Fortress Europa: Day 2 (London)

by Mark E. Stenberg

Day 2 proved eventful and jam-packed, starting early with a meager breakfast in the hostel cafeteria. They served cereal (sans sugar) and bread a.k.a. toast, with peanut butter and jams. A nice breakfast, but sparse considering the day we had ahead of us.

We set off early for St. John’s Cathedral, an Anglican church famous for its longevity and the fact that it alone survived a Blitz raid of the area in 1940. All the surrounding buildings collapsed while St. John’s remained standing and almost wholly intact. We visited and saw the beautiful Romanesque church, and–since it was an old church–it had to have a crypt of famous dead people in the basement. Included in the death party were the likes of: Admiral Horation Nelson, Christopher Wrenn, and Duke Wellington. The church was in a state of repair because the Dalai Lama planned to visit next week for the London Jubilee, an annual event corresponding (conveniently) for the Olympics, as they hope to cash in on tourists.

The tour lasted three hours, and after the group splintered for lunch, and I went to Apostrophe where I ate a delicious vegetarian sandwich and a pear and chocolate tart. Following that we ventured to a boulangerie for the rest of the party to buy scones, then boarded the metro to head to the Imperial War Museum.

The Imperial War Museum attempts to show Britain’s colonial involvement and military conflicts over the past century, with a heavy emphasis on World War II and the Holocaust, as it serves as Britain’s only official Holocaust museum. Taking pictures was disallowed in most of the interesting areas, so I only got a few snapshots of some planes and historically significant tanks in the main gallery. I spent most of my time in the Holocaust and World War II sections, and I spent the rest of my time considering the fact that England has been involved in a conflict every year since 1855. Not good.

The museum was great, and my group  of around 8 spent around three hours there before returning to the hostel. After the long metro ride and walk to the hostel, all the guys fell asleep for about an hour, as everyone knows museum-viewing is inexplicably tiring. We awoke and went to an Indian restaurant to celebrate Andrew’s 20th birthday and has a fantastic time until the check arrived.

The waiter duped us in traditional foreigner fashion, inviting us to eat items we assumed free that actually cost many pounds. Long story short–and I mean long story (we settled the check for around an hour)–everyone paid close to $40 minimum, and Andy in particular ended up covering the loose ends with a gratuitous payment of around 50 pounds ($100).

Everyone seethed quite a bit following the dinner, which was a shame because the food was marvelous and the conversations were hilarious. We went to a pub nearby and everyone drank to forget the injustice done to us. Fun fact: I ended up paying around 22 pounds, the equivalent of $44  for a nice, but supposedly cheap meal of Indian food.

The bar proved cathartic and everyone had fun during the night and we forgot our suffering. We’ve trekked back to the hostel and need to wake up early to board the Eurostar and head to Normandy. Tomorrow will be a day mostly of traveling, which I welcome as a day to read and relax after two days of no free-time or relaxation.

Overall, a fantastic day and I was pleased to visit St. John’s especially, the newer, Anglican version of the Vatican. Tomorrow we see Monet’s famous gardens, which made many a cameo in his paintings, and we will arrive in France! the place I look forward to the most.

Bad picture of St. John’s Cathedral

From the top of St. Paul’s

St. Paul’s

Imperial War Museum