London views: historic and euphoric. On this, my very first visit, three days allowed me to see the tip of the iceberg. On the surface you see the international city with it’s melting pot of races, religions and customs. You see the iconic buildings, the unique public squares and parks, the double-decker busses and Tube stops, the pub on every corner, and the frequently moving (and mostly black) umbrellas. Under the surface you see (and feel) the people…at once prim and proper like their afternoon tea-time custom, yet ever-ready to share a conversation in the moment, give directions, or just acknowledge your presence with a nod.
Big cities are foreign to me, and when I travel, I tend to seek the calmness of the countryside. While exploring England I found both to be equally intriguing. On my inaugural experience with a first-class rail segment from Birmingham to London, the countryside slid past me effortlessly. My table supported the snack package delivered with a smile, along with a travel magazine. I had already sampled an island, a harbor town, and the ancient town of Bath, as well as Shakespeare’s reputed home of Stratford Upon Avon. (See the former blog) It was time to immerse in one of the most interesting cities in the world, and I was going to see it with a best girlfriend and her 8 year old granddaughter. Lucky me!
You would prefer to see images than read words, I suspect. I get that! Here are some of my favorites. I will return to London one day to experience some of the many free museums. My companion was having some trouble with a knee flare-up and so we saw most attractions only from the outside. But the river cruise and hop-on-hop off bus tickets allowed me more knowledge than I could handle! We scored a ticket to ride the London Eye…I hope you will love the photos. Enjoy, my friends. I list a few travel tips at the bottom, so be sure to scroll all the way down.
England the Active Travel Pro Way
Buy and load the Oyster card as soon as possible. Convenient way to use the tube, and also cheaper!
Rail tickets can be less if you buy them a couple of days prior…we scored first class for second class fare.
Check the tube maps up top before going down and know the final stop so you don’t get on going the wrong way. We didn’t, thank goodness!
Eat in the pubs to save money, but note: it’s tough to find green vegetables, and they must grow a LOT of tomatoes in England because every time I asked what the soup was that day, they would say “Tomato”. Grin.
Save your legs and take the double-decker bus tour. We did the Original, and could buy the London Eye tickets there for less (22 pounds per person) You’ll typically get at least two days.
Take time for the 4D movie (included in ticket price) before getting on the London Eye. Very cool!
If you plan to do rail journeys, pack lightly. I suggest a carry-on size and backpack for ease of entry to trains. Leave the full-size toiletries at home.
A good moderate hotel is the Best Western Cromwell in the Kensington Park area. It was a lovely walk to the Gardens, the neighborhood is very safe, there is a nice grocery store across the street, and the Gloucester Road Tube is also right across. Very close to the Blue line on the bus tour, too. OH, and the breakfast was quite good!
Check out www.londonwalks.com for tons of walking tour options. But you have to really be willing to walk briskly. Some in our group missed a turn when a light changed! Yes, our guide should have counted and we all should have noticed sooner. They meet at various locations and you pay in cash when you arrive, so no need to pre-book them. (You can’t actually.)
Consider Virgin Atlantic (they partner with Delta now). The crew was friendly and the movie selection was awesome. Food wasn’t bad, and the wine was flowing. It was a pretty painless experience, and I cannot always say that about air travel these days.
Enjoy your travel preparations, and as always, I would be honored to help you create a heart-centered travel experience of your own!