Day 4 started with another partial round on our bus tour, and we got off at the Tower of London (one of the sites included in the London Pass) for some exploring.
“The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London.” Learn more about the Tower of London on their website or Wikipedia (this isn’t a research paper, so I don’t really care about linking to Wikipedia here, give me a break, there’s some good information that’s been reviewed).
The Tower of London is made up of various wards and towers and was quite the tour.
After we went to the Tower of London, we were walking along to the pick-up spot for our hop-on hop-off tour when this friendly bicycle taxi man approached us and roped us into conversation. He convinced us he could take us for a “short ride to the river” that’d take him “just a few minutes” and we’d have a much better spot to start the loop on our tour again. Well, it was really nice driving around with him. We did learn a lot. But ultimately, we got scammed by a bicycle taxi when he told us it was going to be £30…each. Oh well, a lesson learned and a story to tell. I’m pretty on top of being safe and being aware of potential scams, but he got the best of us here.
He dropped us off by Buckingham Palace, and we got a few photos outside before we got on the bus and headed to Piccadilly Circus for lunch.
So, after lunch is where the frustrating adventure of the afternoon begins. We headed over to where we should’ve been able to catch our next bus. Well, we spent hours going between stops, calling customer service to try to figure out where the bus was (and then being told, oh hey it’s not even coming to that stop anymore today), heading to a new stop, and then waiting and waiting for a bus that was supposed to come every 10-20 minutes. Finally, we get on a bus…and then he told us that the route was done. I have quite a lot to say to Golden Tours when they actually return my email.
No point in getting overly frustrated and stuck on it. Radical acceptance, anyone?
Next, we headed to Piccadilly Circus for dinner. With it being New Year’s Eye, restaurants were packed! We stopped at a TGIF’s to find out there was an hour and a half wait, so we decided to keep walking a bit and see what else was of interest. Leicester Square borders Piccadilly and has many of the same restaurants, so we wandered that way.
After dinner at TGIF’s, we were stumped on what to do for New Year’s Eve. There were endless possibilities! We had originally wanted to go out to a club, but every one that we could find was sold out or had a ridiculously expensive cover. So, we decided to push that adventure back to another night (my 21st birthday is just around the corner!)
There is a large fireworks show in London that approximately 1,000,000 people go to and tickets are required to get anywhere close. So, we decided that maybe it was worth exploring that a little for the real London experience of NYE. After walking around Leicester Square for a little while, we made our way closer towards the river. There were masses of people also heading that way. We got as close as the National Gallery and saw a lot of people settling there and decided that was as close as we could get, too. It was only around 10:00 or 10:30 PM, so we decided to get up and walk around a little bit. We came back and waited until midnight. After a midnight kiss, we looked up to see where the fireworks were, and unfortunately, they were about 50% blocked by a building! I was surprised that so many (probably thousands) of people had gathered here to see such a far away/partial view of the fireworks. That must’ve meant that there were a significant of amount of people in a blocked off area closer to the river.
This reminded me of living in Boston where members of the group I was with arrived 15 hours early to reserve us a spot by the Charles River for the Fourth of July Fireworks Extravaganza because nearly the whole city comes out!
It was also interesting to see how people celebrated. It’s legal to drink in public in England (there are some exceptions), which was an odd site for someone from America. Seeing a group of people passing around a bottle of Smirnoff while police are standing 10 feet away acting normal is a site I have never seen! Drinking is much more common. I only saw one small group smoking marijuana (which is illegal in England) and didn’t smell it anywhere else. A lot of people were heavily engaging in drinking and celebrating, some were wild, some weren’t. It was definitely interesting to view the cultural differences and similarities.
Even though our view of the fireworks wasn’t fantastic and we didn’t stay long, I’m glad we went and were a part of it.
Then, we headed back and had to walk a very long ways to the nearest open Underground station, but we eventually made it! The tube was free that night, and so they had closed certain stations. We probably had to walk three quarters of a mile to get to the closest one. It was quite a late night, but it was a day of adventures, and the next day was set to be quite busy, too!