United Kingdom | LONDON

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Perhaps I should start by acknowledging that I am pretty sure up until now Carl and I were the only two people in the world that hadn’t been to London.  We had the privilege of staying with some friends in the heart of London, just below St Paul’s Cathedral, on the Thames.

London weather was a little cold for our taste, zero degrees and varying between sleet and snow on arrival, with a wind chill taking it well into the minus range.  We were told on good authority (by almost every Londoner we spoke to) that this weather was,  ‘very unattractive’, ‘entirely peculiar’,  ‘quite abominable’, ‘utterly tiresome’ and even ‘quite dull’.  Apparently, the winter, which started in October had chosen the weekend we arrived to renew itself.

London is overwhelming.  I think even if we had a year to explore it, we would still be found wanting.  Along each laneway is another story, another person’s history, another national treasure.  Inside each museum are invaluable artefacts, inestimable riches and unfortunately, inexhaustible lines of tourists.

We attended the Palm Sunday service at St Paul’s, as well as the Organ Recital that evening, a very memorable experience.  I can’t imagine having St Paul’s as my local parish church, however the grandeur of its architecture was breathtaking.  Those two visits are probably one of my most treasured London memories.

We gave London a good go, tourist-wise.  We visited the British Museum, Tate Modern, V&A.  We ate in Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant (twice), we drank cold ale and warm ale.  We were guided by the Beefeaters through the Tower of London and we listened to the secrets of the Churchill War Rooms.

London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Blackfriars, Borough Markets, The Shard, The Gherkin, Westminster, Whitehall, the list goes on… (and no, can you believe it, we didn’t go to Buckingham Palace!)

Time in London: 14 nights

The best things about London:

  • Just simply walking the streets, the high streets of Oxford and Regent, the opulence of Covent Garden, the numerous cobbled laneways that inevitably lead to new discoveries.
  • The history:  London’s history bleeds in every street, you can feel it as surely as you can touch the ancient buildings that surround you.
  • The pubs: around every corner is a historic pub, inviting and warm and generally always a friendly atmosphere.
  • The Barclays (Boris) Bikes: just £2 for the day and  you can ride them free for 30 mins, once this is up, simply park them again in one of the numerous parking stations, wait 5 minutes and take another one!  They have an app which shows all the parking station locations.
  • Pret a Manger cafes:  Selling reasonably priced food, really fresh and healthy and very yummy.  Always a nice warm place to head out of the wind, with free wifi.
  • Our wonderful friends, who took good care of us!

Tips:

  • If you are interested in saving a little cash, use the Boris Bikes (as the London Oyster card can add up).
  • Consider walking places instead of catching the Tube, it might take a little longer, but the journey there will be a lot more interesting!
  • Book tours online, you can often save a few pounds if you book a few days in advance.
  • If you are looking for really good coffee, we found Monmouth Coffee Shop in Covent Garden to be the best!

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