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in Destination UK, England

First time on my own in London

In March this year I took a day trip to London to renew my passport. Wanting to save every penny I could, a habit I learned from my husband, I booked with Megabus instead of the National Express even if there was only £2 difference for the return trip. On the way to London, we detoured a bit, of which I wasn’t aware until the driver told us that we were going to be roughly 40 minutes late, because there was a redirection between M11 and M25 and the satnav misdirected us to a longer route.

After the driver apologised, one of the passengers suggested that maybe the satnav had to be recalibrated or updated, because some passengers can’t afford to be late for work and they could be sacked. But the driver became defensive and said that the detour took only 10-15 minutes because he travels to London everyday and he “knows all the possible ways”.  Hmm, I wonder why he needed a satnav in the first place.

Nevertheless, we arrived in London and I was very hungry. I was going to take a walk all the way to the Philippine Embassy but because of the delay, I reckoned I was not going to finish my business there before they closed at 1 PM. So on the train I went, got off at Picadilly station and walked the rest of the way.

Before I turned to Suffolk Street, I walked past the Canadian Embassy and noticed the flags hoisted at every window.  I wondered how many Philippine flags I would see when I get to my embassy.

I didn’t have to wait long. In fact I was still on the thought when I turned to Suffolk Street and was welcomed by a sight that almost made me cry.  For there hanging on its own, twisted, not just once but a number of times, around its pole, is the symbol of my country, unaccompanied and, I dare say, utterly abandoned! What a stark contrast to the other embassy not too far up the road. What a sight to behold!

Philippine_embassy_and Canadian_embassyAnyway, I went inside and tried everything to finish my business before they closed for lunch, but their copy machine was too complicated to operate. After inserting all my £1 coins, I still didn’t get it right. Finally, a staff member came to help me because there was one minute left before they closed and they had to attend to the three of us who were already inside. A lot more people were waiting for their numbers to be called, but the door had shut them out. I still had to come back for the picture which was taken on that day. You see, at the Philippine Embassy they don’t ask you to bring your own photo IDs. They have got their own cameras operated by real people. So you can appear as pretty as you want unlike the ones taken from photo booths where you sometimes appear to have seen a ghost.

Lunchtime I went to the Chinatown which was just a few-minute walk round the back of the embassy. I sat by a fountain to relish my homemade sandwich while watching other people come and go. Some were taking photos with the fountain as their background and I thought, “What’s so photo-worthy about the fountain?” I looked at my sandwich and told myself, “Well, it’s none of my business, anyway!”,  before taking another bite.

I spent another half an hour at the embassy before roaming around London. I’ve been in England for six years and a half and this was my first time to be completely on my own. I’m not a city girl. I detest the complicated life in the city. It might be worth mentioning that I lived and worked in Bangkok for 6 years and I never really got to know the metro until my last few months in the capital.

Fourth Plinth

Fourth Plinth

I had three hours before my return trip to Norwich and I wanted to wander about at a leisurely pace.  I walked to Trafalgar Square which was just 5 minutes from the Philippine Embassy. If the sight of the Philippine national flag vexed me, what I saw on the Fourth Plinth amused me. I chuckled in silent entertainment as I walked closer to watch, in disbelief, a large monument of a blue rooster. It made me feel at home. It transported me back to my farming town at the time when the roosters’ early morning crows were used as an alarm clock by the farmers.

Nelson’s Column

Nelson Monument
When I took my mum on a day out in London last year, I learned a little bit about this monument.

It stands at about 170 feet from the base to the tip. The height of it is the same height of the mast of the ship that was used by Admiral Horatio Nelson, the hero of the Battle of Trafalgar.

Admiralty Arch

GateBuilt by King Edward in memory of his mother, Queen Victoria, the Admiralty Arch is currently the home of the Cabinet Office.

From Trafalgar Square I headed west toward the Buckingham Palace through this arch. The inscription caught my curiosity which read Anno Decimo Edwardi Septimi Regis Victoria Regina Cevis Gratissimi MDCCCX. I wondered why it was written in Latin. Did the citizens of England use to speak Latin? Anyway, I found the English translation online and it is “In the Tenth Year of King Edward VII, To Queen Victoria from Most Grateful Citizens, 1910.” Sadly though, King Edward didn’t live long enough to see its completion.

Horse Guards Parade

Royal Guard House
Remember the Beach Volleyball during the Olympic 2012? Yes, this was the site. The ground is used for royal parades and ceremonies.

Royal Guards

Royal Guards

I find their uniform intriguing. I thought they should all be towering in height but, surprisingly, they are not. Nevertheless, the changing of the standing guards and the guards on horse is only worth watching if you have plenty of time in your hands and you don’t have anything else to do. But the changing of the guard at the Buckingham Palace is quite a ceremony to watch.

Mr Bean Impostor at the Embankment

Mr BeanThe Embankment by the River Thames is like a circus ground. It is a melting pot of street entertainers like this Mr Bean impostor here. He didn’t have to do anything. All he needed was to look like Mr Bean and impersonate him. I said to myself that if I go penniless in London, I would try making a one-woman show. I’ll just have to paint myself in silver from head to toe and stand like a statue. No, that is a joke I never intend to fulfil. Well, you never know! 😀

From here I headed back to Victoria Coach Station giving myself extra 45 minutes to get there. I resolved to be there at least half an hour earlier so I won’t miss my bus, as I always do. The bus departed on time and the passenger next to me couldn’t help expressing his disbelief at how cheap the fare was. He also calculated the time and said that we would be in Norwich by 9pm.

As he used to be a London local, I showed him the photos I took and he kindly told me the names of each landmark. During our conversation he mentioned he had been in the Philippines and his favourite was the Rice Terraces in Banaue. His most unforgettable experience, which he called “an experience of a lifetime” was when he went diving with a great white shark in Malapascua, and he even suggested that I go for it. Hmm! not sure if my nerves could handle it. I didn’t divulge to him that I couldn’t even swim!

Two hours later, our bus stopped and the driver said that we couldn’t go any further because the engine was leaking! He even asked one passenger to loan him a phone to make a call to the management. We were all ears to what he was saying and after hanging up he told us that a new bus will be dispatched from their yard as soon as possible, and he would inform us of any update.  My seatmate asked where the yard was and he said, Norwich. The driver wasn’t even sure when a new bus would be dispatched and it would take at least an hour and half to get to where we were.

One passenger said that the bus he took in the morning was delayed and when he complained, the driver also gave him an unsatisfactory response, just like this driver did. Guess who he was. It turned out there were about three of us who were in the same bus in the morning. And now another delay–in fact it was going to be a major one, a Mega breakdown. I took a photo of the back of the bus covered with grease and wanted to post it here but decided I didn’t want to vilify the bus company. Well I guess I should have, just like what I did to Virgin Atlantic.

Nevertheless, we were stranded for four hours before the new bus arrived. So in the end we arrived in Norwich at 1AM. Needless to say, I decided never to go with that bus company again.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Lolita Gonzales November 24, 2014, 9:07 am

    I enjoyed reading your blog! You see I toured London and found myself reminiscing the good times I spent there! I took out my photos and was very happy seeing the places in your blog that I’ve been to..thank you Jemina..

    • Jemina Sentina November 24, 2014, 1:38 pm

      Hi Lolita, thank you for stopping by and your kind comment. I’m glad you enjoyed this blog. I never get tired of London. Everytime I go there, I always get fascinated, myself.

  • MarLot Visbal July 16, 2014, 2:05 pm

    There is no need to vilify the bus company…their services might be found wanting but having decided never to use their services again when you go for a city tour in London or elsewhere where they have routes…I feel that is more than enough. Haha! I just wanted you to know I enjoyed this particular post and shall look forward to more when you find yourself putting on your gypsy shoes again for a new adventure.:-)
    P.S.
    Made me really sad to see the state of our Philippine Embassy in London. I wish they took more extra care in presenting our country well so that we wouldn’t look so inferior in the eyes of the foreigners. Oh well….

    • Jemina Sentina November 24, 2014, 1:48 pm

      Hi Te Lot, sorry for this late reply. Just an update, when I went to see the Heritage concert, I passed nearby the Philippine Embassy going to Trafalgar Square and the flag was nicely hung this time. 😛

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