Off to London we go! The sun shone once again this morning for our ride into the big city. I psyched myself up for a busy ride and it was indeed, just that. We power pedalled along the bike lane beside the busy roads, until we reached some outer neighbourhoods and came across some quieter streets. It was quite interesting to see the different communities in the different neighbourhoods, with the diverse groups of people we saw as we rode through. We rode through obviously Muslim communities, African communities and Jewish communities. The Jewish neighbourhood seemed to extend far and wide because we rode for quite a distance and we continued to see large groups of Hasidic Jews along the way. It turns out, that part of London, Stamford Hill, is home to 30,000 Hasidic Jews and it’s the largest Hasidic Jewish community in Europe. Fancy that! So it was an interesting and diverse ride, showing the tapestry of cultures that is London.
When we hit the inner city, the traffic became crazy. I found it quite stressful and it felt a lot more hectic than other city riding we’d done. Riding through Edinburgh was fun, zipping around corners and through the city streets. Navigating Paris peak hour and being squeezed between cars and buses on the bikes was good fun. Today’s city pedalling didn’t feel fun, it just felt stressful. We got to the inner city about 11:00, so I suggested stopping for elevenses just to have a break from the traffic. We ended up at Southbank, which was really nice. We sat by the river and had a view down the Thames towards the Houses of Parliament. We sat and had a snack and watched the people coming and going and then walked the bikes through the crowds, to have a look at the sights. As we walked along, an ITV program This Morning was being filmed. We joined the onlookers and took a photo, even though we had no idea who the people were! They were obviously celebrities to the locals!
We had a terrific view of The Eye and Westminster across the river and as we stopped to take some snaps, a couple of people asked about the bikes. One man asked about our trip and where we were from. When we told him, he said he’d been to Melbourne but hadn’t been to Tasmania, although he wants to go and walk through Cradle Mountain. Another man stopped us and asked if we spoke English. When we said we did, he started asking us lots of questions about what we carry and how we travel and where we’ve been, because he wants to do a cycle tour himself. We gave him some info about what we do and when he asked where we’d been and we told him, he was excited to say he lives in the region of Portugal where we had been. “Did you go through the Algarve?” he asked excitedly. We told him we had and through Lagos and Albufeira, which we loved. He was quite chuffed that we’d pedalled though his home town!
Since we were nearby, we decided to postpone our ride to the hotel and head over to Buck House. We rode over the river, around Westminster and headed for Her Majesty’s town house. As we stopped at some traffic lights, a troop of guards were being escorted across the road by some mounted police. They were carrying instruments, so must have been some sort of band, but they got the special escort and had come from the direction of “the Royal House”.
We rounded the corner and there it was, the ol’ Buckingham Palace. The flag was flying so Mrs Windsor must have been home. We said g’day from afar and then set off to ride down the Mall. I liked that ride, down the wide street, where so many grand and important processions have happened.
As we reached the end of the Mall, we hit our own milestone. Kilometre number 4000. We ticked over that number, just as we were approaching Big Ben, so that’s one for the memory bank!
Time to head out of town and find our digs in Tooting. This was another hectic and busy ride and at least three times, cars either pulled out in front of us, or merged across lanes in front of us. I had a lady at an intersection pull in behind me, before I was completely past the intersection, so her bumper all but clipped my back pannier. It was all happening! It was busy and hectic and I was glad to finally arrive at our hotel. Oh, and by the way, with a kilometre to go, it rained! Well, it had to didn’t it!
What a day! Some adrenalin pumping cycling, some iconic sights, some more chats with people on the street and a little personal milestone. So we’ve had our introduction to London and now we can settle in for a few days and take the time to dig a little deeper into her stories and history. I’m sure it will be a real page turner!