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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Last day in London.

10:50 pm GMT

Another whirlwind of a day! I set out (in the rain without my umbrella, of course) across the Westminster Bridge toward Buckingham Palace again so I could see the changing of the guard. On my way, I saw a band in bright red uniforms and a group of people waiting for them to begin, so I stopped and watched, too. It turned out that this royal-soldier-band marches along the Mall to the Palace to begin the ceremony, so I followed them as they marched, recording their performance the whole way (the video is ridiculously shaky, but I had to keep up!). When we made it to the gates of the Palace, I tried to find a good spot, but practically all of them were taken by the massive crowd that had already gathered. I resigned myself to a corner near the gate, but couldn't see much of anything. I got a few glimpses of the bearskin hat guys, though! It made me smile.

I gave up trying to see the ceremony and, frankly, following the band had been enough for me. I left before the whole thing ended and instead went back to Parliament Square to go to the Westminster tube station. I finally bought an Oyster card (I basically just wanted to look awesome swiping it...), since I knew that I'd be using the tube a lot today. I took the District Line from Westminster to Tower Hill so I could wander around the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. By the time I got there, I was really hungry, so I GOT FISH AND CHIPS!! I may have been a bit too excited about it because the lady at the stall was looking at me all weird. Anyway, I bought my lunch and ate it on a bench by the river (it was cold and rainy, but there were no places inside to sit); London fish and chips certainly lives up to the hype. I enjoyed it thoroughly, at least.

After my lunch I walked around for a while, waved at a Beefeater, almost dropped my camera into the Thames, walked beneath Tower Bridge, and went back to the Tower Hill tube station. From there I took the District Line again one stop to Monument, where I transferred to the Central Line to go to St. Paul's Cathedral. It was still kind of rainy and still rather cold, but I walked all the way around the Cathedral before stopping out front to take photos. It is absolutely enormous and it reminded me a bit of the Esztergom Basilica. No one was feeding the birds on the steps, though; probably too chilly and too wet. Even so, I had the song stuck in my head the entire time I was there.

The Millennium Bridge is not far from the Cathedral, so I walked back toward the river to walk across it. On the other side is the Tate Modern (the exterior is quite ugly if you ask me; looks like a giant brick oven) and the recreation of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. I turned around halfway across the bridge so I could return to the St. Paul's tube stop, where I again boarded the Central Line to Lancaster Gate, which is right across the street from Kensington Gardens. I walked only briefly in the park, since I was pressed for time. I found what I wanted to, however; the Peter Pan statue didn't take too long to locate, and I looked at it for a while--taking in all the details--before turning back the way I had come. I took the tube (again) from Lancaster Gate to Oxford Circus, transferred to the Piccadilly Line, and took that to Piccadilly Circus where I was to meet Katie for the afternoon. We found one another and relocated to a Starbucks (the same one I was at yesterday) and talked for a few hours, catching up on life and everything since we last spoke. It was great to see her again; the setting just made it even more memorable.

We walked to Leicester Square, Katie looking for a pharmacy and I searching for St Martin's Theatre, where I was seeing Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. We passed what we believed to be the premiere of the new film "Brighton Rock" starring Helen Mirren, John Hurt, and Andy Serkis (which means they were there! In the movie theatre! HELEN MIRREN WAS SO. CLOSE.) before we found St. Martin's and went our separate ways. I sat on the steps for a while before I went in, since I was still there a bit early. I soon took my seat, which, unfortunately, was immediately behind this obnoxious American guy who was eating Pringles throughout most of the first act. Anyway, the play was fantastic. I know I've seen it before somewhere, but even though I couldn't remember the details, I still knew most of what happened (including the twist). Despite knowing it, I was still on the edge of my seat, heart pounding, for most of the performance. They did a wonderful job and it clear why it has been running for 59 years; it was terrifying and spine-tingling and I loved every minute of it. As for whodunit? In the tradition of the play, I am now sworn to secrecy... so you won't be hearing it from me!

After the play I returned to the hostel for a night of rest. I have to get up early in the morning to take the tube all the way to Heathrow to make my flight in time. I only hope that security going out isn't as dreadful as it was coming in... I don't think I'll have the patience for that again.

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