Being a tourist

…is not something that comes naturally to me. When I was little, we would visit San Diego and stay with family. We did touristy things (Sea World, Disneyland), but we also did normal things, like cook out, and go to the grocery store, and just go for walks. When I got older, I experienced New York in much the same way-going to the store, making dinner at home, shopping where “locals” shop, and so on. I never stayed in a hotel until I was an adult, and I’ve always really valued quick acclimation to any new place. Also, while I’ve lived a lot of places, I haven’t been on very many non-work related small trips (4 days in a conference center is not traveling). So, this trip is challenging me. Two or three days in a space is not time for me to be a “local”. It pushes me to talk to folks and do things that would normally take weeks to work up to. This is a good thing, but it can also be exhausting. For example, right now I am sitting at a communal dinner table in the hostel with about 8 other people. At least 3 languages are being spoken, and none is English. It’s great because that means I don’t have to talk, just smile. Different throughout the rest of the day. I have been asking directions, learning to use an Oyster card, and generally talking to random people all day.
I’m also being a serious tourist. Objectives, plans. I am being a little spontaneous (mostly when I get too tired to stay on schedule), but I am really worried about my natural shyness overwhelming my desire to maximize every minute. I am sure that will balance out.

Today: Tower of London, Fortnum and Mason, swans in St James park, and accepting tourism.

My London metro card-cheaper bus fares and guaranteed return. Win!

My London metro card-cheaper bus fares and guaranteed return. Win!

London Wall-what remains of the oldest city fortifications.

London Wall-what remains of the oldest city fortifications.

The Tower's landscape is heavily dominated by the WWI memorial poppies. 100 years ago, the war broke out, and more than 888,000 Englishman would die in the "war to end all wars". Each poppy represents one life lost.

The Tower’s landscape is heavily dominated by the WWI memorial poppies. 100 years ago, the war broke out, and more than 888,000 Englishman would die in the “war to end all wars”. Each poppy represents one life lost.

Hard to take a normal looking picture with the sun so bright  but I do love tower bridge.

Hard to take a normal looking picture with the sun so bright but I do love tower bridge.

10 years ago, Halloween was not on the radar. Now, Fortnums makes "exploding" chocolate frogs, and trick filled chocolates. I blame Harry Potter.

10 years ago, Halloween was not on the radar. Now, Fortnums makes “exploding” chocolate frogs, and trick filled chocolates. I blame Harry Potter.

I think they literally go out hunting the minute you order pheasant. Possibly in South Dakota.

I think they literally go out hunting the minute you order pheasant. Possibly in South Dakota.

There will always be an England. And the queen's swans will always be my favorite park feature.

There will always be an England. And the queen’s swans will always be my favorite park feature.

I wandered the tower environs for over five hours today. There was a lot of additional info about WWI, including a re-enactment of the ideological conflict over recruiting soldiers. The exhibits were incredibly evocative, and I found myself in tears more than once, as these cheerful men waved to the video cameras-completely unaware of what was about to happen to them in the trenches…it was a lot to take in. Also I got completely creeped out in Beauchamps tower (where many prisoners have been kept over the centuries), and I could swear I saw a face reflected in a window right after I saw where the little princes we’re discovered under the stairs. Spirits all around today. But it was wonderful, so much has been redesigned an updated since I was last here.

I ate fish and chips from the tower outdoor food court today. That’s also part of why I’m feeling particularly touristy today. It was a deal with your tower ticket, and it was delicious but not my usual route for eating.

After the tower, I took the bus over to Fortnum and Mason. I snagged some tea and jam to bring home, but similar to my Harrod’s experience, the star power was missing somehow. The other thing that could account for it was that the last time I was in these places, it was Christmas time, where everyone goes the extra mile to make magic. Maybe September is just the calm before the storm.

After Fortnum, walking and walking happened again. Partly I needed to think-having a bit of work anxiety for the first time since I left Milwaukee. Partly I think I have that desperate sense that good weather days are slipping through my fingers like a handful of coins, and I don’t want to miss them. So, I sat in St James park and watched the swans. Walked past Buckingham Palace (because why not), got hopelessly lost at Victoria Station (map NOT helpful), and eventually made it back to the hostel. Trying to prioritize one more thing to do tomorrow-my train for Edinburgh leaves at 2! Good night!

Rule, Brittania!

Rule, Brittania!

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