Today was my first time being out of the tiny apartment by myself. I was torn between trying to blend in with the locals or being a tourist and snapping pictures of everything. I thought I came up with a good compromise–I dressed like a local (skinny jeans, scarf and open cardigan), but whipped my camera out when I saw fit. I spent a good amount of time on Google Maps planning my walking route. I decided to go down Kensington Church Street, turn onto Kensington Road, then cut through Hyde Park to get back to Notting Hill Gate. I don’t normally walk just for the sake of walking. I used to love to walk around Chicago, but only when I had a destination in mind, and that destination almost always involved shopping or food. But since I have a very small amount of £, I decided I’d just walk without spending any money.
The minute I set out something occurred to me–which side of the sidewalk are you supposed to walk on? In America, we walk on the right side. I always figured this was because we drove on the right side. But since they drive on the left side here, are you supposed to walk on the left side of the sidewalk? As far as I can tell, there isn’t really a rule. People just walk wherever and walk around people like me who insist on staying on the right.
The minute I crossed Notting Hill Gate I forgot which direction I needed to go to get to Kensington Church Street. I slyly opened my tote bag and looked at the map without pulling it out. Good thing I did, because I was headed in the wrong direction. I turned around and walked past a frozen yogurt shop. You can bet I’ll hit that up soon, but frozen yogurt would involve spending money and wasn’t on my walking-only agenda for today.
As I turned down Kensington Church Street, I think I was finally hit with the “Wow, I kind of almost live here.” (The “kind of almost” comes from the fact that I am still living out of suitcases without a permanent address). And just as I was having my “I’m in London!” moment, I walked past the American Dry Cleaning Company.
How bizarre. Was dry cleaning invented in the US? (A quick wiki search tells me a French guy invented it originally, an American developed a less flammable solution and the British introduced the first in-shop machines. Huh. I’m stumped.)
Walking on, I approached a group of school boys.
There are few things cuter than little kids with English accents in school uniforms. I wonder where they were going. (Also, I just noticed this in the photo–why is the teacher barefoot?!)
I then passed The Cupcake Company and was very tempted to go in. I’m curious how much one cupcake cost. Probably £3 if a fancy cupcake in the US costs $3.
I felt better taking a photo because there were other tourists posing in front of the sign (thus my off-center photo, I was trying to cut them out.)
This place went a little heavy on the foliage.
Walking up Kensington Church Street.
There is a Whole Foods across from Pizza Hut. Stupid truck got in the way.
After walking past rows of shops and restaurants, suddenly I came upon the massive Hyde Park. It was so…green! It was a sight to see after being in Kentucky a few weeks ago where all the grass is burnt out.
I no longer felt the need to keep up my “I’m not a tourist” facade, as it seemed most people in the park were tourists. I did come up behind two British women who were discussing classical music. I kid you not. I also saw what had to be a Japanese business man who managed to turn a park bench into an office. He had a briefcase, laptop, papers and some kind of wireless router set up. I really wanted to take a photo but wasn’t sneaky enough. Instead, here are some tourists posing with ducks and swans by Round Pond:
And then I came upon Kensington Palace.
That’s the thing about London–you’ll be walking down what seems like a normal street, past restaurants and grocery stores, and then BAM, there’s a palace or a really old beautiful church. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that.
They are renovating it but you can still go in for £12.50. I didn’t think it was worth it. It will be done in early 2012.
Walking through the park was nice because there were no cars and I didn’t have to worry about my sidewalk situation. But soon I was on the main street again. I’m still not used to the driving on the left thing and always look the wrong way when crossing the street. I’ve taken to looking both ways just to be safe. I laughed at these “instructions” the first time I was in London, but now I heavily rely on them.
I came to an intersection without them earlier and just kind of stood there, waiting for someone else to take the leap before me. That’s the other thing I’m not good at–pedestrian crossings. In Chicago, the crosswalk was mostly just a suggestion and few cars stopped, even if a person was attempting to cross. But it seems here they actually stop, so I was in an awkward situation waiting for a car to go while he was waiting for me to cross.
Luckily, I managed to make it home safely to live to walk [and get frozen yogurt or a cupcake] another day.