Mind The Gap...
30.03.2011 28 °C
London is a fascinating city and has a great mix of old and new attractions
and buildings. It's city has a split personality of old and traditional,
mixed with new and modern which is great to see.
When we visited it was June and summer in England and
we were blessed with long endless summer days with blue skies.
In fact it only rained once in six days we were in the city.
The people were all very friendly and the city is well planned
out and all attractions are well sign posted and with in walking
distance of Tube stops. Whilst visiting i was fascinated by the country's
Twilight and it took some getting used to to see daylight at 11pm at night.
My first memory of London was waking up to daybreak on board a
24 hour flight from Sydney and as the plane made it's decent into
Heathrow airport, the captain had to wait until 7am before landing.
We were the first plane here and arrived early, So we had to circle
over the city several times. It was so cool as i looked out of the plane's
window, we flew above England's most iconic landmarks, Buckingham
Palace, The London Eye and the Houses of Parliament.
Once on the ground we had meet with our city transfer car and
and went to check in to our hotel. As Check in wasn't until 2pm
we stored our bags and went out to explore. Our first stop was
a cafe for a traditional English Big Breakfast, and for less than 5 pound
we got Bacon, Eggs, Toast, Sausage, Hash Brown, Baked Beans and a
cup of coffee! In Australia you would pay $20 for this meal!
Our next stop was England's largest department stores, Harrods.
Inside you will find everything money can buy, Clothing, Jewellery,
Toys, Electronics, Home wares, Stationary, Furniture, Pet Products,
Wedding Gowns and even a lion was sold here in 1969!
There is also a Food Hall and a mutable dinning options.
The store employs 5,000 staff members and attracts up to
300,000 customers to the store on a busy day!
Next we headed to Kings Cross Station to check out Platform
9¾ made famous by the Harry Potter books and movies.
There is a sign and a luggage trolley that appears to be
magically disappearing into the wall and is a fun photo opp
for Harry Potter fans! This is set to be the final scene of the
Harry Potter films in The Deathly Hallows Part 2.
Our last stop before check in was a stroll through Hyde Park.
It was a beautiful, well kept park and lots of locals were out enjoying
the sunshine. We passed by the lake and went to visit the Princess
Diana Memorial Fountain. This has become very popular and now has
over one million visitors a year, visitors are welcome to sit on the
edge of the memorial and dip their feet into the water.
The next day started on board a Red Double Decker Bus on route to
Westminster. Our first stop was to get up close to the Big Ben,
It was a real welcome to London moment and looked even "Bigger"
up close. The Clock was completed in 1858 and is the stands 16 stories
high, Unfortunately you must be a resident to go inside the clock tower.
We took photos and then took a stroll up to Westminster Abbey.
Westminster Abbey is a beautiful gothic styled Church that has been
became the traditional Wedding venue for many Royal Weddings
including Queen Elizabeth II and the upcoming wedding of Prince William
& Catherine Middleton.
We than walked up to St Paul's Cathedral, one of London's most
recognisable sights. The original St Paul's Cathedral was burned
down during the Great Fire of London in 1666. The new Cathedral
was completed in 1708 and features a large dome shaped roof.
This was also the venue for Prince Charles and Princess Diana
wedding in 1981. Visitors can pay an admission for a tour inside the
Church but unfortunately there is a 'No Photography' ban inside,
for that reason i did not.
It was then off to Buckingham Palace, a must see in London.
The Palace covers over 77,000 square meters and is the official
residence to Queen Elizabeth. It features 775 rooms, 1500 doors
and has 800 staff working on site. Amazingly it remains intact after
nine direct bomb hits during World War 2. A tradition is that a flag is
flown above Buckingham Palace when The Queen is in residence and
is lowered when she departs. We were lucky enough to witness the
Queen drive out & the flag lowered an hour before the Changing Of The Guard.
The Changing the Guard ceremony takes place in the forecourt of
Buckingham Palace at 11.30am every day in summer and every second
day in winter.
The New Guards marches to the Palace from Wellington Barracks,
This resembles a street parade as a band plays as they march.
The Old Guards hands over in a ceremony during which their places are
changed. The ceremony is free to watch and takes about 45 minutes,
I suggest getting there an hour before for the best position at the gates.
It was interesting to watch and makes for some great photo opportunities.
Next up is the most popular paid tourist attraction in the UK, visited by over
3 million people a year.... The London Eye. It is the largest Ferris Wheel in
Europe at 135-metres high. Situated on the banks of the River Thames from
here you can spot all of London's main attractions and get a unique birds
eye view of the city. The lines can be extremely long depending on what
time of day you visit but it's worth the wait. Each capsule holds up to 25
people and is air conditioned. Your ride includes a full 360 degree rotation
of the wheel which takes thirty minutes. A adult ticket to board cost £18.60.
I was surprised to learn London's top visited attraction is the Tower Of
London. Luckily the historic castle was spared from the great fire of London
and dates back to the 11th Century. It is famous for it's Medieval history as
well as housing the Crown Jewels.
Right by there is the Tower Bridge, often mistaken as The London Bridge.
Tower Bridge is a suspension bridge over the River Thames and opened in
1894. It total length is 244 meters long and it's estimated 40,000 people
cross the bridge daily. For the size of the bridge it is suprising it only has
one lane each way for cars. It was designed to open for tall ships to come
into the City's ports and today 24 hours notice is now required before
opening the bridge. It's now one of the most iconic bridges in the world
and i can see why, it really was spectacular to walk across and see
the detail close up, there is also an Exhibition if your interested...
The Best way to get around London is defiantly by the underground Subway
known as The Tube. As everyone will tell you it is affordable, fast and
reliable and i was amazed how easy it is. All the lines are colour coded
and the voiceover will tell announce each stop as it approaches,
but remember to 'mind the gap' haha. It was also clean and safe but
beware it can close early, The last train was at 12pm on the night i was out.
Personally a visit to Madame Tussauds was a must do for me and it didn't
disappoint. This is the chance to rub shoulders with the rich and famous,
and get your picture taken with all your favourite celebrities at the wax
museum. And if you stand still long enough Chinese Tourist will even
try to get there picture with you! hehe There are movie stars,
Sport Stars, Royals and characters spanning over a decade.
When i was there the newest addition was the Robert Patterson
wax model and others included The Beckhams, Britney Spears,
Johnny Deep, Julia Roberts, Elvis and Prince William & Harry.
It was alot of fun and make sure you have your camera batteries
charged so you can take lots of silly photos with the celebrity lookalikes,
also take a ride on the Spirit Of London ride!
From there you might like to check out some famous pop culture locations
in London, Take an old London black cab and check out Abbey Road made
famous by The Beatles. Get your picture walking across the crossing on
Abbey Road one of the most famous streets in the world after featuring on
the cover of The Beatles album. It's surprising how many people still visit
today and leave a message on the wall of Abbey Road Studios.
Then head to 221B Baker Street, the address of fictional detective
Sherlock Holmes, which is now home to the Sherlock Holmes Museum.
And what about Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
The original building can still be found at 186 Fleet St. Or check out
Platform 9 and 3/4 as featured in Harry Potter at Kings Cross
Station. Plus keep your eyes out for street named featured in Monopoly!
Another great attraction, is Piccadilly Circus. It is easy to get to via
the Tube and is best seen at night when all the neon lights come on.
It is instantly recognisable from the postcards and is now a popular
meeting place for locals. There is many restaurants, shops and theatres
in the area and for a great place to pick up your London souvenirs,
check out Cool Britannia.
Here you will see the video and neon signs mounted on the corner of the
building, Coca Cola has had a sign here since 1955 and other famous
neon signs include Sanyo, TDK and McDonalds. Here is also a well known
statue of the archer known as Eros the mythical Greek god of love, at the
Shaftesbury memorial fountain in the middle of the plaza which is a
popular hang out.
It's between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square you will find The
West End, London's Theatre district. Here you can catch a live performance
in one of the 40 plus theatres in the area. The longest running in West End
history is Les Misérables that ran for an incredible 21 years. This is a
popular night out for tourist and you can pick up some pretty cheap
tickets online. We ended up going to see Thriller Live which was a
tribute to Michael Jackson's music and was the night of his one year
anniversary. The casts were so talented and it was a great live energy and
even better by being original and not trying to be a complete copy of MJ.
On one of our travel days we decided to head out of London and see
some of the English countryside. You will need to catch the Tube to
London Victoria Station and change to an above ground train.
From there we meet up with friends and we headed to Windsor
to visit the Windsor Castle!
Windsor Castle is a medieval castle and royal residence in the English
county of Berkshire, The Castle dates back to the 11th is the largest
inhabited castle in the world. It spans over more than 13 acres and was
home to King Henry VII. Walking around the surrounds it is hard not to
be impressed, but once inside you will get a rare glimpse at life in
the 12th centaury. Unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos
inside, which is a shame as each room you walk into was a
good photo opportunity.
Afterwards we watched a guard ceremony in the village and went to
have a very English lunch of Fish, Chips and mushy peas.
Our next stop was a drive out to Stone Henge. This has been on my
travel wish list since i was a kid and was so excited to be finally
checking them out.
We opted for the audio guided tour and got a full commentary
as we made our way around the mysterious circle of rocks.
Speculation on the reason it was built range from human sacrifice
to astronomy but the most common thought is it is to resemble a
time piece. It amazingly estimates back to 2500 BC and are still
standing over 4,000 years later, It pulls a crowd of over 800,000
visitors per year and what i found funny is how it is right next to a