19/07/2013 - 19/07/2013 29 °C
It’s Monday morning and my feet have almost recovered from my self-guided walking tour of London on Friday. The day started at 4am, as I prepared to head to the train station to catch the 4.57am train to London Paddington. You may be wondering what possessed me to catch a train at such an hour, and the answer is of course – money. To get a later train would have meant buying a peak time train ticket, which would have cost an additional £115. Unfortunately not within my budget and, in my opinion, frankly not worth the additional expense for a couple of extra hours in bed.
It felt almost unnatural preparing for my day out in the darkness of the night, and was made to feel even more creepy by the noisy fox outside, whose eerie scream could be clearly heard through my open window. As I left my house, the fox proceeded to follow me down the street to my car, before scarpering off into the darkness … Only to re-appear sitting in the middle of the road as I turned onto the dual carriageway. As expected, he waited for me to approach before darting off the road in front of my car. Thankfully I had been expecting this and managed to avoid him.
My journey into London was uneventful, accompanied only by a few men in suits and a rather strong smell of aftershave throughout the train carriage. The time passed quickly, probably as I was still in a state of only semi-awakeness.
Upon arriving at London Paddington I was greeted with a little reminder of Bristol, a giant Gromit sculpture, part of the Gromit Unleashed trail. Led by Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal and Aardman Animations, Gromit Unleashed is a public art exhibition in which giant sculptures of Gromit, decorated by invited artists, have been unleashed on the streets of Bristol and the surrounding area. And one Gromit has evidently found its way into London. At the end of the art trail, the sculptures will be auctioned to raise funds for Wallace & Gromit's Grand Appeal, the Bristol Children's Hospital Charity.
I walked out of the station, possibly still not fully awake, without any sense of direction and soon realised I had no idea where I was heading. At this point I consulted my handy London Tripadvisor app and quickly got myself back on track. Before long I found myself entering Hyde Park. I was really impressed by this large and beautiful park in the middle of the city (I’m a country girl at heart). I wandered through the park in the early morning light, the only people I saw were a few joggers that quietly passed me by. It wasn’t long before I came across my first ‘London sight’, the Albert Memorial, with the impressive Royal Albert Hall behind. Glistening in the sunlight, the golden statue of Prince Albert contained by the ornate mosaic canopy was a magnificent sight.
After walking around the monument, and taking the photo opportunity while I appeared to be the only tourist around, I headed in the vague direction of St James’ Park and took a narrow path close to the edge of the park. I paused to take some photos of the city wildlife, when one squirrel in particular, paused to look back at me. I took his photo, and he ventured a few steps closer towards me. Again I took his photo and again he moved in closer towards me. It appeared he was moving towards to noise of the camera. I had heard the squirrels were very friendly in the park, but this one seemed exceptionally keen to come closer. It wasn’t long before he reached the path. I knelt down low to the ground and he made a dash towards me. He was of course very disappointed when he discovered I had no food to share with him, and quickly retreated back to a safe distance on the grass.
I spent the next few hours walking through London, viewing and photographing the sites and the park wildlife, before heading towards my ultimate destination – the Chinese Visa Application Centre. I paused to have some breakfast on a quiet, shady bench outside St Paul's Cathedral. I didn’t go inside the Cathedral, but the building is impressive and the Churchyard was peaceful and very pretty.
The process of applying for my visa was very easy, I had everything I needed and had already completed the application form. Although I arrived at the centre in plenty of time for my appointment, I spent two hours waiting to be seen. I was then told that, despite what the website had led me to believe, it was not possible to post the visa back to me and I would need to make a return journey to collect it the following week. I was disappointed, but if that’s what I need to do to get to China, that’s what I will do.
I took the long walk back towards the train station, stopping to eat some lunch on a shady bench in St James’ Park. It was a nice spot, next to the lake where I watched the various ducks, geese and swans paddling about enjoying the fine weather.
The journey back to Bristol was much more crowded, but still uneventful. After hours of walking around London my feet were really hurting and my legs beginning to ache. I have mixed feelings about how successful the day was – I managed to apply for my visa with minimal fuss, but I have to go back again to collect it, and I had a nice day and saw lots of impressive sights, but walked much too far and my feet really paid for it. But I’m looking on the bright side; I’m a big step closer to getting to China!