Tourist role play: Tower poppies, Westminster and Banqueting House

By Hannah Silverman

As the woman handed my camera back to me I realised she spoke the universal language of photography, too. “So, where are you from?” she asked me as I melted out of my photo pose.

Considering my accent is now somewhat of a western hybrid, it’s a question I’m asked almost daily. In fact, it’s become so regular I consider it a win if I’m mistaken for a born-and-bred Briton. Depending on how many cocktails I’ve had or which nationality I’m in the company of, I’ll admit, I can be a bit of a subconscious voice chameleon. But usually newbies still figure out I’m from the Southern Hemisphere and most earn bonus points for pinpointing the Antipodes. It’s at this stage I delight in telling them that I am actually a bona fide Londoner, not because I’m ashamed of my heritage (gosh, far from it) but in general I enjoy the sparkle of stepping away from the tourist cliché.

Today, however, was different.

I am in awe. This really is spectacular. (And that really is The Shard in the background).

Today I revelled in my foreign affairs as I proudly answered, “Adelaide, in South Australia – have you been?” You see there are so many things you can get away with when you wear the tourist hat and photography can be the perfect icebreaker. Just because you’re in your home town doesn’t mean you can’t say cheese and get your tourist on, too.

I took a day out to be a London tourist and here’s how the Big Day went down.

I started off bright and early to explore the Tower of London’s magnificent poppies display. If you’re not local you may not know that this highly-praised feature commemorates the centenary of the outbreak of WWI with a sea of poppies to represent our fallen heroes. It’s dramatic, it’s moving, it’s spectacular. It was also here that I met my new friend as we stood alongside hundreds of other early risers with the same idea.

Take a look at some of the pictures…

The display closes on November 11, make sure you check it out before the gardening starts.
A waterfall of poppies.
Ok, I’m just playing with angles now. You like?
You might remember this from such pics as… the previous ones. I zoomed in on a subtle little window display.
Poppies will put you to sleep… well, not here. What an eye opener!

All juiced up on tourism, from here I wanted to explore Westminster Abbey just a few stops further along the Circle and District Line. Westminster Abbey is another of those attractions you really want to see but put off, not because it’s not important, but because you assume it will always be there. On this particular occasion I will have to continue that assumption. At £18 a ticket, the pre-New York trip accountant in my head that I occasionally listen to managed to discourage me. It didn’t stop me from snapping away around Westminster though.

Westminster Abbey isn’t exactly creating a sea of blood to rival the Tower of London, but their miniature graves will be very powerful when complete.
See, I was there! Even if the top of the Abbey was cropped. Stay tuned for some “proper” pics when I raise the 18 quid.
This is where the serious stuff happens.

Oh look, there’s Big Ben, right next door. When in… London, as they (sort of) say…

Gorgeous Benny on a cloudy Autumn day.
It doesn’t get much more quintessentially “London” than this.
Playing, and posing, in my own backyard.

Then it was off to the Banqueting House. I’ve shared my hot tips with you recently about the Royal Historic Palaces membership deal, and this beauty is certainly included. Not only is it the only remaining feature of Whitehall Palace, but it houses a stunning ceiling of Ruben’s artwork, classic architecture designed by Indigo Jones and, most dramatically, sets the scene for the beheading of England’s Charles 1 back in 1649. The grand hall comes with a nifty audio guide (I love a good guide!) and very few tourists. You don’t normally see this one on the Must Do London lists, but check it out if you like history, or art, or just really pretty rooms.

Or if you like really comfy bean bags...
Or if you like really comfy bean bags…
Just look at that ceiling!

Sometimes we forget how beautiful or how culturally significant the places we live in are. We’re always looking for that next big trip, the newest and hottest destinations or a new adventure with a new group of friends. It’s remarkable how satisfying I find being a tourist in my own town (yes I do realise my home town is possibly the greatest town in the world and I’m very crazy, stupid lucky). Still, if Big Ben’s in my backyard, why do I jog passed him on my lunch break?

After the small talk with my one-time photographer ended above the sea of poppies I realised that while it’s one thing to be proud of being a local, it’s a wonderful privilege to have the background story of a foreigner.

Other things that look much cuter on a tourist:

  • Asking for directions or publicly studying maps because your navigation skills are embarrassing.
  • Shamelessly buying postcards… for yourself.
  • Selfies, but I’ve already said that.
  • Eating crappy local food that residents should know better to avoid.
  • Stopping in the middle of a footpath – or the Tube platform – and slowly changing directions.
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