Walking Southbank at dusk was an incredible experience. Street performers drew crowds. The London Eye lit up red. Big Ben’s face glowed. The lights shown off of the Thames, casting a magical shine. It wasn’t until that moment, crossing the bridge to stare up at Big Ben, that I realized this was what I’d been waiting for. This was London.
The night life along Southbank thrived. Restaurants and street vendors served the bustling crowds. There wasn’t one inch of Southbank that didn’t smell like pot. I was worried my clothes would catch the smell the way they do when you sit in a smoky restaurant. Luckily, the smell stayed on the bank.
Walking back from the bank, I crossed on a red as all pedestrians have done at some point. Except, a red double-decker bus was barreling down the street and I almost got hit. London drivers don’t stop when they see pedestrians in the way, they just honk. Welcome to the city.
In my time in London, I did not go on the London Eye because I’ve been in tall things before and sure, the views are good, but I didn’t think it would be worth it. Maybe I’m wrong. If I go to London again, the Eye is on my list along with riding a double-decker because of all the times I saw them, I never thought to ride one.
Why was Big Ben so important to my London experience? It’s iconic. It’s beautiful. Peter Pan flies past it in the movies. It is London. My favorite pictures from London are of Big Ben and seeing it was one of my favorite things on the trip. It was one of those moments where you’re fully aware of where you are. It finally becomes real, and that’s amazing.