Yesterday I had the pleasure of having my sister come up for the day, but we were faced with a problem. Neither of us are tourists so didn't particularly care about seeing the sites, but it was such a lovely day that we didn't really want to be inside either. So what did we do? Why, we wandered!
We met at Leicester Square to see if we could get any cheap matinee tickets. That proved unsuccessful so we caffeinated up at Starbucks for a while, just chatting and catching up on life. We were near Covent Garden so we headed up there, stopping into Foyles on the way, and into the beautiful Neal's Yard. Neal's Yard is a quirky, colourful little street - well, a yard really! - just off Seven Dials. It's exactly the kind of place I'd like to hang out or live in, if there was such an area in London.
We wandered around Covent Garden a bit more, listening to a very casual (hands in pockets casual) opera singer busking and then realised we were getting a bit peckish. We stumbled upon a burger joint called MEATmarket which was going for the distressed, grungy vibe. My burger was called the 'Dead Hippie' which I ordered mostly for the name, I'll be honest, and came laden with jalepenos. No, I do mean laden. So loaded I had to scrape some of them off lest steam came out of my mouth.
Full up, we took to walking again and headed over the Thames toward Southbank. You get a pretty darn good view of London on the bridge, the city with the Gherkin, St Paul's etc to the left and Westminster to the right. Southbank was heaving and the Southbank Festival Hall centre was having a 'Big Wedding Weekend'. People were actually having their wedding receptions inside! Outside was a wedding themed disco/dance open to the general public. People were getting the Cha-Cha Slide terribly wrong but they all seemed to know the YMCA. It was getting warm by then so we walked along to Festival Gardens and stretched out in the sun for a bit.
We ended up near Trafalgar Square, after stopping in Waterstones, and we debated what to do for a while. Since we couldn't make up our minds we walked down the Mall and into St James' Park. The ducks and geese were out in full force, enjoying the last of the summer weather and the view you get of Whitehall Court and Horse Guards Parade with the lake in the foreground was stunning. We kept on walking, past Buckingham Palace and into Green Park where we sat and talked until it was time for Laura to get her train at Victoria.
If you have been to London countless times, or if you live there, it's often easy to dismiss the tourist places. They are crowded and there are surely only so many times that the views can be exciting. But as I wandered around this great city, I realised how truly beautiful it is. It is so historically varied, with medieval buildings next to skyscrapers and classical-style architecture adjacent to warehouses, It is an urban jungle with green, pleasant gardens; a meandering maze of a city with gems tucked down alleyways. It is a city made for exploring, for putting on comfortable shoes, closing the guidebook and just going - with eyes open and expectations high.