11:28 pm GMT
Goodness, today was exhausting. I slept in a bit (which was wonderful), and at around 10:30 I hauled my arse (since I'm in England now... har har) out of bed to go exploring. I have a map, but I decided I wasn't going to use it unless I really got lost or if I was trying to find a specific place.
So I left the hostel and walked to the Westminster Bridge. It didn't take too long, and as soon as Parliament and Big Ben came into sight across the river, I broke out into this giddy smile that probably made me look like a complete idiot. There was really no reason to be that happy... but I guess finally seeing something so familiar has that effect, eh? I walked along the South Bank of the Thames toward the London Eye, but decided against going on it at that time and maybe saving it for later. I crossed the Golden Jubilee Bridge to the North Bank where most of central London is. I walked back toward the Westminster Bridge, now on the other side, and walked around Parliament once I got there. Big Ben chimed (bellowed? Rang? Boomed? "Chimed" seems far too... dainty a word to describe its noise) noon as I passed, and my stupid giddy smile came back with a vengeance. I walked from one end of the Houses of Parliament to the other, and then crossed the street to go to Westminster Abbey. I didn't go inside, but I saw everything on the outside; it's absolutely gorgeous and without a doubt some of the best Gothic architecture I've seen. From there I meandered the streets till I (somehow) ended up at Buckingham Palace. The flag was up, so that means the Queen was home--not that I would have seen her, anyway. They only do a changing of the guard every other day during the wintertime, so I'm going to have to go back tomorrow morning to see it.
I bought a sandwich for lunch and headed into The Green Park, where I found the Canada Memorial for the soldiers who died during both World Wars. After wandering around this park, I crossed the street into St. James Park so I could find a bench and read. I finished a few chapters, fed a huge swan and some geese the leftover bread from my lunch, and continued out of the park toward The Horse Guards' Building and Admiralty Arch. I went through the Arch and walked to Trafalgar Square, where I bought a t-shirt (yay!) and was floored by the fact that public washrooms are FREE. That definitely won England some points in my book.
So after taking some pictures and wandering around the square (there was a giant sculpture in front of the National Gallery of a ship in a bottle! SO COOL!), I continued along Pall Mall and Regent Street till I got to Piccadilly Circus. I walked around even more, stumbled upon China Town (which was completely lined with hundreds of lanterns for the upcoming New Year), and ended up at a Starbucks, at which I got a peppermint mocha (soooooo good) and sat down to pass some time reading. Once I'd killed enough time, I went to this little Indian place for dinner. It was so incredibly delicious; I knew Indian food was good in London, but damn! This was fantastic! After dinner I went back to Piccadilly Circus to find the Criterion Theatre where I was to see the stage adaptation of Hitchcock's The 39 Steps. It was really good! Extremely campy (the fourth wall was destroyed several times, lots of so-bad-they're-hilarious jokes in reference to other Hitchcock films, etc.), but not in a bad way. After the show, I got on the tube (which makes me feel really claustrophobic for some reason) and went back to the hostel.
Tomorrow is my last day here and I am going to make the best of it. I have a huge day planned... hopefully I'll have time to get everything in!