I lost my pen! I knew I should have brought 2 with me. Oh well, now I have a new one anyway; and it says "The British Museum" on it! That’s right, I safely arrived in London and found my way to my hotel (and the museum, which is just down the street), but not without some trouble, of course.
Here's a travelers tip for you: always listen to you mom. Mom told me that once I got my luggage – after having to fill out a form twice because I was overtired and wasn't totally sure what it meant by "Where did you come from?" Sure, it sounds simple now, but if you're jet-legged and exhausted it wasn't very simple at all! – I had to make my way to the London Underground. I was to take a train from Gatwick Airport straight to the Victoria line, and then to Piccadilly Circus and I should be a half block from my hotel. Instead of listening to my mom, however, I asked the Information Booth worker for directions. He told me to take the Belfast train to another train station and it'll get me there in "no time". Well, as you can tell, I forgot what the name of the first stop was and I ended up having a lovely 2-hour tour around London!
Or, it should have been lovely. I believe I went straight through the slums of the city for the majority of the train ride for I have never seen houses in such ruin! The houses all appeared to be collapsing, with slanted foundations and mold covering the rooftops. Many buildings had broken walls, looking as if they had been in disrepair since the Blitz. Tarps covered some of the broken walls like curtains and broken furniture lay sporadically in the yards. Then, the train took a turn and I saw something completely bizarre. I saw a huge clearing with trees on the far side and dozens if not scores of lean-to shelters. Some were made of wood, while others look liked scrap metal. I couldn't believe my eyes! Was this really London – the once grandest city in the world?
Finally, I got out of the subway at a stop I recognized – the Victoria Line. From there I took a quick train to Piccadilly Circus and was just a few blocks away from Russell Square. Of course, throughout this whole train-hopping adventure I didn't have my camera out to record it. I think I have 3 pictures now. And of course, right now while I write this, both my cameras are in my backpack in the basement of the Imperial Hotel while I tour the city until they can let me have access to my room.
I began writing this in the beautiful Russell Square, once torn down and used to transport tanks during World War II, but now I have moved back to the hotel. The weather turned on me and the wind picked up. There is also the smell of rain in the air, which is odd for me; it’s March and I still expect snow. Oh well, I supposed it's time to see if I can get into my room yet. I’ll write later.
PS: I can see how realistic the Orwell’s "1984" is now. The train station had such a cold, mechanical, business drone to it that I swiftly loss my urge to explore. To add to that, there were intercoms in every direction warning people to watch out for "suspicious behavior". There were so many warnings that I was afraid to even think about doing something out of line!
PPS: From my previous entry, the "Romanian" I sat beside was actually from London. I guess I'm not very good at identifying accents yet!
PPPS: This last passage was very miserable. I should lay off Bram Stroker while I’m here. Or maybe get some sleep. To me, it’s 4 in the morning.
I attempted to sleep, but just like over Greenland, sleep eluded me. Also, my mind was telling me to call my parents and tell them I got here safely. I tried a few times but I got no answer. I hope everything is okay with my calling card. I'll try calling my girlfriend in a few hours (if my math is right, she probably just left for school). If she doesn't answer then I know there's something wrong with this calling card.
I also went for a shower. I didn’t realize how badly I needed one! I feel bad for the people who stood beside me on the train. Afterwards, I tried to straighten my hair but after a few short minutes, smoke started emitting from my power converter. Maybe I'll go with curly hair for the remainder of my trip. I don't want to blow my converter and have my camera die again!
Speaking of my camera, it's fully charged now and ready to go for tomorrow. I went for a pre-shoot after my attempts to call home and had a wonderful time! I may have strayed a little into those strange areas I saw earlier, but I tried not to go too far into them.
Besides that, I also found beautiful parks, quaint side-streets and a very awe-inspiring church. I took a few pictures and wrote in a book in the church for blessings. There were people praying inside so I attempted my best to be quiet.
I also bought a few postcards and a T-shirt. London isn't as expensive as I heard it would be!
I should go get something to eat soon. I haven’t had a real meal since A&W at the Calgary airport. I believe there's a pub attached to this hotel – let's start there.
Dinner was alright. I went to the Day and Night pub and had a very nice waitress. Unfortunately, I know nothing about alcohol and when asked what I wanted to drink, I pointed to the only brand I recognized. Guinness. I sat down and took a sip of my "first ever beer" and Oh My God I never want to have beer again!! What a disgusting beverage!
But on the bright side, I got a hold of my parents afterwards. They "didn't hear the phone" when I called before. I'm just glad my calling card works!
Now I’m planning my trip around London tomorrow. Tomorrow should be fun – London, here I come!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shut its doors in 1970. A year later, in 1971, it would briefly reopen and house inmates from Holmesburg Prison after a devastating riot. After the prisoners were returned to Holmesburg, Eastern State would sit empty for over two decades. It would rot, decay and collapse. Trees and shrubs would grow into the structure and a clowder of cats would take residence. These hallowed halls would sit empty, the only noise being the chatter of startled birds and the trotter of feline paws.
The following decades would see various discussions of what to do with the building. Eventually, it was decided to preserve it and turn it into a tourist attraction. Although it officially opened for tours in 1994, attendants would have to sign a waiver and wear hardhats before entering until 2008. They had 10,000 visitors the opening year, a number of tourists not seen in the prison since 1858.
From 1829 to 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary underwent a variety of changes and transformations. This massive, sprawling, 11-acre complex was founded under the belief that solitary confinement was the cure needed to prevent criminals from committing future crimes. It was believed criminals who served in solitary confinement would turn to a higher power to reconcile with themselves for their crimes – hence feeling "penitent". To assist in this process, each cell was equipped with a slit window on the ceiling nicknamed "The Eye of God". It would be the only light source available to the inmate.
A few months ago I entered a contest for a trip for two to visit Philadelphia on Two Bad Tourists. Normally contests like this are limited to United States residents so when I saw this one was open to Canadians I jumped at the chance. I've never won something like this before, so I actually forgot about it until I got the emailing saying I had won. Two Bad Tourists then worked alongside Visit Philly to organise the trip for me and my mother to explore Philadelphia for three days. Visit Philly paid for our flights, hotels and gave us a VIP Pass to experience the city to our heart's content. It is thanks to them that this trip is possible.
Several movies and television shows have tried to capture the essence of Philadelphia over the years – from the boxing Blockbuster Rocky, to the paranormal thriller The Sixth Sense, to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and even Boy Meets World – but each described the city differently. There is no easy way to approach a city as dynamic as The City of Brotherly Love. With countless layers of art, history, religion and the paranormal, Philadelphia is a city unlike any other throughout the United States.
One thing that surprised me the most about Philadelphia was the history. The city was founded and designed by William Penn, who is also the state of Pennsylvania's namesake. Born in London, England in 1644 he lived through The Great Fire of 1666 and The Great Plague of London from 1665-1666. Both events shaped Penn's life so he designed the city to be strictly stone buildings (to stop fires from spreading) and to have plenty of space between the buildings (as to prevent illness from spreading). This led to the older areas of the city to have winding corridors between old stone walls.
If you follow my blog, you know I love history. History is what makes us who we are today. It defines our accomplishments and highlights our failures. Most importantly, it helps us move forward as a society.
A lot of my focus is Saskatchewan's history, but there's plenty of amazing history to be told in our neighbour province of Alberta too. From First Nations culture, through to early pioneers, the oil boom and the legacy the province today, there is always something to learn about when visiting Alberta.