My journey began on May 8, when I left Memphis for a layover in Atlanta before taking my overnight flight to London. It was an ever-so-pleasant experience this time, with only one connecting flight and a layover time that was not too long but not too short. And the best overnight flight, too! I didn’t sleep, as usual, but it was just so much better (Delta Airlines was far superior to the previous airlines I’d used for my flights to London.)
Just a few photos of art installations at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport
But on to the main event: arriving in England!
This blog entry will probably be more verbose and informative about how my day progressed once I’d landed in the country. Feel free to scroll on down and look at the photos if you can’t be bothered to read the whole thing!
My flight arrived in London early. That was a good thing since, as usual, the line for immigration was a beast! The border control guy wasn’t exactly personable. But I guess they’re not paid to be. He asked how long I would be in the UK. I told him the dates, and he sternly said “Tell me EXACTLY what you’ll be doing.” Now, if he meant “can you give me a synopsis of what you’ll be doing daily?” I would have answered accordingly. But “how long will you be here?” sounds like “tell me the dates you’ll be in this country.” Right?? He asked where I’d be staying, I told him. He asked if that was the address I’d written on the immigration card I’d filled out. It was. He asked if I knew anyone here. Obviously, it’s his job to try his darnedest to catch me slipping, so I told him I have an American friend in England but wouldn’t be staying with her (they think if you know someone there, you might try to stay with them illegally.) He saw that I’d written “photographer” on my immigration form and asked if I was in the UK for work (doing paid work on a visitor’s visa would be illegal.) No, I was on a pleasure trip, not a there for a job. I finally satisfied his questions, and I was let through. That was the most I’d been grilled at the airport, including that last time in 2012, when they had to fill out an official form about me after they found traces of chemicals on my film!
I had to smile a little when I was waiting on for the Tube to arrive at Heathrow. There was a middle-aged American couple waiting as well, and I could tell they were trying to figure out how the Tube worked as they looked at the map on the wall. Being an outgoing American, I spoke up and showed them how navigating from Point A to Point B worked. The woman said to me, “Oh, how long have you lived here?” I, of course, had to say that I didn’t live in London; I have just been a couple of times before and the Tube was the one thing I knew how to do correctly! I’m sure no Londoner would mistake me for an American expat living in London, just because I knew how to tell some tourists how to get to their intended destination. But I guess I could unintentionally make Americans who were first-time visitors to London think that!
Tube station corridor – transferring from the Piccadilly Line to the Jubilee line (something cool I just read about it)
Tiles at . Tiles are my everything and are certainly plentiful Underground!
Way out (probably at Swiss Cottage?)
In years past, I had to wait a couple of hours before I could check into my hostel. This would leave me meandering around the neighbourhood, feeling pretty awful because I’d been awake for about 24 hours by that point. I tried to be a bit more savvy this time when I chose my flight. I wanted to arrive in England a little later in the morning so that, perhaps, I could check into my hostel as soon as I arrived from the airport. As I’d hoped, my flight arrival time, the time it took to clear immigration, and the long tube ride from the airport to my hostel meant I arrived close to check-in time and didn’t have hours to kill before getting to my room. I did spend a little time walking around the neighbourhood, exploring the next street over, which I hadn’t done during my previous stay at that hostel. There is a supermarket right there (Waitrose) where I was able to get sustenance (Crunchie bar!) I did a little photography around there, too. I felt a bit more productive than I usually do when I’m killing time on my first day there!
The above three are photos of The North Star, which is apparently a pub
As if I’m going to see a pink fruit and veg shop and NOT photograph it (Natural Natural)
Let me tell you about a miracle now: I don’t know HOW, but I didn’t really feel like a zombie that day! Normally, I am only half alive on the day I arrive because I don’t sleep on the flight. Feeling a little better than usual, I actually felt up to making use of my first day instead of wasting it as I normally do: waiting for sweet slumber to take me over.
Though I didn’t know before I arrived how I would be feeling, I had a couple of things I wanted to accomplish, not matter what. It was all the better that I actually felt okay when I set out to accomplish those goals. My goals were: 1. Go to Westminster Cathedral 2. Find a place called Primark, where I heard they had cheap clothes and shoes. I accomplished those things and more!
I guess I went to by Victoria Station? This theatre is across from the station. I know I just said that tiles are my everything, but art deco is also my everything.
Victoria Palace theatre
I actually don’t know anything about this building. I just like the typography on the “Overton’s” signage
Back to my goals for the day: I made it to Westminster Cathedral, and it was as gorgeous as ever! Especially because it was a much prettier day than my last visit. It as completely overcast and dull when I went to the cathedral in 2012. While I enjoyed the photography I did in the cathedral that day in 2012, it was just something completely different to see Westminster Cathedral bathed in sunlight.
Exterior of Westminster Cathedral – I admittedly waited until the Union Jack was facing me for these pictures (VERY windy day. See below…)
I know which one is the important one
Looking back, I would have chosen different film to document my visit to the cathedral, but I can still savour the memory of how beautiful it was that day even if the photos don’t do it justice. My film photography friends will probably fuss at me when they see this.
Okay, here’s something that happened when I arrived at Westminster Cathedral that would make those who know me say, “Oh, AMANDA!” I’d sat my things on a table outside the church so I could load my camera. I walked a few feet from the table to take a picture, and I heard a man speaking in some language other than English, and I heard him say the word “camera.” I turned around to see a man pocketing my Olympus XA camera. I said “that’s mine.” He acted like he hadn’t just been caught and was like “oh, it’s yours?” and handed it to me. He then rudely said “You shouldn’t leave your things out like that” as he walked away. Thanks, guy. While I should have been more careful, taking something that doesn’t belong to you isn’t my bad, it’s yours!
On to the next mission: I knew I had to get to Oxford Street in order to find Primark. I’m not a big shopper when I’m travelling, but I did need to pick up a couple of items. In getting to Primark, I wanted to avoid spending money on a Tube ride. You know I’m not that great with maps, so I spent sooooooo much time trying to see which way it should be oriented in relation to where I was at the moment and where I was headed. I should mention now that this was maybe the most windy day I’d ever experienced in my life. That didn’t mix well with the map. It was constantly collapsing and hitting me in the face or trying to fly away. If I’d been followed by a camera crew, it might have made for comedy gold. Except not comedy gold to ME, since I was actually really frustrated by it!
The trees in London are pruned in a way that looks peculiar – they almost look as if they’re from a Dr. Suess book.
I had to walk past Buckingham on my journey to find Primark. I’m glad I did! The lighting was really pretty that time of day. In the past, I’ve only devoted a rushed few minutes to Buckingham and the area surrounding it. In 2006, I briefly walked by it the night before I left. In 2012, it was super dreary and bad for photos. I was loving all the sunlight this time though!
Ta da! I’m at Buckingham Palace! Now. I’ll tell you something I’ve decided: there is a unicorn at Buckingham palace. I choose to believe that, because they are a part of the Royal coat of arms. Now, now, don’t try to tell me the actual reason for the unicorn in the coat of arms. In my mind, it’s because they keep one of these magical creatures behind those gates. Nope. Don’t Google that for me. I won’t Google it for myself. Let me have my dreams.
Well, THIS photo turned out rather trippy. But I’m a big fan of the Queen Victoria Memorial across from Buckingham. Because Queen Vee looks like one bad broad on her memorial.
FINALLY, a beautiful enough day to show off the pretty gold statue atop the memorial
After leaving there, I actually saw some things/a part of the city I’d not seen before, such as the Marble Arch, parts of Hyde Park and Green Park, and some Wellington memorials/monuments. I was very happy about that. One of my hopes for the 2014 visit to London was to see more new things rather than revisit places I’ve seen in the past.
The sunlight made all the gold everywhere shine so bright! These two photos are of Canada Gate in Green Park.
Wellington Arch, from behind
Iron gate on Wellington Arch – mostly, I liked the way the unicorn looked on it
Queen Elizabeth Gate – the metalwork is so elegant. That centrepiece though with the lion and unicorn though…looks low rent!
I’m trying to gauge whether or not I should keep including embarrassing stories about myself in this blog…Such as, that afternoon, I had a huge fall in front of a large amount of people, when stepping from the crosswalk to the curb. Lots of pain, lots of people saw it, but lots of people stopped to check on me/help me up. I guess that was the good part, because I would have imagined that people in London wouldn’t stop to help someone who’d face-planted on the pavement! Maybe the people who checked on me weren’t Londoners but tourists instead 😉
Through obstacles such as wind and falling on my face, I did FINALLY made it to Primark (okay, I say that as if I were on a spiritual journey to Primark. So many obstacles!) It was insane. The shop was full of people losing their minds over the quantity of cheap clothing available. I found some black ballet flats and a hoodie (since I’d accidentally left my own hoodie in the car when I got to the airport to leave the prior day.) I was going to try on jeans, but the queue for the fitting rooms looked something like the line of people waiting for Best Buy to open on Black Friday.
It took FOREVER to get back to the hostel, because I wasn’t able get on the Tube at the station I’d planned to. But having to walk to another station ended up being okay, because I got to see Selfridges while making that walk! I wanted to at least see the building, because I’ve been watching Mr. Selfridge since it began airing on PBS.
I thought “Cool reflection in the bus stop!” and took the picture
I turned around to take a photo of the shop window that was reflected in the bus stop. That’s when I discovered it was one of the famous shop windows at Selfridges!
I probably should have used my final frame of film that night on photographing the front of the marquee because there was big, colourful signage advertising The Beauty Project and said “hello beautiful.” But I just wanted a picture of the Queen of Time statue/clock over the entrance instead!
And that was about it!
Day one in England = DONE!
Photos taken with Olympus XA and Yashica-Mat