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.)

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