Thursday, January 15, 2015

London in 72 Hours: Day 1

How excited have I been to finally put up my London posts? Too excited! I can't believe it was almost four weeks ago! It seems like yesterday... until I pull up my camera roll and find I only have 2,984,047,938 pictures left to go through. Oh bother. But do not fear! One of my New Years resolutions for my blog is to write less more often. (Huh? Smaller posts, more posts, voilaaaa!) So I will be blogging a post about each day spent in London, so as to not overheat your computer with the overwhelming glories of this world capital. You're welcome, chéries.

So, can you really see the best of London in just three days? Well I was about to find out! Armed with guidebooks (any Rick Steves fans out there?), blogs, and travel forums to make up the perfect schedule, hitting all the big sights while still making time to enjoy the city itself. Oh, and doing it on an au pair budget. Challenge accepted!

With just a slight adjustment to the last day, I think this agenda was ideal for a short-term London visitor on the budget. I arrived Sunday evening and left Wednesday afternoon, so I had roughly two and a half days of daylight to make use of. Plus I happened to be there right before Christmas, the shortest days of the year, so time was extra precious and streets were extra crowded (however, attractions were not, as you will see--perks of winter travel!) But I did it! And here's how:

Day 1

10:00am      Tower of London

No matter who I asked or what blog I consulted or what travel book I read, they all said the same thing: don't miss the Tower of London. Seeped in bloody history, the Tower of London sits at the far right banks of the Rivers Thames. This should be your first stop, not only to cross that iconic Towers Bridge (which most people mistake for London Bridge), but to check off the attraction that will take the biggest chunk of your time.

Tips: Qualifies for London's Two for One ticket program (must have current rail tickets to qualify.) Such a great deal if traveling by rail. If not, have no fear! Just do what we did and skip the lines at the Main Ticket Center; the Group Ticket kiosk just to the left also sells individual tickets, and neither the attendant nor I could understand why no one else was figuring this out. We bought student tickets (£18) and walked right in.

 First head to see the Crown Jewels. (Again, no line. Thank you, Christmas holidays!)

Then tag along to Beefeater's Tour. (Free and hilarious!) Make friends. These guys live here after serving in the royal military and still guard the grounds. They also know a dirty secret or two about the Tower, so listen closely!

Then also be sure to do a quick walk through of the Bloody Tower and the White Tower. Gruesome bits. The mystery of the two murdered (or just missing?) princes of the 17th century still haunts visitors. But don't dawdle too long; you've still got a lot of ground to cover.

01:00pm      Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey

You don't need to pay the big bucks to see all of London's sights. Instead, take the leisurely walking route along the River Thames. Along the way you can see London's industrial skyline and Shakespeare's Globe (not the original, which burned down). After that the London Eye, and then just around the riverbend (cue Pocahontas! Wait, wrong continent...) sits my favorite attraction.

Tip: You may prefer to take the Tube and get out at the Westminster stop, bridge side, and you get that take-your-breath-away moment of rising from the underground to face Big Ben in all its splendor. Reader's choice :)

After your photoshoot antics--and there will be plenty, because who can resist such a face! Okay, okay, time to wind down on the clock puns. But be forewarned, it's hard to stop once I get into gear. And trust me, this jokes aren't second-hand. Anyway, let's move on with our tour. (Or is it hour tour? Oh, never mind.)

Then see if you can stop in to hear the members of Parliament debating. It's free when they are in session, but unfortunately when I went, they were on Christmas holiday. 

Or stop by the famous venue of a certain royal wedding in 2011. Westminster Abbey has worship services that are free to attend, but to tour the site, you need to buy tickets. Since we were in a hurry, the outside suited us just fine.

02:00pm    Downing Street and Trafalgar Square

As you make your way to see the Prime Minister's digs, slip into those strategically placed phone booths for that classic "Look at me! I'm in LONDON!" picture. Then stroll past 10 Downing Street, which is not much to see since the house is actually back away from the heavily guarded street. You'll also pass by the Horse Guards along this route, which will eventually land you in Trafalgar Square, a perfect place to grab a late lunch to go! Eat on the steps of the National Gallery (and take a peak inside if you like--it's free!). 

03:30pm     Buckingham Palace

Now that you you are full and refreshed, take a walk down the Mall, the lovely park-like street connecting Trafalgar Square to the queen's backyard. We arrived just at dusk since we happened to be in London on the shortest day of the year, but that also meant less crowds than during the Changing of the Royal Guard. 

04:30pm     Oxford Street

Take a quick jaunt through Green gardens and grab the Tube to Oxford Street. Note to self: never go right before Christmas ever again. It was mayhem. More people than any other street I've been on in Europe. And I thought the Champs-Élysées was bad! But It was still worthwhile to maneuver around the streets and see the old department stores decked out for the holidays. If you hate crowds, you may want to skip this bit. If you love shopping amongst the hoards, this will be your second heaven.

07:00pm     A Night in the Town!

With a day of exploring behind you, this is the perfect time to attend a West End Broadway show or hit up the pub scene! We chose the latter, and ended up in a fun little Fish 'n' Chips place nearby our apartment. Also keep in mind that Parliment stays in session into the evening hours, so you may want to double back and do that if you didn't the first time.

Wherever you end up, give yourself time for plenty of rest. Two more days to go!

No comments:

Post a Comment