Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My London, the way I saw it ( part two)

First chance I get, I'm going back.  

Go ahead and scroll through the page for some of my very favorite spots in London. 

We emerged from the tube at Notting Hill Gate station

and browsed and bought at Waterstones.

For a while we walked aimlessly through the streets of Notting Hill, just taking in the charm.

Wouldn't it be lovely to live here?

Clever parking strip in the middle of the road

Amazing use of space

Bringing summer into the streets

Kensington Gardens (adjacent to Hyde Park) covers 275 acres (111 ha) of lawn and paths. It has three playgrounds, one of which is themed around Peter Pan. 
We rented bikes for a change of pace and peddled around for 30 minutes. (Self-serve stations are all over the city and it's inexpensive.)

Kensington Palace is a former home of Princess Diana. And Queen Victoria was born here.

The tube is utterly convenient and we certainly made use of our passes. 
I was impressed with people's polite manner, as they scurried on their minute-schedule to catch the trains.  Once in their seats, everyone zoomed in on their books and newspapers.
I snapped this shot because I found the shoe lineup humorous and telling. 

At night, the banks of the Thames draw a crowd. We enjoyed the lit-up evening as we crossed from one side to the other.

London Eye on the South Bank
443 ft (135 m) high, you have a nice view of the city -on a clear day 25 miles out (40 km), and spectacular lights at night. (If you want to go for this 30-minute ride, it's best to get tickets in advance to avoid standing in line for a long time.) 

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster)
This clock tower may well be my favorite. It's got something.
The name Big Ben actually refers to the largest of the five bells, which is used as the hour bell. We heard its majestic chime. The tower was built in 1843-58 and it's 316 ft (96 m) high. It's topped by a cast-iron framed spire.

This monumental structure captured my heart and I convinced my friend that we should come back the next morning (before heading to the airport) to take a look at it in daylight.

The world's largest clock when it was installed in the mid-19th century, it is still Great Britain's largest.
The clock faces are nearly 25 ft (7,5 m) in diameter.
The hour hand is 9 ft (2,7 m) and the minute hand 14 ft (4,25 m).
The clock is known for its reliability in keeping time.

I'm keeping Go to London on my bucket list for another visit. :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My London, the way I saw it (part one)

I love London. I love it! Sure, it's ginormous and bustling with tourists, which for someone like me (such a small-town girl) might normally be a deterrent. But there's a homeyness in the history and the parks and the architecture. There's a warmth in the grin of the pub owner and the smile of the stranger on the street that has you forgetting the size of the place.  You're one among millions, yet the Londoners we ran into (asking for directions, mostly) treated us as if we were the only important detail of the hour. To me that's nothing short of amazing.

We flew into Heathrow International airport, arriving late at night because of two delayed flights. The super friendly guy behind the information desk turned out to be the first in a bunch of helpful and friendly Londoners. We bought tickets for the underground and then rode the nearly empty train into the city. It took close to an hour. 

Buying the daily pass each day worked best for our purposes, as we knew we would be doing a lot of zigzagging. The prices are based on zones and we could get to the places we wanted to see by paying for zones 1-4. The underground tickets are also valid on the buses, which makes for convenient hop-on hop-off touring of the city.

Our hotel, Premier Inn King's Cross London , was less than a five-minute walk from King's Cross St Pancras station. 
The room rates were reasonable (for London prices), our room was spotless, and the staff attentive. Each morning the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet (loaded with "eggs your way", sausages, hot and cold cereals, breads, fruit, vegetables, yogurt, and more) fueled us for the day's long walks. 

King's Cross Station sports a modern addition to the old brick part. 

At Platform 9 3/4  we tried to push the cart through the wall to get to Hogwarts. Apparently we lacked the powers because it was stuck.

We headed for Leicester Square, known as "Theatreland" for its major cinemas. Here you can buy discounted tickets for numerous popular theater productions and musicals. We scored seats for Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre for the next evening. What a fantastic performance! Unforgettable!

Carnaby Street

Shakespeare's Head Pub
The service: warm and friendly. 
The (very large) fish and chips: delectable. 
The ambiance: just what I wanted to experience in an English pub!

                                      Liberty Department store -a quaint setting for shopping

Oxford Street is lined with stores carrying mid-to high-end brand names. A very nice security guard at a very nice store penned a list of "regular" department stores for us. 


Clever display                                                                                                                 English fella

                   Inside a shopping center

Piccadilly Circus in the heart of London lit its first illuminated billboard in 1895!
It's within a few blocks from Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, Soho, and Chinatown.

The fountain has been here since the end of the 19th century.

A phone booth in Chinatown

We took the tube to the London Bridge station, walked a couple of blocks to the bridge and snapped pictures of the Tower Bridge from there. 

The Tower Bridge was completed in 1894. It lends its gloomy existence to the typical foggy London day.
The bridge was built to raise and lower to let ships pass. It used to open 50 times a day, but now does it about 1,ooo times a year. The bridge lifts are scheduled to accommodate cruise ships. You can go inside and pass through on the walkway between the towers.

After crossing the Thames we walked to St. Paul's Cathedral, built between 1675 and 1711. It stands as one of Europe's largest cathedrals, with 560 steps leading through three galleries to the top of the dome. The mosaics in the ceiling came later, after Queen Victoria wanted more color in the cathedral.
Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer were married here in 1981.


We hopped on the bus to take in some street views and put our feet up for a minute.

Trafalgar square

 So much to do, so much to see! (Stay tuned for Part Two.)