5 min read

Day 49: For King and Country

Bon Voyage

It’s been almost 6 years since I was in London. I’ve traveled here multiple times growing up, having seen most, if not all of, the major landmarks, buildings, and historical sites, while visiting family and friends. But coming back here again after so long, it feels like I’m seeing London again for the first time.

I flew out of Stuttgart at 7:30AM. I woke up pretty early. The night before, I was checking Eurowings’ hand-baggage policy. I’ve heard that European airlines are particularly strict about weight and size restrictions. Initially, I had everything packed into a single duffel backpack. It was within the size limit, but I don’t think it was within the weight limit.

My big fear is that they check the bag in and then it somehow gets lost or put onto a different flight, but I really like the convenience of one bag. After a lot deliberating, I quickly re-packed my stuff into 2 separate bags, one smaller backpack and a roller bag.

Turns out Eurowings didn’t care at all. No one checked anything. It was a super smooth experience. I probably could have gotten away with the duffel backpack. Lesson learned. Flying on Eurowings for the first time for continental-ish European travel, this was a good experience overall.

UK Border

Landing in Heathrow, going through customs was a breeze to be really honest. I had no issues at all getting through. Most of the process is automated with a border agent for human-in-loop verification. Heathrow being Heathrow, there were tons of people flying in/out from/to all over the world. The queue management was on point. I think I stood standstill for a max of 2 minutes.

Riding the Tube

Once I was out, I jumped onto the Elizabeth Line of the London Underground to head to my cousin’s place. The Underground sub-way system is also known as the Tube, aptly named, because, well, the trains are hurtling all around the city in tube-like passages. I absolutely love riding the London Tube. Granted, the doors are much more aggressive than the S-bahn or U-bahn doors in Germany.

The Elizabeth Line just opened open last year. You can tell it was completely new, compared to the Central Line or the Piccadilly Line. With an easy contact-less payment mechanism (thanks to Covid), I could pay for my ticket by swiping on and off at each entrance/exit gate. The Tfl Go App makes it really easy to navigate across all of the lines. Whoever designed that nailed the UX.

British Museum

After meeting up with my family, we jumped on the Tube to head to the world-famous British Museum. If you find yourself in London, you have to go. I’ve never seen such collections and exhibits spanning several thousand years and all continents in my life.

I shared the same opinion as my uncle that though the British Empire was one of history’s largest colonizing powers, in the modern age, it has taken tremendous steps to appreciate and preserve the history of the many cultures it had connections to. I’m not saying that makes amends, but when you walk through the exhibits and speak with the historians, you can sense how much they appreciate history and its preservation.

At each exhibit, in my mind, I kept replaying the famous line by Indiana Jones, “It belongs in a museum!” People from all over the world came to learn more not just about other cultures, but also their own. I’m well aware of the politics behind museum rights and ownership. I’m sure many question if the British Museum has any right to remove archaeological items from countries to put on display within its walls. I don’t have a concrete opinion on that, other than I’d prefer an important piece of history be put in a museum instead of a private collection any day of the week, no matter where that museum is. What good is preserving our history if it can only be appreciated by a small few people. The British Museum boasts massive and impressive collections. Go check it out (I won't share the pictures of the exhibits 😄)!

Strolling About

After the museum, we went to a small, but nice, Italian place just down the road. From there, we jumped onto the bus (double-decker), and road to Piccadilly Circus to check out an icon of London. I wish I had time to check out a show. The flags of the Union Jack were flying high from the coronation 2 weeks ago of King Charles.

Walking along St. James Park, we made our way over to Buckingham Palace. The King wasn’t home, but lots of tourists were. We took some photos and headed back home onto the Tube. Rush hour on the Tube is no joke, but I’d take that over traveling by car in city any time. It’s much faster, but it does get hot and sweaty inside. Life’s all about tradeoffs.

Fish and Chips

After recuperating from our outings, we went to a nearby pub for dinner. Of course, I had to have Fish and Chips. It wasn’t the world’s best, but it still tasted delicious. With a light local Lager from Camden Town, it was a solid meal overall. I’m excited for tomorrow’s adventures.

Peace and love ❤️