Well, this is officially my very first blog post! I am excited to start blogging but I am definitely a blog newbie, so please bear with me as I figure this all out. That being said, I look forward to sharing my UK adventures with you. Here we go….
I thought it was fitting that my first post be about London, England since it is the namesake of my blog. I have to say, it is vastly different from London, Canada, where I am from. In fact, I think the only similarities between London, Ontario and London, England are the street names. Oxford St, Piccadilly St, High St, Hyde Park, to name a few. We even have a Thames River! That is where the similarities end though. From a city of 400,000 to a metropolis of over 8 million people, London England is beyond what you would expect. Because my first visit was only a weekend trip, I wasn’t able to visit all the attractions that London is famous for. I made it to a couple, which are detailed below, but I will definitely be back and you can look forward to a few more London posts along the way.
My first stop in London was the infamous Oxford Street. Home to the legendary Selfridges department store, which is over 100 years old, Oxford Street is a shopper’s paradise. While there are designer stores, most of the shops that line the street are pretty affordable for the average shopper. There are also a number of tourist shops where you can get all the ’must have’ London souvenirs. FYI - Bond Street underground station on the Central line will take you right to the centre of the action on Oxford Street.
Speaking of the tube… Navigating through London’s Underground could be an entire post on its own, but for now I will say that I think I have learned enough about it to manage my way around but I have not yet earned the right to classify myself as an experienced rider. I have learned some helpful beginner tips that I will share to help you get acquainted with the Underground:
- Pick up a map of the Underground at the ticket counter when purchasing your tickets. (I promise, this will become your life saver.)
- Make sure you know if you want to go East or West when your selecting a tube line. (Luckily, there are maps all over that tell you the route of your selected tube. Make sure your destination is on the route)
- Remember the name/line of the stop that is closest to your hotel. (It is very easy to get lost!)
- If you will be in London for the day, or a week, then you should look into getting a single day (£8) or a seven day pass (£30). This gives you unlimited access and will save you A LOT of money. All of the passes you can buy also give you unlimited access to the buses (Yes, the double-decker red buses!) as well as street cars in certain parts of the city.
- If you will be frequenting London throughout your trip, you should invest in an Oyster Card. This gives you discounted rates for all your journeys and only costs £5 to purchase. All the locals have Oyster cards and it makes for a very speedy entry/exit through the underground.
A key stop on the Underground is Westminster Station. This will take you right in front of Big Ben and a short walk to Westminster Abbey. The first time I saw the Big Ben was in the evening coming out of the tube. It was pretty spectacular to see. No matter how many pictures you take of it, there is nothing like seeing the real thing.
Equally impressive is Westminster Abbey. We took advantage of the free service at Westminster Abbey on Sunday morning. The service wasn’t very long, only about 40 minutes, and the famous Westminster Abbey Boys Choir sang almost throughout the whole service. Man, those kids can sing! It was pretty neat to sit in the same seats that the royal family have been occupying for years. I couldn’t help but to think back to Will and Kate’s wedding, realizing I was sitting right in front of where they got married. Clearly I had a little star struck moment…even though I didn’t run into any Royals on my trip. There is always next time! There weren’t very many people in the congregation during the service and most of those who were there seemed to be tourists. I was definitely surprised in the lack of attendance by the locals. This may have been because that particular day was quite cold and snowy as you can see in the picture below. It was also January and the off-season for tourists, so it is likely much busier in the summer months. FYI – You aren’t allowed to take any pictures inside the Abbey, so be sure to you give yourself enough time to really take it all in. You wont be disappointed.
Well that about covers my first trip to London, but as I mentioned before, I will be back and post my next discoveries of the great city! Now on to the next stop, which is my home for the next 5 months, Colchester, Essex.