So the title of this travel blog is “London…How to do it right.” With this bold statement, I have to confess I did it right mostly by luck. As we arrived in town, I saw the “Big Bus” and somehow it all made sense. What a great way to get a feel for the lay of the land than start with a tour around the city.
We bought our tickets and had a knowledgeable tour guide fill us in on the history of the iconic sights and the different neighborhoods around town. We found out where to purchase theater tickets, how to ride the subway, how to tell when the Queen was in town and where to experience the best restaurants Piccadilly Circus.
After a day of sightseeing and a good feel for the city, we then used cabs and the underground to get around. While the underground is the cheapest and fastest way around this crowded city, the taxi cabs were the most insightful. We met some great people and they gave us a glimpse into the heart and soul of the city and politics of the time.
Big Ben… we all know it but is amazing to see close up. It dominates the London skyline and you feel like you’re seeing an old friend for the first time.
Big Ben Facts…
Each dial is seven metres in diameter
– The minute hands are 4.2 metres long and weigh about 100kg (including counterweights)
– The numbers are approximately 60cm long
– There are 312 pieces of glass in each clock dial
– A special light above the clock faces is illuminated when parliament is in session
– Big Ben’s timekeeping is strictly regulated by a stack of coins placed on the huge pendulum.
– The latin words under the clock face says in Latin “O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria”.
The London Eye (also known as the Millennium Wheel) is a giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames in London. It adjoins the western end of Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank of the River Thames between Westminster Bridge and Hungerford Bridge, in the London Borough of Lambeth.
The structure is 443 feet (135 m) tall and the wheel has a diameter of 394 feet (120 m). When erected in 1999 it was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. Supported by an A-frame on one side only, unlike the taller Nanchang and Singapore wheels, the Eye is described by its operators as “the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel”.
It is the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom with over 3.75 million visitors annually. Prices start at 30 pounds for a whirl around but you can spend over 500 pounds to reserve the whole capsule.
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, 2 miles west of Amesbury and 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury. Stonehenge’s ring of standing stones are set within earthworks in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.
Archaeologists believe it was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the first bluestones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC.
Stonehenge has been a legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument since 1882 when legislation to protect historic monuments was first successfully introduced in Britain. The site and its surroundings were added to UNESCO‘s list of World Heritage Sites in 1986. Stonehenge is owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage; the surrounding land is owned by the National Trust.
A must stop on your trip to England is Windsor Castle. Just a hour out of London (depending on traffic) you get to experience royalty in its finest. The summer home to the queen, Windsor has an amazing history and is a visual delight. The major regret is they do not allow photography inside.
The tour consists of viewing the different rooms that are not only visually pleasing but you can really fee the ghosts in the rooms.
What is more iconic than Big Ben, The Eye & the Tower of London in London? Of course BEER! One of the first things one needs to do in London is to find their own local pub. Right down the street from our hotel, was the one of the friendliest places – great people and great beer.
One of the most historic buildings in London is Harrods. While the last thing I usually want to do is go shopping, this is one department store you don’t want to miss. It’s over the top on everything. Have you ever seen a department store with its own oyster bar? One with a place to pick out your steak and have them cook it for you? Pastry chefs making amazing creations? Only Harrods…don’t miss this attraction.
If you get a chance, you have to play golf in England. While not Scotland, all the courses are great and offer a lot of history. We played at Foxtail, once the home of an English manor house that is now a hotel.
Now the tallest building in London, the Shard standout of from the rest of the architecture. A shiny monolithic building that reminds me of the World Trade Center in NYC. The restaurant at the Top of the Shard is one of the best. The two story wall of glass and the clean lines make this a place to eat, drink and be seen. As you would expect, the views are amazing!
Royal Albert Hall
Since its opening by Queen Victoria in 1871, the world’s leading artists from many performance genres have appeared on its stage and it has become one of the UK’s most treasured and distinctive buildings.
The Hall was originally supposed to have been called the Central Hall of Arts and Sciences, but the name was changed to the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences by Queen Victoria upon laying the Hall’s foundation stone in 1867, in memory of her husband consort, Prince Albert who had died six years earlier. It forms the practical part of a memorial to the Prince Consort – the decorative part is the Albert Memorial directly to the north in Kensington Gardens, now separated from the Hall by Kensington Gore
Throughout London, the Royal Family owns many of the properties. Here is an iconic look at the guard of Buckingham Place where the queen lives.
South of town, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton & Prince William live.
As I said earlier, London is made up of many different neighborhoods. This one is North of town where the most famous bridge in the world resides – London Bridge. It is a beautiful structure that has stood in one shape or the other for hundreds of years.
Not too far away is Apple Market – a place for boutique shops and restaurants. It was once a train station that has been magnificently transformed.
What would a trip to London be without a stop at a play. There are almost 40 shows to choose from that vary from musicals, to comedies to Shakespeare play delivered in a period theater.
We got a great tip from the Big Bus driver to hit Piccadilly Circus to get show tickets up to two days ahead for about half off. At this price around $75 US, we were able to see the Book of Mormon and Kinky Boots. I highly recommend both if you want to laugh an sing for joy.
That’s all folks!