I’ve visited London for a total of two days, three years apart from each other. On both days I had just gotten off a cruise. On both days I was staying at a hotel connected to Gatwick Airport. On both days I took a 40 minute train ride into the city on the same line. On both days the weather was, well, characteristically London. This post is about the first day.
I left the train at Victoria Station and walked East. After passing Parliament Square, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben, I crossed the Thames (whose color was similar to that of the aforementioned sky and streets) along the Westminster Bridge.
The Queen’s Walk on the East bank of the Thames was damp with rain and lined with numerous tourist attractions: a 4-D theater, an aquarium, food stands, the works. And, of course, the London Eye, one of the city’s landmarks. Even on an ugly day the place was swarming with visitors who gazed up at the huge superstructure. Sleek and minimalist, the Eye represented the London of today: a fast-paced, innovative, and multicultural city born in the Roman Empire, nursed by poets and artists, and ruled by kings and queens.
The sun was actually starting to come out, and standing in a spacey glass pod ascending to the massive ferris wheel’s peak, I could see the city from above- but not all of it. Because there are relatively few skyscrapers (as is the case with most European cities), London’s population is spread out in short, traditional-style buildings reaching further than the eye can see. And the Thames winds through it all, growing wider as it flows East to the North Sea.
After stepping off the Eye, we search for somewhere to eat. The thing about London is that there are countless types of restaurants and foods from basically every culture around the globe. I think it’s because nobody really wants to eat England’s notoriously banal cuisine; the vacuum left by such restaurants has been filled by a multiethnic soup of flavors and colors.
So, seeking some lunch that will make us forget about the country we’re currently in, we step into Wagamama, a Japanese ramen bar with long communal tables serving pan-Asian dishes. It’s like a sit-down, Asian version of Chipotle, and I order a bowl of noodles with chicken- an excellent choice.
After our multicultural experience, there’s little time left to do anything but wander around through the local neighborhood. Soon after the sun sets, it’s time to head back to the airport to pack up for the flight home tomorrow. I leave Victoria Station feeling nowhere near satisfied with London; I’m eager to explore all those neighborhoods I observed from atop the Eye, more than ready for my next visit.
Header: Big Ben and the Thames at twilight