique in the States, preferably Chicago, preferably in the Fulton River District. I would love to tell you which six flavours I finally chose, but I wrote that information down in my magenta journal, which I have regrettably misplaced. When I find it, I’ll come back and edit this post. Until then, please enjoy the photo and imagine how amazing those little cookies were. Flavour explosions with the perfect macaron texture. I’m sure one of them involved hazelnut.

Macarons are best when they’re fresh (fun fact: they actually don’t keep beyond a day or so, unless you freeze them), and I didn’t want to risk them getting smooshed in my bag, so I decided to enjoy them right away. I walked up one of the side streets off of Oxford Street, found a makeshift bench, and devoured them. Of course, there weren’t any trash bins around, so I folded up the bag and put it in my jacket pocket. I still have it.

Even though I’d only been in London for two weeks that summer, I’d managed to find a favourite coffee shop. Not just a favourite chain, but a favourite location. I went to it 3 or 4 times during those two weeks, and I was determined to go back, even though I probably passed about 8 Caffe Neros on my way to the shop on St. Martin’s Lane between Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden.

Caffe Nero makes a mean latte, and it’s even better when you tell them that you’re staying for a while and they put it in a tall glass. After my latte and some writing time, I meandered through Covent Garden, where I’d previously enjoyed an amazing day of music, cupcakes, and frozen yogurt, but I had a different froyo goal this time.

I needed Snog! In my extensive frozen yogurt research in London, I determined that it was Snog that I needed to have. I went with my traditional order: tart yogurt with strawberry, kiwi, and banana, and it did not let me down! Despite the creative framing of the above photo, the Snog in Soho was packed with tourists and locals alike, and the speakers were pumping really obnoxious music. It would have destroyed the experience if the froyo hadn’t been so good. Fortunately, the froyo was delightful, and I happily logged another food victory for the day in my journal.

After Snog, I was pretty stuffed, and I decided that a stroll through a park was just what I needed. I hadn’t been to Buckingham Palace on this trip yet, and despite it being a magnet for aimless tourists, I decided to join the masses (after a stroll through Green Park).

Of course, I can’t blame the masses for being enamoured with something so gorgeous. I’d been by it on my 2007 trip to London, but I didn’t take time then to really appreciate all of the details. I mostly just peered into the gate and tried to take photos of the guy in the fuzzy hat. This time, I had a nice walk while I tried to ignore the crowds. At least I wasn’t there for the changing of the guard; I’ve heard that’s madness.

I loved the giant monument to Queen Victoria, because I’m a little fascinated by monarchs, and she’s one of Britain’s most notable ones.

Buckingham Palace opens part of its doors to the public each summer, but unfortunately, I was just a couple of weeks early. Next time I go to London, I’ll have to go later in the summer! With, you know, the rest of Europe on their August holidays.

It was late afternoon as I sat at Buckingham Palace and wondered what to do next. I looked at the map and decided to stick with the Victoria theme and walk to Victoria Station, since it was one of the big rail stations in London that I hadn’t passed through. I’m a bit of (more than ‘a bit of’) a transit nerd, and I just really like being in train stations. I like photographing them, too.

Neither the exterior nor the interior of Victoria Station was a disappointment. Rush hour started to creep in as I wandered around, so I found a quiet corner: a pub on the second level had a balcony, and I sat and drank a pint of Bulmer’s cider, which was also on my list of things that I wanted to do on my last day in London. I’m glad that I picked Bulmer’s, as Magner’s and Strongbow are imported here and not too difficult to find in the autumn, but I haven’t seen Bulmer’s since I left London.

After about an hour, the cider was gone, and so was the foot traffic, so I decided to call it a day. At Paddington Station, I made one last trip through Simply Food and picked up my favourite salad with quinoa for dinner. I went back to the hostel, and sat in the pub downstairs for a while, catching up on email, chatting with friends, and looking through some of the photos from an amazing trip. I had another cider (but they only had Strongbow), met some other travellers, triple-checked my flight time, and called it a night.

Back in my room, I had a new set of roommates, a trio of Americans who were backpacking across a whole lot of Europe, which was my dream trip at one point. I listened to some of their stories and gave them a few London recommendations, as well as the map that I’d been carrying around for a month. I packed up my things as best as I could and apologized profusely for having to get up so early to go to the airport.

At Heathrow, which is tied with Philadelphia as my least favourite airport ever (I’d rather hang out in the airport in Fargo, ND…at least they have couches!), I fell asleep sitting in the overcrowded holding pen that is the international departures hall. They don’t release your gate until it’s actually time to board, so everyone has to sit in a common waiting area, surrounded by high-end shops. I had a few pounds left to spend, but actually had a hard time spending them, since my 10 pounds weren’t going to go far at Prada. I ended up buying some overpriced postcards and some snacks, as well as a cup of coffee (sadly not Nero, but Costa), but the coffee still barely kept me coherent as I tried not to fall asleep while I waited for my gate to be announced.

Seeing Brad Pitt helped a bit, though. He looked a lot more well-rested than I did. He was being led somewhere, surrounded by an entourage. I bet he got a couch.


Entry filed under: England, Europe, London, Photos, United Kingdom. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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A serial road tripper chronicles her adventures.


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