I hate to have to keep retracting my previous statements like this, but if I thought my legs were knackered after climbing the mountain, then biking the island, I have to say that this new level of pain (or rather, numbness) takes the cake now that I’ve arrived back at the Generator from a night of watching The Merchant of Venice at Shakespeare’s very own “personal” theatre, the Globe on the South Bank. I bring this up out of chronological order because it’s the most prominent thing on my mind right now, but to clarify: you are either a noble-person or a peasant. The nobles get chairs in the back and pay the big pounds, but the peasants get the best views right up front next to the stage and pay the meagre pittance. Notice that I say “views” and not “seats” because yes; part of the experience of being a “groundling” at the Globe Theatre is that your £5 only pays for your spot on the ground and nothing else; no seat. I have been standing still in one position with about a hundred other souls for the past 3 hours. Thank god for the 15 minute intermission at the 2 hour mark in which we all collapsed like marionettes with our strings cut; but we weren’t allowed to even sit on the steps up to the stage; I asked the attendant and she told me that groundlings weren’t allowed any seating other than the ground (fitting, hence the name) and if I wanted to sit, I’d need to go outside out of the theatre.

The play itself was great – I’ve never been too much of a Shakespeare fan myself and I confess that a lot of his writings are too complex for me. But these professional actors understood this plight of a common peasant as myself and did an excellent job of making it extremely lively, humorous (of course!) and dramatic. By the time the first act had ended, I was getting the swing of the Shakespearian grammatical construction and could even occasionally understand entire sentences! When I get back home, I’m going to have to check out a copy of the play from the library and give it a read through myself…I found myself identifying with the class-clown figure of Granacio (yes, I know the spelling is horrible) more than anyone else, and since he gets the girl at the end too, it’s a win-win situation!

But I digress – I should describe my last hostel to you as best I can, because it’s without a doubt the most professional hostel I’ve yet stayed in. The whole place is done up in a sort of electric blue and steel theme, there are neon lights everywhere, and there’s a bar with pound-fifty pints, free breakfasts, free towels every morning, and amazing £3.50 dinners that are huge (not gourmet, but it’s a quantity, not quality that counts). The place is simply packed, and for once, there are quite a few Americans around in comparison with the other hostels I’ve stayed at. About twenty minutes after my arrival, I met a chap named Lester at the bar, a grad student from Boston, and we talked politics, partying, and Harry Potter for about two hours and the wonderful man bought me three pints out of the goodness of his heart. The latter also doubled as a “silent alarm clock” for me the next morning because with three pints in me, you’d better believe that I was…uh…waking up frequently. It didn’t help that once again the bunk next to me was inhabited by an ogre of man with the most unusual snoring pattern yet – sounding literally like one of the dwarves from Disney’s Snow White, with the kind of high pitched wheezing grunt that would have made me laugh if it hadn’t involved me pulling out my hair and wanting to suffocate him in his slumber.

This morning, I joined in on what I think has been my best investment yet on my entire trip – a three and a half hour walking tour of London. The price for this was (wait for it) the incredible price of free, hosted by a company that employs grad-student aged guides that have lived in London for several years. Our guide, Gregg, was excellent – combining fast-paced and upbeat descriptions of our various famous sights with stories behind them, taking us off the beaten path (as much as possible at least) and being hilarious the entire time. He called this the “Pinch me, I’m in London” tour. He made it clear that he was Australian from the outset and made a few jokes at every other country’s expense throughout the trip. They were good though, so we forgave him. As with the hostel, a surprisingly large percentage of our 26-person walking group were American tourists. I guess London is where everyone was the entire time in my travels.

We started over by the Great Fire Monument by the north bank of the Thames (pronounced “Tems” for you Yankees who don’t already know), and worked our way west along the north shore, hitting up the big names like the London/Tower Bridge(s), St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Church of the Knights Templar (or just “Temple”), Covent Garden, the Theatre District, Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, and the government offices near Buckingham before ending at the steps of Westminster Abbey. Of course we didn’t have time to do much at each location besides hear Gregg’s stories and snap a lot of photos (which I willingly and ably complied) but it was great to just get a feel for each location, see it for the first time (for most of us at least), and get Gregg’s vocal and plaintive description of whether it was worth the admission fee or not. I can’t believe the guy was working for free, seriously. Most 1 hour tours are six pounds, and his 3.5 hour tour had no charge? I think the company is New London Tours; definitely recommended.

After the tour ended at around 15:00, we had some time to kill before things started closing down. Since I already had a daylong tube pass, I decided to get off the beaten path and see Abbey Road, sight of the famous Beatles album photograph that has the Fab Four crossing the zebra marks on the road near their studio (No one even needed that description I know, but I figured I’d add it just in case). I got to hold up traffic for a few minutes while a kind couple photographed me crossing the road and looking as Beatle-ish as possible. When I looked at the pictures 20 minutes later on the tube ride back into central London, I realized I was facing the wrong way on the crosswalk though; my pictures have me about at the right point to be nose-to-nose with Paul McCartney.

I thought the British Museum was open until 18:00 at least, but after leisurely strolling through the Egyptian section (which I really wanted to see because of the famous Rosetta Stone and their large mummy collection) they gave me the boot and conveniently relocated me to the gift shop. That’ll teach me to not read signs properly, again. By this point it was getting late, so I stopped back up at the hostel (which was only three blocks from the British Museum) to grab that feast of a dinner, watch the Simpsons, and then head right back out again to get my groundling spot at the Globe.

It’s been quite the full day, and I don’t know if my legs will ever forgive me for that punishment I just put them through (it was tight that we couldn’t even really shuffle around because of the press of people at the front of the stage, but I sacrificed my body for my love of the legitimate stage), but I’m ready for tomorrow. I’m planning an early start so I can tour the Tower of London (expensive but a necessary part of a first-time London visit), then the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Lester just ran into me a few minutes ago as I’ve been typing this, told me about his day and actually getting into Parliament and watching the politicians bicker, so I think I’ll do that too. At some point in the late afternoon I have tickets booked for the London Eye flight, and I’m not sure about what to do after that – maybe just more random walking around and taking pictures of things, or maybe trying to see another play; Spamalot is playing somewhere in the theatre district.

Time for me to get some sleep, but now that I’ve been sitting for a half hour since getting back, my legs might rebel against me and not allow me to move again…