Making the most of a short time in London

As I’ve said, both Wade and I have previously spent time in London. I was there for about 4 months at the end of my solo backpacking trip, living and working in a backpacker’s hostel in Shoreditch and also working as a walking tour guide in Westminster and the City of London. Wade worked in pubs in the less central areas of Wimbledon and Morden. Between us, we had the city covered.

Darc, on the other hand, had never been to London. Or, in fact, anywhere further from New Zealand than Bathurst (near Sydney). So we really wanted to show him some of the places that he would have seen in movies and on TV, and get him to fall in love with it the way we both had.

Our limited timeframes, and the fact that he had just flown half way around the world and his body clock hadn’t yet caught up, conspired against us, but we still gave it a go.

We organised our route from Heathrow to include a walk from Leicester Square to Charing Cross station, taking us through Trafalgar Square, from where he would be able to see Big Ben and Nelson’s Column.

Big Ben from Trafalgar Square

When we arrived it was raining, and we were tired and far behind schedule. No time to stop and admire the scenery.

Rain coming out of Leicester Square Tube station, London

Having lived in a highly transient backpacker setting, the majority of my friends have since gone home or to other places. So the chances of seeing anyone I knew from there were always pretty slim. The day we visited Translate for lunch, I thought my friend Carlos might have been there, but it turned out that it was his day off, and the girl working behind the bar was new enough that she didn’t even know that the coffee shop had formerly sold cronuts (a delicious blend of croissant pastry and doughnut shape that robbed me of my paycheck and my travelling physique on a daily basis).

Ana and Carlos in The Dictionary coffee shop, Shoreditch

Anyone who knew me during that splendid period of my life will attest to the level of horror the missing cronuts caused.

It was the same thing at Wade’s former pub – the Prince of Wales. We went in for lunch one day, and happened to bump into a couple of people he knew there, but on the whole, the place was as quiet as a churchyard.

Turns out it’s really hard to show someone how epic a city can be, when you have limited time available and the people who made the place home aren’t around anymore.

We did, however, have a few minor successes.

Darcy’s step-daughter asked him to tell the Queen that she said hi, so we made sure to take Darcy to Buckingham Palace.

Buckingham Palace, London

We had arranged to go to dinner and a show with my friend Sara, so decided to meet her at Victoria station and walk past the palace to Green Park, before catching another Tube to Covent Garden.

We managed to see the Queen’s guard and get a photo to prove he was there,

Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace

but for some reason, Darc was unimpressed.

Darcy at Buckingham Palace, UK

I think we did a little better with the show – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – which was unanimously declared a success. Wade’s only complaint was that our seats were not good enough, so we need to get better tickets next time (oh no, however will I cope?!).

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sign, Theatre Royal, London

Wade had more success with catching up with friends and family than I did (although I’m always happy when I get to see Sara – there are so many years in between!),

Sara and Jo - Richmond Park 2014

as he organised drinks at Ganley’s (the other pub where he used to work) and we also headed back down to see Nigel for an evening, with drinks in his village at the cutest little pub.

The Green, Westerham UK

Despite our best attempts at making our beloved London a fun experience for Darcy, there was ultimately little we could do about the hours we spent on the Tube or trying to navigate the city by car, working in garages, sorting out visas or shopping for camping gear and car supplies.

Admittedly, these are mostly things that Darcy generally loves, but anyone who’s ever spent hours on the Tube will know that there are better things to do with your time in the Big Smoke.

He’s not in a hurry to go back.

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