Traveling alone anywhere is a daring and daunting task. But not for Cheyanne Murray. Join her as she takes on the hustle and bustle of the United Kingdom.
Story and Photos by Cheyanne Murray
It was my first trip alone, and in the first night I found myself in a Lord’s house.
At least that’s what it used to be. Now the Victorian-era mansion serves as a hostel, and backpackers mingle around suits of armour and rich coloured carpets.
Walking in with my newly acquired friends – which I met in the London Underground – we were greeted with cheerful gestures from behind the desk.
I soon learned from them that my bed in Palmers Lodge, Swiss Cottage was up in the attic, but to get there I was directed to go up the stairs as far as they would go, into the bathroom on that floor, up the stairs hidden inside, and at the end of it all I would finally reach the attic. Instead of being daunted by the climb, I was thrilled with the unique experience.
The attic had low hanging beams and small windows on either side of the room, and bunks following around the walls. I found my bed in the far corner against a wall – something I was quite excited about.
However, even though the climb to my bunk was quite the climb in its own right, I did not stay long as I was vibrating with an excitement to explore that the jet-lag could not simmer down. So, back down to the Tube I went.
The London Underground – with its overwhelming stations consisting of several floors with even more platforms and a never-ending onslaught of trains, matched with constant reminders to “mind the gap” overhead on the intercom – would be how I would spend most of my travels.
“Sorry!” I would say on the train as a corner caused me to lightly bump someone, and I would get a surprised but amused look in return. People were equally astonished when I held the door open as I was leaving the station.
Clearly – even though we were speaking the same languages – there was still the slight cultural difference that made me stand out as if I had plastered red-and-white Canadian flags all over my body.
There is a good option to go to the more crowded areas in London, such as the wax museum, or – if you want to avoid all that – you can get up bright and early and direct yourself to the Sherlock Holmes Museum, which fans will be thrilled to know is indeed on 221B Baker Street.
Just as much as a Victorian life museum as a Sherlock one, no details are missed. Skeleton key locks are on the doors, books of the times line the shelves and there are even oddities such as a gun hidden in a book. Even the bathroom – though is not to be used – is on display. On a table by the fire, you might even find a hat of a certain detective that you might recognize.
Even if crowds are not your style, the Tower of London – containing great views of Tower Bridge – should not be missed. The Tower of London has found itself owned by many different hands since it was first built near the end of 1066.
During those times it acted as a royal residence, faced attacking armies, held and saw the tragic deaths of prisoners and was even a zoo. It was not until recently it became the house for the Royal Jewels, which is by far the biggest draw for the tower, but don’t miss out on the architecture and history as well as some ghosts!
Supposedly, the ghost of Anne Boleyn, who was beheaded in 1536, still haunts the chapel, and about six more ghosts are said to lurk within the stone walls with her.
If you are on the look for interesting foods, the Borough Market – located on 8 Southwark Street – has lots of foods and interesting stalls with plenty of choices. Its selection includes the biggest meringue cookies I have seen in my entire life, and the market also hides plenty of interesting restaurants in around it.
In my time in London I managed to find myself lost several times, but no one seemed too busy to point me in the right direction. At one point, I learned the hard way that a few parks in London – particularly one near Swiss Cottage – are very big and hard to find your way out of when the fog rolls tightly in. Just a warning to future travellers.
I was lost for three hours on the unmarked paths until I saw my first person; an elderly lady with a nice smile. I politely asked if she would call me a cab so I could escape from whatever maze of pathways I was on. “Dear, cabs are expensive. Where are you trying to go? I will walk you there,” she said.
Thankfully she did. If it wasn’t for her, I am sure I would have never gotten out. The Canadian wilderness has nothing on foggy London parks.
I spent over a week in London, visiting more amazing sites such as the museum and countless well-reviewed fish-and-chip spots – along with a few that were seemingly unknown.
Each night finished in the attic of the Lord’s mansion on my bunk against a wall. Across from me was a lovely girl from Rome who was constantly giving me chocolates that I “had to try,” but – despite the sugar intake – I slept like a log.
Cheyanne Murray is a photojournalism graduate living south of Calgary, Alberta. Since graduating in July 2011 Murray has been focusing on her two passions: writing and traveling. When she’s not planning her next adventure, she’s hard at work at writing one.