London is extraordinary. It’s almost incomprehensibly big, busier than seems possible, and so loaded with history and life that it is astonishing. And intimidating. To arrive in London with no plans other than a place to stay is to open up a set of encyclopedias and start reading at random—you know there’s lots to see and do, but where is it? And what is it?

Kara and I arrived in London by train from Oxford around 3pm. We easily caught a train to Piccadilly Circus (there is no circus, sadly) and eventually found our hostel, which was nestled into a tiny cranny on one of the many spoke-like streets that splinter randomly off of the main square. Throughout the trip my hostels grew, starting with the rather homey Linen House Hostel in Belfast, then graduating to High Street Hostel’s castle-like scale in Edinburgh, and finally to Piccadilly Backpackers, which was pretty much on the industrial scale, with beds for 800 and no kitchen. It was far from homey, but clean enough, and we were close to the laundry room.

One of the pedestals in Trafalgar Square was never topped with its intended statue, so now different pieces of modern art take turns on it. This piece is a bit of a parody on all of the horse statues (and there are many) and a tribute to childhood.

We spent what was left of our first day on foot, venturing over to Trafalgar Square, which I remembered from my last stop in London. From Trafalgar Square we went on to St. James’ Park, part if the grounds surrounding Buckingham Palace. The lake in St. James’ Park is full of a wide variety of waterfowl with a refined palate as far as supermarket bread is concerned, and the lake is generally surrounded by people indulging the bird’s carbohydrate addiction. Also, the pelicans apparently eat ducks and pigeons.

The following day we went on another New Europe walking tour that took us through Westminster. We saw part of the changing of the guards, and they played the theme from Indiana Jones and The Imperial March, so Kara can now die happy. We saw Westminster Abbey, the Parliament Buildings, Churchill’s War Offices, Big Ben, and most of the other notable sights in Westminster.

After the tour we visited Camden Markets, which I absolutely loved. I could have spent the entire day there, but unfortunately we only had a few hours. The market spans several building and open lots, crossing the street and spreading outward and upwards, filling every corner of available space with leather goods, pottery, delicious looking food, clothes, jewelry, and more. It was wonderfully eclectic and so large you knew you’d never see everything.

Subtle, eh?

After the market we headed to Covent Garden via our hostel for another pub crawl. As a bonus we managed to get quite thoroughly lost before mooching some wifi from a café on the sidewalk and righting ourselves. The pub crawl was distinctly less awesome than the Edinburgh one, mostly owing to the fact that there was a total of 8 of us, and it was a Sunday night (which I had forgotten and figured most other travelers would have as well). We still had a great time, though. My favourite stop was undoubtedly Walk About, an Australian bar that was just down the street from The Maple Leaf (a Canadian bar, just in case you weren’t sure). I made another Aussie friend there; Tom, who has been living in England for 7 years. We drank Kiwi beer (from Kiwiland, not made from Kiwis) and mostly talked about how awesome Aus is and wondered why we both weren’t there that very instant.

The following morning was my last in London, and my last with Kara. We visited Covent Garden in the daylight after reading some promising things about it in a guide book over breakfast. We weren’t disappointing (well, I wasn’t, at least). The market was full of antiques, including hundreds of tiny spoons! I scooped up (haha) a few of those, of course. And then I found a stand selling old metal type slugs, so of course I had to sift through them for ages before coming away with a small handful.

We finished the day with a walk up the Thames, some sans-tour-group photo stops at tour locations from the day before, and a tasty lunch of Thai food. Then I was off to Southampton, to see where the Titanic set sail!