4 Nights in London with my lovely local tour guide Alicia!!!
London Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
Well, I was anxious about the long trip to London, flying straight through via Singapore, especially after a very frantic last week packing up, cleaning and moving out of my unit (thanks Mum and Dad!!) and then busy, busy preparing to fly out. The flight was actually really, really good (thanks Qantas on demand entertainment system and sleeping tablets... but not thanks to the chicken winged man that was sitting next to me... seriously, stick to your own armrest... I just chicken winged him back!!) and I arrived at Heathrow at 6:30am feeling relatively human and was proud of myself that I was able to take the underground to the station near to my hotel, complete with 2 large suitcases and 2 pieces of carry on luggage.
Unfortunately, thanks to the ever efficient London transport system, I was promptly at my hotel, but I was not able to check in for several hours. I caught the tube into Piccadilly Circus station to head to the main tourist information centre and the lovely man there gave me my trusty maps (now almost disintegrating from living in my pocket for the past 4 days) and pointed me in the direction of the Mall. So, a nice stroll later I was at Buckingham Palace and just happened to arrive in time for the changing of the guards - brilliant timing! I managed to secure a good position right on the palace gates, but this soon meant that I was the envy of many Italian tourists that were soon pushing and pushing forward on everyone in an attempt to get a picture of the men with fuzzy black hats.
After a lovely hot chocolate, I strolled back to the tube and caught a very prompt train (seriously... so, so good to have fast, frequent and easy to understand travel network) and after checking in at my hotel, a freshen up shower later I was ready to hit the streets again (in that non prostitute way)... and such good timing with Alicia being in town and able to give me my part 1 of "Alicia's Local History, Culture and Fun Tour of London" (highly recommended by the way, but be warned.
So, the rest of the afternoon I got my "orientation tour" which included getting my bearings of the west end - from Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Soho, etc).
Day 2 - More Walking....
I met Alicia at the obligatory morning coffee shop stop in Chelsea, then we wandered up Fulham Road, had a brief visit at the Victoria and Albert Museum (sorry, the V&A) and the Natural History Museum. Despite the rain, we walked through the lovely Chelsea streets, had some lunch, then caught my first red bus up to near Harrods... what a lovely store although probably not in my price range nor luggage capacity. A not so nice stroll then from Harrods (driving wind and rain.
Day 3 - the Day where I did not use my umbrella!!
I was feeling a bit weary (no major jetlag though - yippee), so didn't make it into town until 10am just in time to buy a half price ticket to see the Sound of Music that night, then met Alicia at the British Museum where we had a great wander through and look at the Egypt (Rosetta Stone plus mummies), Japan and Mexican sections... so much to see and we barely scratched the surface, but the atrium (love the new glass ceiling) and outside of the building were remarkable in themselves.
Since the weather was so good (patchy sunshine), we walked down to Westminster Abbey, then on to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. I thought that the parliament buildings were just beautiful, though thought that it was a shame that you can't go into question time, nor walk on a grass roof like at the Oz parliament building.
We also managed to have a good walk through Hyde Park - see the Diana memorial, Albert Memorial, Kensington Palace, plus ducks, daffodils and lots of green, green grass, before I headed off to the Marble Arch and a wander down Oxford St before watching the Sound of Music at the Palladium Theatre. I loved the show and have been singing along to the tunes since last night.
Last day in London and the sun was shining and I was well rested... I started out at the Tower of London (definitely the highlight that everyone raves about) and had the Beefeater tour and a squizz at the Crown jewels. I then met Alicia on the Tower Bridge (very lovely aqua blue), then we wandered down the Soutbank, through the Borough Markets, across the Millennium Bridge back to St Paul's Cathedral where we had timed our arrival to join one of the guided tours at 2pm to only find out that it had been cancelled because one of the tour guides was sick!! We both armed ourselves with one of the ever so trendy but also tangly audio guides instead. It is really just a breathtaking cathedral and I'm sure that it is just the start of all of the beautiful churches that i'll see on this trip.
We then decided to climb to the top of St Paul's Cathedral to have a look at London. It seemed like such a good idea and the view from the ground didn't really show the 365 feet that we were about to encounter. Fair enough the church is really old and it is not at all feasible to install a lift, but the stairs are very steep and windy... i rarely let go of the handrail and when we got to the first level I was already feeling dizzy and giving death glares to anyone that tried to pass me and make me take one step closer to the edge. After a brief rest break (read: slowing of heart rate and throbbing of legs), we went to the next level, which required slightly steeper stairs and smaller passage ways. Nice view from this level and very stable feeling (ie plenty of concrete and plenty of space to walk). The stairs to the top level of the cathedral dome is a winding, wrought iron staircase with stairs that you can see through and because the viewing platform at the top is so small, there is frequent stopping waiting for people to move around and then leave. Once at the top, the views were amazing (we could actually see quite a distance), but I was smushing myself against the wall and walking sideways around the platform... although I think that I did slightly step away from the wall just long enough for Alicia to take a picture.... ahhhh!!! The walk down the stairs was a relief and I think that by the time that we made it back down and into the crypt, we were in the need of solid ground and a stiff drink.
So, it is my last night here in London for now... I leave tomorrow on a 2 week tour of Europe with Topdeck... I can't wait to see what the next installment will bring and am ever indebted to Alicia for her time, energy and patience in giving me a great few days in London.
Things that I have learned whilst in London:
* You must carry an umbrella with you at all times and be ready to execute at a moment's notice
* You must wear layers of clothing to accommodate the 4 seasons in one day
* It is possible to get sunburnt in London in May
* You must store your Oyster travel card in an easy location in your bag or pocket... must not look like a bumbling tourist
* Those free daily papers that are handed out everywhere are a staple of daily life on the tube and there is a lovely sharing of papers, magazines etc on the underground... if you are finished reading something... just put it behind you and someone else will promptly pick it up and enjoy
* A car is not really needed in a big city... petrol is not so expensive if you don't use it
* The double decker red buses really are everywhere and not just for tourist buses
* Walking around is the best way to see London... and the best way to avoid jetlag... but remember to build up your back strength so that you can carry your day pack... or just carry a smaller bag and don't travel with everything but the kitchen sink as I do
* You certainly get a lot more history and culture in a city that is over 200 years old (sorry Sydney)
* The London pub lifestyle is a necessary part of people coping with living in very small apartments... who needs to entertain at home when you've got a local on every corner
* They really do serve beer at "room temperature"