London: First Thoughts and Historical Memory

Four months off a week in Paris, I decided to take a last minute solo trip (with Mrs. C&C's blessing) to London, paid for almost completely by the 100k bonus from the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Though I'm only two days in with seven to go, I've now walked 10 miles worth of London streets (according to my Fitbit) and feel that I have a rudimentary understanding of The Big Fog.

The first British cat I encountered. Obviously a moment worth documenting. 

The first British cat I encountered. Obviously a moment worth documenting. 

London lacks the intimacy of Paris. Where Paris is an emboldened expression of ornate historical charm despite its size and importance, London is a bustling modern city that occasionally intermingles with its age. Yes, there's Westminster, Parliament, and Buckingham, but those seem almost afterthoughts to London's expansive shopping and financial districts, and so far I enjoyed my time in Chinatown more than any other.

Chinatown, home to amazingly tasty cheap-eats.

Chinatown, home to amazingly tasty cheap-eats.

That's not to say London isn't charming; rows upon rows of small brick cottages with Union Jack adorned windows makes me beam, and the history nerd in me wonders how many wives and mothers sat in those homes and worried about loved ones dogfighting BF109s or battling Rommel in North Africa. It's an issue of my mindset and the eras I associate with London. I'm fascinated by The Blitz, so walking the streets of London evokes images of a resolute St. Paul's Cathedral enveloped in smoke and staunch Brits cleaning up with smiles on their faces more than unbathed 17th-century monarchs.

There's also greenery aplenty. London has more well-kept public gardens than I've seen before, perfect for grabbing a bench and escaping the bustle of the city. Our British cousins should teach us Americans about the importance of public green-space.

Lovely green-space in the Whitehall Gardens.

Lovely green-space in the Whitehall Gardens.

On a less cultured note, I appreciate any country that celebrates beer at all hours of the day. Public markets sell beer (and every other kind of liquor!) and there's a pub every fifteen feet. I was tipsy by 2, a state augmented by the difficulty of proper hydration while traveling. My diet so far consists of cookies, beer, polish sausage, and steamed buns. Not the foods of weight-loss dreams, but eating well rarely leads to happiness.

Second polish sausage in 24 hours. My colon isn't happy. TMI?

Second polish sausage in 24 hours. My colon isn't happy. TMI?

The Imperial War Museum in London, something I've long fantasized about, was the first British pleasure I partook in, jetlagged and bearing the fashion sense of a man fresh from an overnight international flight. It was free, devoid of the large crowds I've grown accustomed to, despite it being a holiday, and well put-together. The museum space is large but cozy. Instead of forcing you to look at exhibit pieces from a great distance, as most American museums do, the IWM sprinkles pieces everywhere, giving visitors a chance to walk among the artifacts.

Two 15 inch British Naval Guns. One of them hammered German positions on D-Day. 

Two 15 inch British Naval Guns. One of them hammered German positions on D-Day. 

I plan on visiting Parliament, the London Eye, and the Churchill War Rooms tomorrow, assuming I can get a skip-the-queue ticket. From there, trips to the coast are on the agenda, and I'm still debating spending the weekend in Dublin.

Have any recommendations on things to see or do while I'm here? Let us know in the comments!