Wandering around London in 72 hours (part II)
I couldn’t wait for the morning to arrive so I could start my second day of sightseeing in London. It was slightly overcast and chilly. I like crisp mornings so I decided to be brave and to leave my jacket at the hotel in hope of a warmer and sunnier weather later in the day. Despite having a tummy issue the previous day I managed to walk all the way from the Sky garden to the Trafalgar square but I didn’t say hello to Big Ben. This morning I felt all right and decided to begin my day by visiting Big Ben. As soon as I saw it as I was climbing out of Westminster station my face broke out in a big smile. Yes, I was in London. And it finally felt like I was in London.
I walked to the Westminster Bridge to take photos of Big Ben and the London Eye for the eleventh time 🙂 What will be my legacy one day? Thousands of pictures of London, I presume (no, I won’t leave any chocolate or other significant material possessions). It was quite windy at the bridge and I almost had a Marilyn Monroe moment since I wore a red skirt which the wind kept pulling up. Just when I thought that I would need to get back to my hotel before I do the Tower Bridge Exhibition the sun came out and I didn’t feel the cold anymore (no need for a jacket after all). After asking some random strangers to please take my photo (yes, I don’t have a selfie stick and I’m kind of proud of it, but on this trip I did feel the need for one) I walked behind the Houses of Parliament towards the small but lovely Victoria Tower Gardens.
On my first trip to London my best friend M. and I visited the Westminster Abbey and on a later trip I went inside St.Margaret’s church but I’ve never been in Victoria Tower Gardens until now. There is the famous sculpture The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin and there were virtually no people apart from a few tourists. I took in the view of the London Eye and of the Lambeth bridge and the murky Thames water and breathed in. London air filled my nostrils and I was happy to be in London on my own. Walking back towards the Parliament square with the Churchill statue I almost smiled at passersby.
I crossed the street and there it was: a red telephone box. An icon of British design and to me an equal symbol of London as much as Big Ben or Tower Bridge. Now I just needed a perfect victim: someone looking kind enough to take my photo with the telephone box. You see I needed a new one since my favourite photo with the red phone box in London was from 2011. Two men asked me to take their photo with the phone box so I kindly accepted in an exchange for them taking my photo. Unfortunately, I tend to close my eyes when I’m smiling for a photo so the photo with me inside the red phone box didn’t come out as planned but the next photo was all right:)
The Tower Bridge was awaiting me so I had to stop bothering people to take my photo with the red phone box and move on. I emerged from London underground at Tower station and walked past the historical Tower of London towards the Tower Bridge. If you haven’t visited the Tower of London I suggest you do it asap because the ticket to visit it is more expensive each year (I can’t believe I paid just 11£ in 2006). You can see the crown jewels in there and learn more about the British history in this castle whose parts date from the eleventh century.
Many people have walked across the Tower Bridge but how many of you have walked on the Walkways between the two towers high up in the sky?Well, it’s a fairly recent thing so you shouldn’t feel bad if you haven’t done it. If you book the ticket online it’s one pound cheaper (I paid 8£ instead of 9£) and the ticket for the Tower Bridge Exhibition grants you also entrance to the Engine Rooms. I’ll write more about my Tower Bridge experience in a separate post but let me just tell you that the panoramic views of London are spectacular and that it was really cool to look down on the cars and people on the bridge through the walkway’s new glass floor 42 m above the River Thames. A unique experience, that’s for sure!
After seeing the exhibits in the Engine Rooms (Tower Bridge) I wandered around More London Place:a square with the City Hall and all those other modern glass buildings just across the Tower of London. The views of the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and of the City of London from the riverside here are one of the best (free) views of London. There were school children doing sketches for their art class and I sat for a short while to admire one of my two favourite views of London.
Then, I took some photos around More London and walked in the direction of London bridge underground station. I don’t know about you but I just love the convenience and the speed of London underground system. It can get too crowded during peak hours but it’s still the best way to travel around London. I used to buy day travel cards but the prices went up and now the best option is to buy an Oyster card which you can use on buses too and which also gives you discount for certain river journeys and for the Emirates Air line cable car.
My next stop was Oxford street for a bit of shopping. Try to avoid it during the weekends because the sheer number of people in the street and in the shops would put off even the biggest shopaholic among you. Luckily when I arrived to Oxford Street via Marble Arch tube station it was early afternoon on a Thursday so I did my browsing and shopping relaxed. I bought some food in M&S so that I could have a sort of picnic in a nearby park/green area. I was getting quite hungry so I ate my food at a bench at Grosvenor square. I was surprised to see the US Embassy as well as the Italian Embassy at the square.
There were a lot of people at the square eating their lunch and sitting on the grass. While I walked to the square I saw a lot of elegant red bricked houses and a few shops with the sign: a Royal purveyor of …. Well, in a country that’s still monarchy by tradition (but not by political power) it’s common to see a sign that says for example: by appointment to HRH The Prince of Wales suppliers of antique carpets. Cadbury chocolate is in that way the official chocolate (cocoa purveyor ) of the Queen as is Twinings for the tea. 🙂
Following my short lunch break I strolled towards Hyde Park Corner tube station to find the Hard Rock Cafe for my husband. I’ve never been there in London but whenever we travel together he likes to find the Hard Rock Cafe to take the photos of the memorabilia inside (he also occasionally buys a T-shirt there and we sometimes have a drink too). The shop is separated from the café so I just took the photos from the outside and popped in the shop to look at the merchandise for a bit. Hard Rock Cafe has expensive stuff and expensive food and drinks actually but some people (my husband) like it.
In need of some green space where I could chill out for a bit I crossed the street and entered the biggest park in Central London: the Hyde Park. There were people walking, running, roller skating, cycling and just lying on the grass. It fascinates me how people just lie on the grass in the parks in the west and north of Europe. You won’t find any locals lying on dirty grass in the parks in Croatia. Mainly because dogs poop there and the grass just isn’t the same kind as in England. The English grass is soft and people follow the rules so the parks are clean.
I sat on the grass too (but I first put an empty plastic bag on the grass to make sure I don’t end up with grass stains on my skirt). Then I even lay for a bit. The sun was shining warmly on my face and the grass under my feet was so soft that I almost fell asleep. I was close to the Serpentine lake so I saw a lot of swans and ducks parading around for food. I briefly thought about renting a sun lounger and spending an hour in the park but there were other places I had to see.
I left the Hyde Park and I wandered in the general direction of Knightsbridge station where I took the train to Sloane Square, Chelsea. I’ve heard so much of Chelsea and apart from seeing the FC Chelsea stadium when I visited London with my husband on our trip to Scotland I really haven’t explored the neighbourhood much. Chelsea is gorgeous during the Chelsea in Bloom festival but I came a week earlier so I couldn’t see all the ornate flower arrangements and the flower sculptures. Honestly I wasn’t impressed by Sloane Square and I just wandered around a couple of streets near the tube station. The houses are mostly built of grey/brown bricks with colourful doors but I prefer the white terraced houses of Bayswater and Paddington and Notting Hill (and the occasional pink/blue facades). Nevertheless, I was glad to see some nice houses in Chelsea.
Then, I returned to my hotel close to the Paddington train station and Skyped my husband. My day of exploring London hasn’t finished yet. It was Museum’s Night so I planned to visit the Bank of England Museum in the City of London. It’s a rather small museum (free entry) but where else could you hold a real gold bar?Furthermore, I got to see the new pound notes which will be in circulation from autumn. Again, more about the museum in a separate post since this is just an overview of my second day in London this May.
Do you have a favourite pub in London? I do! It’s in Bayswater and it’s called Prince Alfred. It’s a rather sentimental choice so I just had to go there to have a glass of wine. I didn’t stay long since I was on my own and I don’t really like being on my own in a pub/ bar but I was curious to see how it looks like after a recent renovation. Being in my favourite pub was a great ending to an even better day. I thoroughly enjoyed my day of walking around London. I’ve done so many new things like the Tower Bridge Exhibition and the Bank of England Museum but I’ve also had the chance to wander around some familiar places.
p.s. stay tuned for the third general post about London and a post about Hampsted 🙂 and I need to continue writing about Stockholm
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