Stuffed Squirrels and Tube Cats – London, United Kingdom

On Saturday I slept until late afternoon and went to the Queen Mary which is a boat turned into a bar/nite club on the Thames river. It was really fun but we made it an early night as we were all pretty tired from the night before. It was located very close to the club we went to Friday night and it was hard for me not to think about what a crazy nite that was.

Sunday, we lazed around then went shopping for groceries at the local supermarket. I am still surprised by some of the different foods they have here. I tasted Vegemite and well, even though it is full of salt which I love, I just don`t think its going to become a staple in my diet. We walked to a nearby park and had a picnic. The day was hot and sunny as we tossed a ball around. We made a gigantic sandwich with hummus, tomato, avocado, lettuce, ham, brie, coleslaw, and the longest french bread you ever did see. We ate and drank until we were stuffed. Then we had fresh pineapple for dessert.

Afterwards, we went over to Kirsty and James` friends house for a bbq. Everyone seemed to be from New Zealand here working to make money and travel. The talk was all about who was going where and when. I just listened quietly in the corner as I tried to sort out the accent. Supper was delicious and the fruit salad for dessert topped off a great evening. I was surprised how quickly things cooled off as soon as the sun went down.

Today I went to St. Paul’s Cathedral which is where Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married. I have never been in such an awesome church. It was beyond words. I climbed up a million (ok…maybe only 800) stairs and my legs were shaking by the time I got to the top. But the view was worth it. From the very top I could see everything! I got some really great pics as it was a nice sunny day today. I made my way down all the stairs and ate some rice pudding in the grassy park outside the church. There were lots of people sleeping, eating, reading, visiting.

Next, I hopped on the tube and meant to go to London Tower but I ended up going the wrong way so I went to Westminster Abbey instead. It was also very big but I didn`t go in. I visited the House of Parliament and Big Ben. They were built in a dark Gothic type style which seemed very odd to me. Lots of sharp looking jagged edges and not too friendly.

There was some kind of firemen strike happening in front and it was deafening. There were so many people I was afraid to cross the street. I thought I may just get swept away with it. But it was a peaceful protest as they were just demanding more money. I wondered what would happen if there was a big fire because by the looks of it, every fireman from Europe was there.

From there I ate my banana as I walked through beautiful St. James Park. There were vibrant flowers of all colors as well as swans, ducks and pelicans. It was not really busy so I decided to walk through the park to Buckingham Palace.

On the way, I noticed an older gentleman reading a paper with a bucket of nuts beside him. As I walked by I heard him address someone named Susie. I took a double take as a obviously overfed squirrel with a brown bushy tale climbed up the bench and began feeding on the nuts. Intrigued I sat down and studied the situation. I learned that the man had been living in the UK his whole life and has been living in London for 43 years! He said that he loved it and would never move.

Apparently, he comes everyday and feeds the squirrels. He loves watching the tourists and enjoying the fresh air. We came to the conclusion that `Susie` (which is every squirrels name according to him) must be pregnant because she ate for at least a half hour. I think she must`ve finished off half his bucket. He kept asking people who would stop by if they were named Susie…and if they were, he would give them a nut. I wished my new friend well and was on my way.

Buckingham Palace was not as grand as I thought it should be. It looked rather ordinary actually but I have to admit that I didnt` go in so I probably can`t make a proper statement. I watched the guards for a while and I jumped in surprise when one started moving. I thought they were supposed to stand still all the time. And all of a sudden he just started walking around! It was so funny. I thought maybe he had to go to the loo (what Brits call the bathroom) but he just paced back and forth. Then the other one started shifting his gun back and forth. It was good to see that they get to move a bit in case their foot falls asleep or something.

After I tired of the guards I walked towards Piccadilly Circus. I stopped in at a tourist office (yes, even though I am backpacking I still do touristy things) and they were sampling all sorts of cheeses, wines, breads and some kind of pork thingy. It was pretty good and quite timely as my tummy was starting to grumble for more than just the banana previous.

I walked on to Piccadilly Circus but I wasn`t sure what I was expecting. Turns out its a big electronic billboard (like in Times Square kinda) and a round-a-bout (traffic circle) with a fountain in the middle. I took a walk through Tower Records then decided to sit by the fountain and people watch. It didn`t smell right here and the fountain kept on squirting me not to mention the shady characters that seemed to be sizing me up, so I left.

I went down to the tube station and jumped on (the pro that I am now..hehe) except that because one station (a crucial station for me) was closed so I had to backtrack twice. Ug. I started getting a little grumpy because now it was getting close to 5 and people were starting to stampede. I walked down the escalator and learned that you have to stay right if your standing because the walkers get the left side.

I heard some beautiful music as I neared the bottom of what seemed like the longest escalator in the world. At the bottom, I saw that a man dressed up in a Sylvester the Cat costume was playing Phil Collins` `You Cant Hurry Love`. I found myself instantly uplifted and felt obligated to go back and donate to his sax case. I have found many very talented people in Europe and although I can`t give to everyone, I try to give to the ones that make me smile. And that cat did that.

I hummed all the way back to Willesden Green station. I didn`t even get annoyed by the constant `MIND THE GAP` announcements that come on at almost every station. You would think they would have measured the trains before they built the platforms…as it is there is a huge space in which you could lose bags, shoes, small children. I stopped at the supermarket on the way home and bought a bunch of food to make supper for my gracious hosts. I made Indian food which everyone appeared to enjoy. I fooled around with my photos and should be able to get them up for you all to see this week.

Tomorrow morning, I am leaving at 6am (ouch!) to Bath. I plan to continue on to Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and back to England. I should be back to London in a few weeks before I am off to France. I was pleasantly surprised that it has been so sunny here in London. I still keep my rain suit handy just in case…but sunny days are a treat here and the whole mood of the city seems to reflect that.

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