Monday, March 6, 2017

One Day in London - Travel Guide

When in London!
If you are one of those who travel a lot for work, you, like me have probably come across innumerable situations stuck in a city you badly want to explore more, but have just a day, or at-most two at hand to do so. Just because work is paying for your visit to the city, you don’t want to let the wanderlust in you go waste! It is a struggle at first, but with time you do master the art of going around just enough, so you can put a fridge magnet souvenir without feeling pretentious. Meticulous planning is all that is required.

London was not a work travel for me – rather, we (me and my husband) had a 1 day stop here before we were on our way to a week long road-trip of Scotland with friends. My husband has been to London a couple of times before, but it was my first time there. In fact it was my first time in Europe! No doubt, I was super excited – not just about exploring the city, but also about doing some shopping. It is London after all! You might be thinking, it is a bit ambitious. And it was. But we went ahead with the plan anyway, and surprisingly were able to cover everything that we (read I) had planned for.

This Stone Structure Reminded me of Hogwarts - London is Full of These Quaint Corners

3 key tips to start the blog with:

One - book a hotel amidst the tourist attractions. We had booked the St. Ermin Autograph Collection hotel. It is a Marriott property, and located midway from the Buckingham Palace and the Westminster Abbey. Made it so much easier to do a walking tour of the entire place without wasting time.

The Hotel we Stayed In - St. Ermins (That is My Husband in the Background Lugging my Suitcase :P)

Two – Buy an Oyster Card. We got a 7 day pass from the airport itself, and got 20 Pounds added to the card. There is a 5 pound refundable fee, which you can take back when you are taking off from the Airport at one of the Oyster Card machines. You can also get any money left in the card for up to 10 pounds. So might be a good idea not to put in too much money at once. We had to get one card for each of us ofcourse.

Three – a no brainer. Start early, and finish up half of the stuff before the crowd descends on the roads.


Below is an image from Google Maps to show how we went about the sequence of the places to visit:

London Top Destinations on Maps
Our flight had landed in London at 6 AM, and by the time we checked into the hotel it was already 9:30 AM. We were tired for sure, but that is what a hot and strong cup of Coffee is for! By 11:00 AM, we were up and about in the London roads, after having stuffed ourselves with breakfast and loads of caffeine – ready for the long day ahead of us.

Stop 1 – our first stop was at the Buckingham Palace, the place where the reigning Monarch of UK stays. They have the ‘Changing of Guard’ ceremony at 11:30 AM here. However, we chose to skip watching it. We were trying to save some time for shopping in the evening – priorities!! It gets pretty crowded there, and if you do want to stay back for the ceremony, in order to get a good view, it might be worth coming in earlier and getting a nice spot. The Buckingham Palace has its own grandeur for sure, but then it is like the White House. Except for the green gardens and open spaces (and of course the tourist crowds) nothing much else to see there. They do have an inside tour, which interested folks can buy tickets for if planned well in advance.

The Buckingham Palace

The Buckingham Fountain or the Victoria Memorial

Stop 2 – After clicking a few pictures at the Buckingham, we started walking towards the Westminster Abbey. There is actually a way to here through the St. James park, and taking this road was the best decision ever. It is a very ‘Central Park’ like park, with small lakes, and greenery surrounding you. Since it was summers, there were kids skating around, yoga sessions in the grass, babies enjoying the swing – practically London’ers taking out time from their busy schedules to take it slow for the day.

St. James Park - So Peaceful and Green!

The Westminster Abbey was again, the usual sight, just like you see in pictures, but the architecture everywhere in London roads is beautiful. No surprises there; that is what Europe is known for after all. The Big Ben can actually be seen while walking towards the Westminster Abbey. And frankly, that is when it finally dawned on me that I am in London! J Such a pretty tall structure right by the river Thames.

The Big Ben - This is what Denotes London for me!

The Westminster Abbey

Stop 3 – Taking a walk along River Thames was one of the definite ‘things to do’ in our list. And the walk from Big Ben to Victoria Embankment was a refreshing one to do so. The clear and warm weather helped as well! We would have loved to walk along till the tower bridge, but since it was a really long one, we stopped at the Victoria Embankments, and decided to do a city cruise there.

The City Cruise costs somewhere around 9 – 12 pounds, takes you into the river Thames and takes you around till the Tower bridge, and gets you back. It was definitely a good move for us to see the Tower Bridge, the London bridge, and save some time on our schedule as well! The tours are mostly guided, and they show you all the key buildings from the middle of the Water.

The Tower Bridge - A Typical 'London' Sight of River Thames from City Cruise

The London Eye is visible from across the river when you are at the Victoria Embankment, but if you want to do the ride, I would strongly recommend you start your day early with that. Going there midway for a ride, is a sheer waste of time. You will probably end up in queue for an hour for the 40 minute ride. We did manage to do the London Eye on another day of our trip, the day we were flying back to India, but I feel one can totally give it a miss. The ride is slow, definitely not a thrill ride. The views from up there are nice for sure, but you can sort of get the view from land as well, if you keep walking along river Thames on the side of the water where the Big Ben is located. Not that the ride is inexpensive either! It is just one of those touristy things, which everyone does because the others around them are doing so too, or because it is mentioned as a prime attraction on Tripadvisor.

The London Eye - Another Typical 'London' Sight

This was the end of our doing the touristy stuff. By this time, it was around 5:30 PM and had also started to get a little dark. We were starving! After re-fueling ourselves, we took the Tube to Oxford Street for some much awaited shopping!

As soon as I got out of the tube station into the roads, I instantly got overwhelmed with the lights and the number of shops and mannequins around me. The place is a little like Times Square, just a little less crowded, if I may. You name a fashion outlet, and they had it. Usually I make it a point to check out the shops which are headquartered in that country, because that is where you will get the best prices for that specific brand. With that in mind – we made stops at Topshop, Mango, Zara, Primark, Miss Selfridges, Next and Dorothy Perkins. Primark was heaven, where the prices were so low, that I was compelled to pick up things I did not need! Typical shopaholic problems.

There are other American brands there as well – H&M, Forever21, etc.

By the time we were done, it was 10:30 PM. To our surprise, most of the eateries around that place had closed, and we were struggling to get some dinner. Surprising, since Oxford Street is supposed to be such a happening place to shop and dine otherwise. Anyway we did manage to find some Mexican food in one of the small restaurants.

London is a beautiful place to visit – I am fond of cities based along the water. I am hoping I can pay a visit to this place again soon, and hopefully, with some time in hand this time around. Leave me a comment if you feel I missed something key, and should be included in my next trip! J

6 comments:

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  2. Thankz for this amazing tips.....

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    1. Hi, thanks :) Beautiful sunny days call for nice sunnies, aint it ;)

      Yes, I will definitely check out your page and follow you. Thanks for your comment :)

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  4. This is perfect one day itinerary to visit all the important must visit spots in London!:)

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