At first I didn’t know
if I wanted to write much about London. I mean, everyone knows about
London and there is so much information about the city on the Internet.
But hey, every experience is unique so here is a bit about our trip to
have been in London one time before but that was just for one day. At
that time we came in from Houston in the USA and it was quite a change
to go from a “typical” American big city to a European big city. Houston
is a smaller city that London but I was fascinated by the fact that
London still has the narrow streets and the feeling of history. But that
time I was jetlagged and tired so I didn’t really pay attention to all
the things I saw and I really looked forward to going there again.
time we landed in London about noon on Wednesday 31st of May
2000. Our flight came to Gatwick airport and from there it is easy to go
by train (The Gatwick Express) straight into Victoria Station in London.
Our hotel was called Monopole and is located in Sussex Gardens near
Paddington Station. The hotel itself wasn’t much to brag about. I guess
it was cheap according to London standards (about £40 a night for two
people). But the room we got had a hard bed, a small TV with few TV
station (not that we stayed in much) and in the bathroom there were no
shower curtain around the shower so by the time we finished showering
the entire floor was wet
first thing we had to do was get a way to get around London. And I feel
there is only one way to do that and that is by the
underground. We normally travel around quite a lot so we found out
that a weeklong pass was the right thing for us. It cost us about £18
each to get zone 1 and 2 covered. We had to take a picture first but
that was no problem since there are photo machines on most of the tube
A single trip was about £1,5 so I think it was a smart investment during
our 6 day visit. I think that the Metro in Paris is better than the
underground. We did run into some problems when taking the tube. The
trains were delayed, we stopped on the tracks many times and had to wait
and one day we had to take detours because District and Circle line was
not running at all. But the staff at the underground seemed very
friendly and helpful and I think they help out tourists a lot.
One of the first things
that we did was to take a bus trip in London. There are many companies
that have sightseeing tours and we went on the Pride tour bus. We took
the grand tour that took us around Trafalgar, parliament, Tower Bridge,
Tower of London, Piccadilly Circus and so on.
just had to visit HMS Belfast. HMS Belfast is an old navy cruiser that
has been put up as a museum on the Thames. It was about £5 each to get
into the boat but it was worth it at least if you have an interest in
navy ships. We could walk around in the different zones of the boat from
bridge to boiler rooms. I was once in the navy and it was fun to see how
a WW2 boat looks like. The boat is located near London Bridge station so
it was easy to get to it. We combined it with the visit to the London
is a huge Ferris wheel that has been put up by British Airways in
Jubilee Park (across the river from the parliament). The tickets have to
be bought in advance and it seems to be very popular. When we came to
buy tickets for the next day they only had free tickets at 9 am and 9
pm. So we bought two days in advance. According to our guide in the
coach (each coach can take up to 25 people) the wheel opened in early
March this year and it cost something like £35 million. When we reached
the top of 135 meters we had a very good view of the city. It is strange
looking down on Big Ben. The trip took about 30 minutes and we had to
queue up for like 30 minutes to get on it but it was worth it. Each
ticket costs about £7,5.
far from HMS Belfast you’ll find the London Dudgeon (www.thedungeons.com).
I guess this is the wicked version of Madam Tussaud. The place has a lot
of things to show how London was back in the good old days...how people
were tortured, burnt and so on. There is also a bit of information about
Jack the Ripper and The great fire of London in 1666. The line outside
the place was so long when we got there. I decided that time is money so
I went 100 meters up the street and I bought tickets at the tourist
information booth. It was a bit more expensive than usual but we got in
pretty fast because we could get in using the line for people with
pre-paid tickets. Our tickets were £11 each.
also went to the Tower of London (tower-of-london.com).
There is one great thing about this place and that is the crown Jewels.
The crowns and swords and so on were just amazing to look at. But I’m
not sure that it was worth the £11 it costs to get into the place
because there is really not that much to see in there. We did walk
through the white tower but it got a bit claustrophobic because there
were so many people in there and we had to walk in line around the whole
We had a quick stop at
the British museum. Major maintenance work is being carried out at the
museum so it looks like a big construction yard. We only stayed there
for like an hour and we focused mainly on the Egyptian exhibits.
time I visit a big city it feels like a lot of the attractions are being
refurbished. It was the same in Paris (Notre Dame and Pompidou centre)
and it was the same in London. We discovered that parts of St. Paul’s
cathedral were closed due to maintenance. We were thinking about paying
to get it when we heard an American come out of there complaining that
he had paid a normal ticket and then it turns out that the whispering
gallery was closed.
did our share of walking in London (like we always do). We walked from
the parliament (we even got to hear Big Ben toll) to Trafalgar square,
onto Piccadilly Circus and to Covent Garden. We walked in Hyde Park and
on Oxford Street/Regents street to check out some of the shopping
facilities. And I must say that I was impressed with Selfridges’s on
store is really huge! We walked along the river from London Bridge past
HMS Belfast across Tower Bridge past Tower of London and to the
Monument. The Monument is a 62-meter column and it was made to
commemorate the fire of 1666. If you pay £1,5 you can walk the stairs to
the top of it. We also walked around Leicester Square and into the
little Chinatown near by. It was quite amazing to all of a sudden come
over a store that sold fresh Rambutan and fresh Durian. Durian is a
fruit that is loved in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. And if you go
to these countries during the Durian season you’ll smell it :-)
of the places that I really looked forward to visiting before we went to
London was The Millennium Done. The first time I got aware of it was
when I went to see the last James Bond film and he ended up on top of
it. The Dome is “ a whole day of inspiration, excitement and
entrainment” and it will only be open this year. It is easy to get out
to the Dome by using the tube.
is located near Greenwich so it takes a bit to get out there. We bought
tickets at a newsagent in London because everywhere I read it said that
tickets could not be bought at the Dome. I think they have changed that
because it looked like there were ticket lines at the Dome.
was quite expensive to get in (£20 each) but we spent all day at the
Dome and I must say that it was worth it. The Dome is divided into zones
and some are better than others. It got a bit crowded as the day went by
especially after the show in the central arena. The show in the central
arena wasn’t that great by the way. We ended the day by seeing
Blackadder Back and Forth on the cinema located right next to the dome.
think that the best advice I have to other visitors is to not try and
see too much at the time. Some days we ended up traveling a lot without
getting to see much. Like when we wanted to see the coronation day
salute in Hyde Park. We were going to Hyde Park but then we decided to
stop by some stores first. Because of this (and because no one we asked
knew were the salute would take place) we ended up getting there as they
fired the last salute. Then we decided to go to the Tower of London see
the salute there but because of problems on the tube we missed that too.
So it felt like we wasted a couple of hours.
of the most impressive things in London is the changing of the guards at
Buckingham Palace. I thought that it was just a simple change of guards
and I never really understood why there is so much fuzz about it. But I
understand it now. First of all there was a “parade” of guards and a
band that walked up to the palace. The bands played several times during
the changing and then there was a parade of guards and band leaving the
palace. We got to hear Bohemian Rhapsody (original by Queen) and they
played it so well and we got to hear a couple of songs played with
bagpipes and I just love that. But if you want to see it all you better
get there early. We came there like 10 minutes in advance and the place
was just packed with tourists.
decided that we had to try fish and chips one day since this is
the...eh...national dish. We tried in a place near Convent Garden and it
was pretty good. Most of the time we just ate breakfast at the hotel and
then we grabbed some fast food during the day. We went out to eat on an
Asian restaurant one night. It was not expensive and the food was good
(and very hot). Being an ice cream lover I did find my way to the Haagen
Daaz place on Leicester Square. Try the cookies and Cream...it is
days past so fast in London and all of a sudden it was time to go home.
We returned from London on the 5th of June. We did want to
see a musical, we wanted to go to a movie, we wanted to go to a marked
but we never found the time for this. Most of the times we were pretty
exhausted when we came back to the hotel after a day of sightseeing. So
if you are going to London stay there for as many days as you can so you
can see it all without having to rush through it all. It will be
expensive but it is worth it.
But I still have to confess that I do like Paris
better than London.