When I arrived at my shoebox of a room in a hotel in Bloomsbury (yes, Bloomsbury- I like writing that) it felt like 3:00am, because it was, back in Melbourne. Despite being determined to stay awake until a later hour to combat jetlag, I fell asleep immediately.
Walking off my English breakfast the next morning, I discovered so many places that already had meaning in my literary imagination. Russell Square... Bloomsbury Square... Bedford Place... Just metres from my hotel I stumbled across this:
And then this:
Although I searched for Virginia Woolf’s plague in the area, I haven’t found it yet.
I have spent each day since my arrival travelling around London and trying to see as much as possible. I visited good ol’ John Donne in St. Paul’s Cathedral which was absolutely incredible. The religious shrines have been my favourite sights so far- Southwark Cathedral, which I stumbled upon whilst the bells were ringing was even more beautiful than St. Paul’s or Westminster Abbey to me.
What I have found most surprising is how compact central London feels. I can walk from Bloomsbury down Tottenham Court Road and end up in the West End after 10 minutes or so, and every time I turned a corner during the first couple of days I discovered yet another cultural icon (or monopoly square). I have been to the Tower of London, looked up at Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly, Leicester Square, Buckingham Palace, elbowed my way down Regent Street during the sales (big mistake), strolled around Covent Garden, walked awestruck through the British Museum...
I feel like a pro at navigating the tube now. I love it. For one thing, it’s underground, so I don’t need to rely on my awful sense of direction, and as long as I follow the little coloured lines in the right direction, it’s all good.
Two of the highlights for me so far have been seeing Twelfth Night on the West End, and walking around the Serpentine in Hyde Park. I was queuing in the freezing cold outside the theatre for returns on New Year’s Eve (I am very grateful to everyone who made me get thermals) when an American couple came over and asked if anyone was after one ticket. I said, ‘Me! I am!’. They were going to give me the ticket for free but I insisted on paying, we agreed on 20 pounds and I ended up sitting smack bang in the middle of the second row! It was wonderful, and the theatre was beautiful. Since then, I have resisted temptation and haven’t seen any more shows, because it could easily become a very expensive addiction. I will have to pace myself.
Hyde Park was all wintery and atmospheric. I will have to go again during the spring, but I love the way that London’s parks look in the late afternoon when the mists hang in the air (and the squirrels are very cute).
Tomorrow I am moving to a hotel in Guildford, Surrey, and then reality will have to take a front seat for a while whilst I look for somewhere to live. There are a few options, so hopefully at least one of them will be decent. Then, I have a meeting with the teaching agency on Monday the fifth and after that I will start work, and then reality will really set in!