You will never see everything that there is to see in England in one week, but you sure can try. It took me a long time to make the trip that I have always dreamed about taking and I am so glad I finally did. The only regret I have is that I didn’t do it sooner because I fell in love with England in an instant. The people, places, history, and architecture. What’s not to love?
There are so many things to see and do whether you stay in London or travel out of London, which I highly suggest you do. If you go to England and only visit London, you have not been to England. Don’t get wrapped up in just the big city, the countryside is not something to miss. We toured the city of London and hired a car and traveled the countryside.
So many people told me I would hate the British. I kept hearing how rude they are from everyone I talked to. Let me tell you right now, that was a complete myth. I don’t know if it is because of the kind of person I am or the kind of people that were telling me this mis-information. I talked with so many people while on holiday and all were so nice and friendly, even in London where I heard the most complaints about the people. In London the people seem to be in a hurry all day long. Never make the mistake of standing in front of the tube (underground subway) doors when they open. Stand to the side and wait for the mad dash of commuters to run out and past you. You may think I am joking, but it is the truth. I have never seen anyone run like that except in sports. Come 5 o’clock and it seems as though most Londoner’s are unwinding at the pubs across the city throwing back a pint or two. It’s a very different culture than I am used to here in the states where most people are busy getting home after work. Don’t be afraid to talk to people in London or the rest of England, they are friendly. Just don’t come off like a loud American. The Brit’s are much more reserved than we are so take that into account and you will have great success in finding friendly people all around. I found that if you ask sincere questions about the area the people are more than willing to tell you all about it and give you tips about the area from the “locals” perspective.
There are so many must do things for anyone visiting London. The city is old and full of beautiful architecture, you have to walk through the city as much as you can or atleast take the bus a few times to see the beauty of the buildings. Look up too. I took thousands of pictures. Things as simple as a doorway are more intriguing in London than here in Seattle. Our nation is relatively young in comparison to England. So we don’t have as many great buildings nor the rich history. While in London, stop in and enjoy afternoon tea at a quaint shop called the Tea and Tattle. It’s a little shop just across from the British History Museum, but does a great cream tea and their sandwiches are really good. Here is their address: 41 Great Russell Street, London, England. If you are looking for something really simple and are short on time you can grab tea and a scone with clotted cream at Selfridges food garden for just around 5 pounds. If coffee is your thing, try Costa’s Coffee they are all over England and make sure to try one of their sticky toffee muffins.
While in London we opted to stay in a serviced apartment at the Citadines Prestige at Trafalgar Square, 18/21 Northumberland Ave. It took me a long time to find the right place to stay, but this worked the best for my taste. Our room was a studio apartment with a kitchenette that had everything but an oven. There are a couple of markets within a couple of blocks of the property to pick up groceries, The Co-Operative Food and Mark and Spencers on Strand just a block NW of the property. The property even had a laundry room that we used while there and each load of laundry will set you back 9 pounds, but they include the laundry soap. This was in the perfect location for us and it felt very private even though it was right in the middle of everything. It sits between two underground tube stops, Embankment and Charing Cross. Both within a five minute walk of the property which made it really easy to get around the city. The only odd complaint I had was that it seems like most hotels around the area do no provide wash clothes, which is essential to me. It’s an easy remedy, just head to a Boots drug store and purchase one for 99p. They call them face cloths and you will find them back with the other body stuff in the store. One other note of the area next to the hotel. If you want some great food, just next to the hotel on the north side is a pub called the Sherlock Holmes, you can eat in the pub or go upstairs to the restaurant. They have great fish and chips and steak and ale pie. If you like Branston pickles you can also get a cheese and pickle sandwich there too.
My advice if you are planning on staying in the city for any amount of time, purchase a travelcard so you can hop on the Tube or a Bus at anytime. You can get tube maps at most of the tube stations for free. They give you all of the train lines and a map of where they go. Just make sure you look on the map and see what stop is at the end of the train line is on each side of the route so you know which platform to stand on. The tube system is set up where it runs east to west and north to south. So take note of what direction you need to head and what the last stops are and you should be fine. Watch the signs overhead that tell you what train is approaching, some of the routes stop short of the last stop on a modified route so you will have to get out at another stop and wait for another train if you get on one that does this. This is especially true trains headed to Heathrow airport, not all go to terminal 4 or 5 they go to one or the other. The tube’s do not go to London’s Gatwick airport. There is a train called the Gatwick Express that goes between the airport and Victoria Station. At Victoria Station you can catch the tubes, other surface trains, buses or a taxi. Taxi’s are all over the city but can be quite expensive for long distances. For a short hop of about 15 blocks you are looking at about 10-15 pounds. The taxi drivers we had were very helpful in pointing out local places and giving information.
Another travel option besides bus, tube, taxi or your feet is the “Boris Bike”. Nicknamed after the mayor of London they are actually a bike hire service that you can find all over the city, you can spot them easily because it is a bike rack full of sky blue bikes available for rental. Barclay Bike Hire as they are officially known are a good option if you want to go longer distances than your feet may be able to handle in a day. Just make sure you know the rules of the road and park rules, bikes are not allowed in some parks or some areas of the city parks.
You will find that as a tourist in London you will do tremendous amounts of walking. If you use the tube you will be climbing many stairs. If you need a handicap accessible tube stop, make sure to look at the map, it indicates which stops are handicap accessible with a wheelchair symbol. Stairs are also very common in the historical buildings so I recommend a great pair of walking shoes or your feet will not be happy. Also, plan on a light jacket no matter the time of the year and an umbrella as London’s weather is unpredictable. So that’s it for the getting around part of the being in the city. I will be back later today to talk about the things to do in London.