London holds a special place in my heart.
London was the first city I ever visited outside of the United States in 2001, was the first foreign city I ever traveled to and explored by myself in 2011 (here, here, here and here), was the first stop on our friend Eurotrip in 2012 and arguably most importantly, was where I embarked on the life-changing journey that is the Harry Potter Studio Tour. Now, London was the first stop on a backpacking trip to my first time in Africa. Three continents in two days, all by myself.
I arrived to London around 11 a.m. and headed through immigration without any trouble. After taking too long to figure out my route, I hopped on the tube and took it into Piccadilly Circus and began my hike.
Having been to London a few times, I knew the hot spots that I wanted to visit, so I headed from Piccadilly down toward the River Thames, meandering through my favorite, Saint James Park. I grabbed a sub-par sandwich and an English beer and enjoyed it on a bench overlooking the park. That was, until the rain started. In true London fashion, it would rain for the entirety of my 9 hour layover.
I fixed up my pack and applied the rain cover, desperate to keep my belongings for the next two weeks at least remotely dry, and headed down to Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey before cutting across and strolling along the riverwalk. I was a woman on a mission, determined to make it to Millennium Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral before I had to return to the airport. The only problem was the limited time frame, pouring rain and roughly 35 lb. pack on my back.
All in all, I managed and was grateful to get to see all my favorite spots. The trek around the city served as the confidence booster I needed to make the next leg of the trip to Africa. The “I can do it” moment of conquering at least one city, despite the incredibly swollen, bruised shoulders and twitching muscles. Those, I did not expect nor enjoy.
Alas, I was back at Heathrow and about to hop on the longest flight of my life. A rough 10.5 hour flight from London to Johannesburg, South Africa.
Source: my own. Top to bottom: UK border, Piccadilly Circus, St. James Park, River Thames, Millennium Bridge & St. Paul’s Cathedral, pouring rain selfie & swollen shoulders.