It only takes a few steps around the city of London to breath in the historical atmosphere
Truth be told, the first time I went to London was by chance (although I had always wanted to do an English course abroad, and this beautiful city was one of the options, either during the summer or a full year, at any of the many English language schools there are in London.) I had been given a voucher for 350 euros to take a trip anywhere I wanted through the travel agency, HalcĂłn Viajes. I thought it was an excellent present and I headed straight to the agency. I had to choose a travel companion because I wanted to share the trip with someone, and in this case, my brother was the perfect choice.
I got right to work, as usual, to get as much as I could out of the time that we had. I spent days researching, which I will admit, I enjoy like a child. With all the maps of the city and the underground, the information about places that we would definitely try to see if we had time, dividing the city up into different zones. The only thing left to decide was if it was worth buying the London Pass or not.
We were flying British Airways, and we had a great experience as far as friendliness, service, and cordiality. In only two short hours we were touching down on English soil, we turned back the clock an hour and started our trip.
Our first hours on London soil were spent trying to buy the tickets to get to the centr of London, and the funny part (at the time not so funny) was that the machine that sold the tickets ate my card, and to be honest, without the card the rip would have ended before it started because I was planning to pay with it almost everywhere. Thank goodness that after arguing with the lady in the office we were able to get the card back and, kindly gave me the tickets.
With suitcases in hand we bought our first metro ticket and made our way to where we were supposed to pick up the London Pass (which we wanted to do as soon as possible because a single ride cost 4 pounds!) We caught the underground to Piccadilly Circus (This is a Picadilly Line!) in order to get to the beginning of Regent Street where the central office was located. We were already breathing in the London air, and the truth is that I was very excited because it was quite impressive. I love London! We were free, we had the passport to all corners of the city. Our next stop was the hotel in Rusell Square, the hotel Bedford, in order to leave our suitcases in the room.
We began our first sight seeing route. Because we didnÂ´t have a lot of time, and we wanted to see a lot of things I was very careful with the times we decided to go to different places. We stopped in a Tesco to get something to eat and then set off to devour London. The first thing we wanted to do was take the boat ride down the river Thames (which was included in the London Pass). We caught the underground to Westminster where the boat would take us down the river.
Before we got on the boat we were able to contemplate the view of Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster with its famous clock, also known as Big Ben. As we waited for the boat we took lots of great hoots of the Thames with the London Eye in the background.
I remember that it was rather cold that day, which is normal in the month of November. It was the first time that we had been to London and we had to make the sacrifice, so we were among the brave few who went up to the top part of the ship. Itâ€™s true that the views were much better than what we would have seen from the lower level. On our trip we got some great views of the monuments, the Tate Modern, the Tower of London, London Bridge, the financial zone and impressive Victorian era buildings, as well as a nice ride down the most famous river in the country.
Although you could get off at four different points, we chose to take the whole ride until the last stop at Greenwich in order to visit the area with the famous meridian. After traveling for an hour on the boat we arrived. I remember that it was a quarter to five because the park where the meridian was located closed at five, so we had to run up the hill in order to see it quickly. When we arrived, exhausted, the guard told us that it was closed, and we had to live without seeing the meridian and without our photo with one foot in each time zone. I told him that one of the reasons we had made the trip was to take that photo, and that we had wanted to do this since we were little. Maybe because we were annoying, or because I got him to take pity on us, the guard finally let us hurry inside and see some panoramic views that I will never forget.
One of the bad things about this city, which you will be able to see (granted, this is true in lots of European cities) is that the important buildings close early (which on the other hand, allows them to offer free entry.) After we achieved our goal, we sat down to enjoy the beautiful park, which, although it is located on the outskirts of London has a lot to offer. We walked down the hill and stopped in the National Maritime Museum, which is next to The QueenÂ´s House. It is an interesting museum, but itâ€™s not worth going there specifically. One of the attractions of the area is the Cutty Sark boat, but it was, unfortunately, under construction, so we couldnÂ´t see it. Since we were pretty far out, the underground did not travel to this area, so we took the DRL or light rail train from Canary Wharf to Bank.
Here we were going to stop at one of the most beautiful churches that IÂ´ve ever seen, St. PaulÂ´s Cathedral. Inside what caught my attention were the secret passageways, which, if I remember correctly, connected up with the Church of Saint Mary. The church has seen many important events such as the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana, and the funerals of Churchill and Nelson.
After this we headed to the area of Covent, near to our hotel to visit Soho and Chinatown. Itâ€™s a lively area that is always full of people shopping, and I liked it a lot. Soho is the modern area of the city and later I would come to associate it with New York. The bars and theaters can be found on every corner and itâ€™s almost impossible not to stop in for a pint. Chinatown was much more spectacular than what I had imagined. It was very authentic with shops and restaurants all over. And of course, we couldnÂ´t pass up taking a photo of the arch and next to the hanging baby pigs.