The first thing I notice is that London is dirty. Especially compared to Reykjavik. The woman at the hostile had told me there were several beds available but when I went to make a reservation all 4 hostels were full so I put out couchsurf requests. I woman answered immediatly. They live in Rumford which is 30-40 minutes by train from central London so I learned the train system well and quickly but I must say that riding the underground and the busses at 10 pm is not loads of fun. Before I went on this adventure I never thought I’d say this but I was missing Iceland.
I arrived at their house late and stayed up talking with them-Cash and Stacey. He is from Pakistan and she is from London. They are both in their late 20’s. He like to talk about religion.
I woke up for my full day in London and bussed and trained to the center of town which was packed, even on the off season. I walked toward the houses of Parliment, Scotland Yard, Westminster Abbey and the other main sights I wanted to see. I decided not to get a map because I wanted to just wander but I could see Big Ben and The Eye in the distance so I walked that direction down a main street. Before long the streets started to fill. It was as if people just appeared out of nowhere. In about two minutes it went from a little crowded to shoulder to shoulder and most were Muslim and most looked angry and rushed. I could hear a mans voice shouting over a megaphone and saw speckles of bright yellow vests of the police scattering and lining the streets. The crowd was thick with mostly muslim men and some obvious tourists, all couples or young european looking men with expensive cameras around their necks. I didn’t see any other women alone so I started to turn around because while I might be borderline crazy for traveling around Europe alone, I am not actually crazy for real, but it was like country fair during the sweep or Disneyland on spring break and there was no turning around so I kept going.
There were men holding signs that said “I love Mohammed more than I love my life” and they were shouting “today is the day, the time is now”. All I could think of was get me the fuck out of here, preferably now. The streets and sidewalks were packed with protesters for several blocks but eventually the crowd started to thin and I started to breath again. I’m pretty sure I have never ever wanted to leave a place more.
I saw parliament and the Abbey and walked the Thames river path to London Bridge and saw the Tower and drank bad coffee. I didn’t talk to anyone all day except a little girl who asked me what I was doing as a sat writing on my Ipad.
Back at the house we watched the news coverage of the protest. They said it was 10,000 strong and Stacey said she had never heard of anything like it in London. She said I was lucky to see it. Hmmm? I was glad to be back at the house. You can check it out here. http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/02/08/thousands-of-muslims-protest-downing-street-over-mohammed-cartoons/
London was a big city with a lot to see. I walked the White Chapel neighborhood and by the bar the Jack the Ripper frequented. And Fleet Street and went to the Tate Modern for a few minutes. I saw a lot in my full day of walking but honestly, it’s pretty much like any big city, you know, that has a house of parliament , mad amounts of history, 10,000 person protests in the street and tea and biscuits on every corner.
Cash did make me British pancakes before I left. Basically lemon crepes. They were amazing.
I left Paddington station at 11:00 the next day headed to Wales. I saw a lot of country side and small towns. The station I needed to switch in was small. I was the only person in the deli. I ordered an amazing Brie, bacon and cranberry sandwich and wine. I asked the woman working there where I was. “Oh honey, you’re in a deli in a train station in Wales…if ya don’t know that I’m not sure you should be ordering wine”. She was great. Showed me a map and told me about some of the cities I would pass through on my way to Carmarthen.
It was sunny on the platform and there were only three other people minding their own business so I kicked off my boots and unrolled my yoga mat and did the first yoga I had done since leaving home. After about fifteen minutes a very old man sat on the bench near me and was laughing and smiling and he said…”now I’ve seem everything, a barefoot American doing yoga on a platform.” He kept laughing and saying “yoga, yoga, yoga”.
I asked him how he knew I was American without talking to me and he said “yoga on the platform”. Everyone else however, ignored me completely.
I’m glad I saw London but Wales…… Ahhh….