As our aircraft commenced its final descent to the Heathrow International Airport, one could get an aerial view of London with its manicured houses and the surrounding greenery.
Our journey through the immigration process made us realize the humungous inflow of tourists into the city. During our drive from the airport to our hotel in central London, the scenes outside vividly depicted how London has become a homogeneous, integrated international place of choice rather than birth.
As we drove past Hyde Park, Regent Park and Kensington Gardens (a huge open space in the center of “west End”) during the day, we not only appreciated the beauty of each of them but also realized the impact of greenery in the quality of English life. On Sunday morning at Hyde Park, we enjoyed the eloquence of several amateur yet very articulate speakers on a variety of interesting topics.
London is one of the finest cities for public statuary. When you reach Trafalgar Square, as this is a very important stop in the schedule of a tourist, you will look up at the Nelson’s column, from where Adm. Nelson peers into the bedroom windows of the Buckingham Palace or as they say he looks to review his fleet (there are small sips on top of all the lamp posts).
The river Thames in London is replete with historical anecdotes as it is in close proximity to the Palace of West Minster. One should take a boat ride from the centre of town and go either downstream to the maritime museum of Greenwich or upwards towards Oxford and get off at the picturesque Kew Gardens. The river ride is the best way to see the city as you glide past the monuments.
London is a big city and therefore you need to plan your sightseeing schedule to get most out of your trip. The oldest bits of London are in the east. The Tower of London and the Roman wall mark the beginning from that end. The Docks in the East where the working class lived in the olden times lived are now the trendiest and the most youthful, fashionable bit of London. As the city became rich, it has grown west into Mayfair, Chelsea and Kensington areas which have a Victorian influence.
The Big Tourist Bus will facilitate you to visit places like the London Eye, London Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben etc.
A trip to London cannot be complete without a visit to the quintessential English Pub. These pubs will let you have the best of ales and beers and experience English food with Fish and Chips. There are plenty of beautiful and nostalgic pubs which you will stumble upon serendipitously.
I must now recommend places to eat in London, as it is a lexicon of culinary delicacies from all over the globe. London boasts of the most diverse cuisines in any international city. And you should eat Indian food in London as Curry is England’s favourite dinner dish. If you are a foodie type who likes to experiment different types of food then you will enjoy the Borough Market where Delis and restaurants are open all week. The goat mutton here is to die for. There is also a very interesting farmer’s market on the week end which showcases a variety of lip smacking cheese.
Next segment for enjoying London is “London by Night “. Particularly the theatres in West end will allow you to experience the operas which have been classics and running for years together. London looks very pretty at night and it is safe as well to walk around as long as you do not venture into dark alleys.
We also visited the Lord’s Cricket ground (Mecca of Cricket) and the Wimbledon Tennis courts. At both these places you will get formal guided tours which help you soak into the history of these places and give you an insight into how these respective places conduct sports events in the true English tradition.
Some people come to London and spend all their time rushing from one place to another without actually seeing anything. Rather than rushing from Harrods to Big Ben to Buckingham Palace to London Eye and trying to fit every tourist site during your stay take the time to enjoy London’s neighbourhoods – Window shop at the Old Bond Street – check out the market crafts in Covent Garden and also walk along the South Bank – Slow down relax and enjoy your stay.
Finally do remember that London’s transport is pretty expensive and therefore do not forget to get your visitor’s Oyster Card which will enhance your mobility manifold and that too across all modes of transport like the buses and tubes.