Day 3 and our first stop in the United Kingdom: London! But first, we had to figure out how the train system worked. I thought I had public transportation pretty much figured out after moving to the Bay Area for school, but this was surprisingly difficult. Turns out neither me nor Li are used to taking a train at all (unless you count BART, which I don’t), much less having so many options for which train to take.
Travel tip #1: If you ever plan on going to the U.K. and taking trains around, get a railcard. We got the Two Together railcard which is meant for (you guessed it) two people who plan on travelling together often. We got to split the price of the card AND get a huge discount on travel. They also offer many other options which can be found on their website.
After finally figuring out the train and the Tube (London underground) systems, we dropped our luggage off at our AirBnB and ran out for food. Li was set on getting fish and chips, so we ended up at the local pub right around the corner, the Pineapple Pub by Lambeth North station. Unfortunately (or maybe not, I wouldn’t know), I’m allergic to fish, so I just got a chicken burger, which, at 4 PM after only having a quick breakfast before hopping on a plane, was pretty heavenly.
Travel tip #2: Get an Oyster card for the Tube. It saves you a lot of money on each trip you make and it has a daily cap, so once you get past that (~£9.50 depending on where you’re traveling), every ride is basically free!
So we didn’t actually realize there was a cap on the card until the next day, and we figured we should exercise, so we decided to walk over to the River Thames and explore on foot. Along the way, though, we happened upon the Old Vic, an old theater in London that was established in 1818. Posters were up advertising the performance of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead with Daniel Radcliffe as Rosencrantz. Li loves plays, and what I wanted to watch (Royal Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty) was completely sold out, so we spontaneously bought tickets for the play.
With two hours to kill before the start of the play, we walked towards the National Theatre building and down by the river.
By the riverside, before we got onto the bridge by the theater, we ran into a makeshift skate park covered in layers colorful graffiti. We were first attracted by the sound of a barking dog, and found, to our surprise, a little dog skating around on a board with the rest of the skaters.
After dragging ourselves away from the adorable puppy, we headed across a bridge over the River Thames.
We were originally supposed to go check out the London Dungeon, but instead I dragged Li down the riverside and up the other side of the bridge so we could get a good view of the London Eye and Big Ben in the distance. Hey, at least he has no regrets – the view was definitely worth it.
We made it back to the theater just in time to see a little bit of the building before heading to our seats. I don’t think we were supposed to take photos, but other people had their phones out, so I snuck some anyway. When we bought the tickets, we weren’t sure what the “stalls” were, but I guess that’s the British word for the orchestra section. The theater was small but cozy, and it gave us a great view of the stage and the actors. We probably should have done a quick review of Hamlet, because we couldn’t quite remember all the details and definitely missed out on some jokes, but overall the acting was great and we had a good time.
By the time the play was done, it was 10 PM and we were starving, so we headed back down the river to go to a popular 24-hour restaurant called Duck & Waffle, recommended by Ben.
On the way, we passed by Shakespeare’s Globe, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Millenium Bridge, and London Bridge.
At the Tower Bridge (the eastern edge of central London), we crossed the river to get to Duck & Waffle on the other side.
Li initially thought Duck & Waffle was just a casual 24 hour eatery (I might have forgotten to mention some things). I saw pictures of the food from Ben and went on the website beforehand, so I knew it was a nicer place. But neither of us realized that it was on the 40th floor of a tall tower with an amazing view of the city. Despite being severely underdressed, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and our food before heading back out to our AirBnB and crashing around 2 AM. At least we got our exercise in for the day for sure.