Several years ago I worked in the United Kingdom (UK) for several months with London as my home base. In total I spent a little over 6 months working abroad and much of my time was spent alone. I credit my time working in London with giving me my sense of independence. I was in a foreign country with no friends; when I wasn’t working I was alone. Being alone it didn’t stop me from taking weekend trips to other countries in Europe, riding trains to other towns in England or exploring every nook and cranny of London. I bought cheep seats to just about every theater production there was to see and took advantage of late night museums. I traversed the city with my tube pass and took the bus just like a local. It was an amazing time and I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity when I did. It made me who I am today, curious and always wanting to explore new places.
Oddly, I hadn’t been back to London in over 15 years until last month. I booked a trip with my sister to spend 6 day exploring London. Since she had never been there I much of my trip was spent re-exploring London while adding a few new spots to our itineracy.
Talk about luck, I scored the last set of passes – on the last day – at the last time availble to visit the inside of Buckingham Palace. We literally ate lunch and went straight to the tour (FYI, it was a great way to stay awake and beat jet lag). When I was working in London I was there for the 6 months that it was closed (November-April). I had never toured the inside so I was excited to see the state rooms where past Kings and Queens lived. It was as beautiful as I imagined and the queen’s wardrobe exhibit was exquisite.
The best way to see the sights of London is on a Big Red Tour Bus. They are hop on-hop off and take you to all the major tourist attractions. To see everything in London I recommend taking one day to see most of the outside attractions and stopping once or twice to go into a few sites. Get up as early as you can and go as late as you can. Then on the second day pick and choose paces you want to return to (or bailed on because the line was too long). Our first full day we went from 10 am to 7 pm with a small break for lunch. Our second day touring we circled back to visit the House of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Kensington Palace with only a slightly longer break for lunch.
We hit all the major stops and atractions via the big bus:
- Tower of London
- London Eye + River Boat Tour
- Big Ben + House of Parliament
- Westminster Abbey
- Trafalgar Square
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- and a few more
We ended our two day, big red bus, non stop London tour with a proper tea at The Ritz in London. Tea is one of those things that I feel you have to do right once in your life. I picked the Ritz because it’s a classic.
After 3 days of navigating the city with Google maps I was excited to take an excursion to Bath and Stonehedge the next day. Both places were magnificent. A blog post on each is coming soon (and you won’t want to miss).
Back in London on our fifth day of travel, we had somewhat of a free day. I planned for us to see the changing of the guard and then wing it. We lined up in the crowd (thus the blurry picture) to watch the sentries preform their ceremonial guard relief duties. Folks it’s a whole lot of stomping and yelling and walking. Luckily, I picked a day with music accompaniment. Okay, it is a pretty cool thing to see, but after 30 minutes…speed it up boys! After the changing the of the guard my sister and I then parted ways. I went shopping and she decided to see St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Florence Nightingale museum. I was pretty done with seeing old stuff and London is one of my favorite places to shop. With the Pound being favorable it made it even more fun.
On our last full day of vacation my sister finally admitted to being tired of seeing old stuff! So instead of sight seeing, we decided to check out Old Spitalfields Market. I love market shopping. There are so many unique one of kind pieces you can find. I got a cool custom t-shirt by a Japanese artist and my sister purchased a hand crafted scarf and poncho from two local artisans.
It was great to be out and explore a city neighborhood. There is always some cool place you find when you are just out and about. Like—finding epicenter of London Cocktail week!!! It was a relaxing way to spend our last day in London.
The grand finale of our London trip was a dry esoteric play, No Man’s Land with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. All I can say is the acting was excellent the play…totally British. I could not have asked for a more perfect ending.