Our last day in London wasn’t a full day, but almost. We started out with breakfast on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral. We bought a variety of (terribly unhealthy and un-vegan) breakfast pastries (four mini jam-filled donuts to share, a lemon filled muffin and croissant for me, and a cinnamon roll for Danny) at M & S Simply Food across the street from St. Paul’s and ate them on the front steps. We were the only ones there at that early hour of the morning, and we didn’t even have to fight off any pigeons…you could say it was a major success.
After breakfast we went inside and did some of the audio guide tour and wandered around the cathedral for an hour before our 10am guided tour. Our guided tour took a little over an hour and a half and one of the perks was that we were able to snap a few photos, while most visitors are not allowed to do so. The inside of St. Paul’s is much different from Westminster Abbey, which is probably London’s most famous church, and although I’m sure a list a mile long could be made with the differences between the two, the one that I noticed the most is the lighting. St. Paul’s is flooded with light and it’s (primarily) white walls/ceilings/etc. really help as well. Our tour also took us to see a staircase that was used in the Harry Potter movies, which means very little to me, but was interesting for Danny (and basically everyone else on our tour).
After the guided tour, we took the stairs up to the gallery and the two upper levels of the dome. It was a hazy day in London, but if you look hard, you can see some of the most well-known landmarks of London’s skyline, in particular the Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge, the Shard, and the London Eye.
When we finished up at St. Paul’s, it was much more crowded than when we arrived. One thing that I realized on our trip was the huge benefits of going early or going late to popular attractions. I just find places much more enjoyable when there aren’t throngs of people all over, and St. Paul’s was no exception.
Since our breakfast was so successful (both tasty and inexpensive), we went back to M & S Simply Food for lunch and carried our goodies across the Thames on the Millennium Bridge to eat outside the Tate Modern. It was a busy area with lots of pigeons vying for our crumbs and people for our seats, but fun too – lots of street performers and interesting people to watch and entertain us while we ate.
After lunch we walked along the Thames one last time to get back to our room and snuck in one last look at the London Eye as well. We packed our bags, which took longer than anticipated, and chatted with Irene, our host, for a bit before we headed out. I mailed a few postcards, and we took the tube from Waterloo to King’s Cross, where we transferred to St. Pancras and waited for the Eurostar to Paris.
I think my expectations for the Eurostar were a bit high. I mean, our first disappointment came as we waited for the train and there was only one restaurant for the entire Eurostar waiting area. Plus, the train just seemed to have seen better days, the food onboard was sub par (and expensive) and we never really knew what was going on – communication between staff and passengers was nonexistent. We boarded the train at 5:15pm and in less than an hour, we were in France. It was obvious, not because we could tell we had just come out from underneath the English Channel (we couldn’t), but because it just looked different. It was beautiful – the sky was a pretty shade of light pink and the countryside was charming. The train was going so fast, though, that taking (decent) pictures was impossible. We shared a mushroom risotto and fruit couscous onboard, but mostly we looked out the window and read magazines and newspapers.
Two hours after we left London, we were in Paris. The Eurostar may not have ‘wowed’ us, but all we really needed was a way to get from one place to another, and it certainly did that. We waited in line for a taxi for about an hour, and eventually made it to our next humble abode and met Etienne, whose apartment we’d be staying at for the next five nights. He showed us around, we unpacked a little, put some laundry in the washer, and went to bed. Unfortunately, the washer woke us up repeatedly throughout the night with its bizarre alarm feature and ended up breaking completely…but that’s a story for another time.
All things considered, day 9 was pretty good. We saw one of London’s most famous churches, walked along the Thames, and ate our first reasonably priced breakfast and lunch. Packing up and traveling to Paris was not my favorite – anytime I’m hauling a suitcase up stairs (oh wait, Danny did that, not me) and on a subway and through throngs of people more skilled at packing light than me, I’m stressed. But we made it to Paris without too many complications and once we got to our apartment and found that it was just as the pictures had portrayed it, it was worth it. Seeing some neat things plus traveling to another country and not running into much trouble…I’d say it was a successful day.