The next day, I decided to take a walk. One of the things that I'd been curious to do was to see how far I could walk along the river. So I did. And I ended up nearly in Richmond. I started out on Vauxhall Bridge Road and walked along the north bank through Chelsea and Fulham to Putney Bridge. Then I crossed the bridge, and wandered through Putney, Barnes, and Mortlake. At some point, I was desperately wishing for a tube station, because my feet was rebelling against me, but it seemed like I was walking miles and miles without finding one. Finally I got to a railroad bridge, and I just followed it until I saw a sign for the Kew Gardens tube station. It was still another mile beyond that, and I was never so happy to see a tube station. For all the exhaustion though, it was really nice to get way out of the center and see other parts of London. I definitely didn't come across any groups of tourists in the last few hours that I was walking. After sitting on a bench for a few minutes and having some excellent curry chips, I took the tube back to Victoria. At the hotel, I promptly fell asleep for an hour and a half, but I had to wake up because I had plans with another friend up in Hampstead. That ended up being a nice, low-key evening out: a few pints at a pub that I never would've found without a local guide and delicious risotto at an Italian restaurant on the high street. Altogether, probably one of my best days there.
The next day was Saturday, so my friend and I went to Notting Hill to go to the Portobello Road market. There were a lot of interesting things to see, but there were just SO many people there. I don't get claustrophobic, but I don't enjoy extended periods of time in crowded spaces, so I didn't really enjoy it. It seems like that's the market that all the tourists know about. There was a church that my friend was really eager to see that we tried to get into, but all the doors were locked shut, and I had to persuade her that no matter how much she wanted to see it, no good could come of trying to break into a church. No good at all. We were actually in the Notting Hill/Bayswater area for 4 or 5 hours, so we were tired after that and came back to the hotel to rest for a while. A few hours later, we headed to Westminster, one of the ends of the Festival on the Thames. I was really hoping to get food from one of the places set up on the Southwark Bridge, but it took us so long to get down that way that we ended up eating elsewhere. There was a lot to see: concerts, artwork, vendors of all sorts. After walking around and people watching for a couple of hours, we went to the Tate Modern to take advantage of their Saturday night late-night closing. I saw the couple of exhibits that I'd missed the week before.
Sunday was my last full day. I woke up early and got myself ready to run the 5K in Hyde Park. I finished in 29:19, a full 5 minutes faster than my previous 5K time had been, so I was very pleased. There were about 15,000 people running, so there were tons of people cheering us on along the way, and it was just a nice environment. It's also nice to run in a place that doesn't get as hot as LA, because that's one less thing to have to contend with. After I showered and got dressed in real clothes, I decided to take another long walk, though not quite as extreme as I'd done a couple of days before. From Victoria, I walked to Westminster, then to Embankment. I sat in the Victoria Embankment Gardens reading for a couple of hours, then walked to Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, and back to the hotel. I'd been kind of irritated with my friend, so I decided I'd rather dine alone on my last night. I went to Prezzo on Kensington High Street, and I had a really good meal. Half a bottle of wine, fried mozzarella as an appetizer, and an entree of grilled chicken topped with bacon, tomato, and melted cheese, with potatoes au gratin. Excellent service too. The bill came out to about £20, and it was well worth it. I took the tube back and had a drink at a pub between the station and hotel, my last pint of cider. Who knew that eating and drinking alone could be so easy?
My flight was leaving on Monday at 3:30. I had to check out of the hotel by 10:30, so I woke up early and went for one last walk: to Westminster, across the bridge, to the next bridge, to Embankment, and then back by way of Whitehall. I saw the street sign for Great Scotland Yard, which was kind of exciting. After I checked out, I sat in Victoria station for about an hour snacking and reading before I needed to get on the tube. The ride there was uneventful. If anyone ever needs to get to Heathrow and is staying on District line, I highly recommend switching to the Piccadilly line at Hammersmith. From the District line train to the platform is a step down, and from the platform to the Piccadilly line train is a step down. It might be the easiest transfer with luggage you've ever had. I checked in without a problem, had lunch at a branch of Ponti's in Terminal 3, stocked up on a lot of Cadbury at the duty free shop, and before I knew it, I was flying above London, and a mere 12 hours later, I was back in LA.
Now that I'm back, it feels as though as I never left. I had to start working again the next morning, so I had to get right back into the swing of things. The trip must've been real though. No way would I be able to make up stories this detailed. :)