October 16, 2012 – Tuesday
On this day we visited Crystal Palace Park in South London. The day before, we had been in the London Transport Museum where I saw a poster of a dinosaur sculpture at the park and realized that I had a chance to personally see something out of a childhood picture book. It was a chance I couldn’t pass up.
We started off the day with lunch at Euston Station. I had a pasty for the first time, a traditional handheld pie filled with beef, potatoes, and onions and served piping hot. I really enjoy pies, and alternating bites of flaky crust and tender beef with sips of smooth, hot, coffee was an especially delicious and satisfyingly warming way to fuel up on this cold autumn day.
After lunch we went inside the station to use the facilities (this was the day that I bought the magazine) and scope out where we would be boarding the Caledonian Sleeper for Scotland in a couple of days’ time. Then, we took the Victoria line all the way to the end, to Brixton.
At Brixton, we stopped by a department store called Morleys before getting on the 3 bus for Crystal Palace Park. We rode through some residential and less (or non) touristy areas of London, a nice change of pace compared with some of the places we had recently been, with a lot more open space. Some sights of note include a big-box store (a Currys PC World, similar to Best Buy back in the States), Victorian homes, and what I jokingly called the Eiffel Tower of London, the Crystal Palace transmitting station.
The bus ride gave me a pretty good feel for what it might be like to live in suburban London, that it might not be so different from suburban America, or suburbs anywhere else. Up until this point, it hadn’t really occurred to me that London was not just the London that we see on TV, the touristy sites, the big city. There is a quiet side to London, too. The Currys especially reminded me of this, reminded me of living in a place like Fremont, of driving to a big-box store like Fry’s, parking in the huge lot outside, and looking at aisles and aisles of electronics. As we rode further away from Brixton station, the surroundings became more residential, and even the people walking on the street seemed to be walking slower than the ones we saw at Brixton. We saw signs indicating that some schools were nearby. It was about that time to get off school, and I thought back to a time when I, too, lived and schooled in a quiet neighborhood and couldn’t wait to rush home to while the afternoon away. Looking at the photo above, I can almost see myself walking home with the warm sun shining on my face.
It was here that I started realizing that despite language, cultural, and geographical differences, at the most basic level people everywhere are the same. We go to school, we work, we eat, we play. Really, seriously, that simple.
We got off the bus and entered the park from the west end. From there, we made our way down to the Italian Terraces, where the remains of various statues have been standing since the Crystal Palace burned down in 1936. The statues were supposed to represent different countries of the British Empire. The sphinxes are copies of an actual sphinx that’s housed in the Louvre, and were probably just used for decorative purposes. The Crystal Palace must have been a sight to behold in its heyday.
We continued on through the park, passing by some tennis courts and a sports center. There was a huge bust of the Crystal Palace’s creator. Since it was after school, a lot of parents were taking their kids to various activities. Again, it was the same as any other place where parents drop off their children for after-school activities.
Soon, we made it to the lakes at the southeastern end of the park. I was giddy with excitement and anticipation. It was probably around 25 years ago that I first saw a picture of the Iguanodon at Crystal Palace, and now I was about to see it for the first time. I know it’s been a recurring theme, but I suppose that’s what an adventure is all about, seeing things with your own eyes, experiencing them for yourself. The first sign that we were getting close was the herd of Anoplotherium, an early mammal:
Next, the behind of a reptilian creature. Was this Iguanodon?
We finally made it. The poses of the Iguanodons were unmistakable, these were the ones that started it all over one hundred and fifty years ago. I was and continue to be in awe of these and other historical creations, perhaps because despite time travel being impossible and the creators having been long dead, I can still stand there and enjoy them just as so many have throughout the decades and the centuries. I can almost feel the presence of all those who came before me, and I feel some comfort knowing that there will be others after me.
We stayed at the Iguanodons for a long time, making sure that I was completely satisfied before moving on. We then continued to the rest of the dinosaurs and the rest of the park.
Dusk was approaching and it was getting colder, so we headed back to the west entrance and waited for the 3 at the bus terminal. Once we were on our way, I searched around on my phone to see where we might have dinner and found a well-reviewed Indian place that was on the bus line. We had just passed it so we quickly rang the bell and got off at the next stop. As you can see from the photos, it was well worth it:
We were so full and warm from the meal that we decided to walk back to Brixton instead of jumping back on the 3. Once we were at Brixton, we once again took the 59 all the way back to the hotel. I spent some time in the hotel gym before calling it a night.
This has probably been the longest post on London 2012, and that’s because looking back, it was my favorite day in London, even better than when we went to the British Museum. There was something very pleasant and comfortable about the afternoon bus ride, seeing people just living their normal lives, seeing the historic sites and then having a lovely meal, and having it all topped off with one final bus ride back to the hotel. It was a complete day.