After a gruelling 24 hours of no sleep and constant travelling, I finally arrived in London! And much to my pleasure, it’s been sunny and hot every day so far (hopefully I haven’t jinxed it for the next 24 hours). Like the true party animal I am, after arriving at my hostel in Victoria (it swaps about 9.30pm London time), I promptly fell asleep. Raging first night in Europe!!
As a European first timer, I’ve found starting with London very nice – everyone speaks English, everyone drives on the same side of the road (but they walk on the righthand side – confusing!) and, after being initially intimidated by the tube system, I’ve discovered that it is incredibly easy to get around! I would definitely suggest investing in an Oyster card, or if not, a weekly tube pass – saves you money in the long run, and makes it far easier and faster getting on and off the tube.
As I’m limited on time in this beautiful city, I’ve jam packed my days with all the touristy things I can possibly fit in! Yesterday involved the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park, Oxford street, Parliament House and. Big Ben. Unfortunately I was not aware that most of the big tourist places that you might want to see charge through the teeth to let you in.
The London Eye is a definite tourist trap – one that I thoroughly enjoyed. It costs £21 and takes over an hour between buying tickets and completing the full rotation, but it really was a spectacular view. Probably not something I’d do twice, but I definitely don’t regret doing it.
The Buckingham Palace was quite cool to see, but then again I’m a bit of a fan of the royal family (yes, I watched the wedding, and the mocumentary on Kate and William the night before). I would suggest timing it for the changing of the guard, just adds a bit more excitement to the whole experience. As it’s such a beautiful city, my days have been filled with walking – we walked all around the city, all the way down Oxford st ( did you know there are 6 Zara’s and 4 H’n'Ms on the one road? Ridiculous.) across Hyde Park, which included a spot of paddle boating, and then a slow walk back to our hostel.
Day two was spent primarily by myself and again, involved more exercise than I have down for a very long time! I started my adventure by getting the tube to the Tower of London. I initially was hesitating as to whether or not I should go in, as it costs £22 ($40 Aussie), but eventually I bit the bullet and went – again I would definitely recommend it. You can join a tour for free with one of the beefeaters, but it just chose to wander around by myself, and I’m glad I made that decision. I was able to walk around at my own pace, stop where I wanted to, skip what I didn’t want to see. All along the walls are bits and pieces of English history mainly surrounding past kings and queens. The Crown Jewels were my favourite part- one of the diamonds weighs over 530 carats! My suggestion for how to spend a day in London (if it’s not raining!) would be to start at the Tower of London, walk over the Tower Bridge (I was thinking of the Spice Girls movie the entire time), and stick to the Queens Walk which takes you along the Thames River side. I walked through the Borough Markets – really good street food, cheap and easy (I had a strange looking Indian dish which was delicious!), Sticking to this walkway takes you past the Globe Theatre, the Tate Modern, and if you duck across the Millennium Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral. I chose not to go into St Paul’s, purely because it costs £16 and I had preferences over this, but from what I hear it is spectacular. From there you can either catch the tube back into Westminster, but as it was such a beautiful day, I chose to walk along Southbank. It’s a bit of a trek, but it was well worth it. Apparently London is having a heat wave (it’s about 27 degrees), and everyone has come out to enjoy the sun – I even saw someone sun baking on the banks of the Thames!
After making you way back into the heart of London, I would definitely recommend entering Westminster Abbey. It costs £18, but it is truly amazing. The sheer size of it alone is spectacular, but when combined with the incredible stain glass windows, intricate sculpture on the roof and the amazing names of people who are buried in the abbey, the experience is one that is not to be missed. Some of the names of people who have been buried that I saw include; Shakespeare, Chaucer, Isaac Newton, the Brontë sisters and many many many more. Again, it depends what sort of history you are interested by, but it truly is a spectacular place.
Now I know I said I was doing Europe on a budget, and I am, but sadly London has already blown that initial $100 a day (maximum) goal that I had. Accommodation isn’t the cheapest, and all of these tourist attractions eat my money up like nothing else. Whilst I was debating about what site to see and what to miss, I decided just to bite the bullet – how many times will I be in London? Maybe I won’t get another chance like this to see the sights! So I just sucked it up and paid the entrance fee. So sadly I can’t give you money saving tips right now, except that the street food I’ve seen so far has been delicious and cheap.
My final quick tip before leaving you is this; load up a map of the city you’re in on a wifi network, and then use it out and about in the city. Both my sister and friend Michelle here in London suggested this to me, and it was an excellent idea. I was unaware that GPS didn’t use data (make sure you’re data roaming is turned off of course). I was able to navigate my way around London without looking like a complete geek by getting my foldable map out every two minutes!
So that’s all from me at the moment! Still trying to get into the swing of things over this side of the world, but hopefully should be in tune very soon!
Next stop is Paris, but only over night, and then onto Bruges, so will probably post from there!
Until next time