The Ambitious Traveler
If I were to travel to Thessaly it would not so that I can say so in a casual conversation with acquaintances. It would be because I loved Homeric legends (note the “if”). I always travel to satisfy a thirst for knowledge of people and places. I travel for relaxation as much as I do for education so my travel days tend to be long. This seems paradoxical but it works like this: I enjoy learning, it relaxes me. I live this way when I am at home as well. I like to go without stopping until I have had enough and I can, without regret, kiss the day good night.
So I headed off to London on the first of June with great passion in my breast and a well-researched itinerary in my hand.
- Make a daily itinerary but make it loose enough so you can change it on the go. Give yourself more time than you think each activity requires.
- Choose depth over quantity. It’s best to see a few places and get to know them well and speak to the people and forget that you are a foreigner than to see everything at a breathless pace and forget it all by the time you hand your ticket to the flight attendant.
- Do as much as you can no matter how late it gets because you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the things you did.
- Get to know people. A place is nothing but empty space without those who live there. One of the greatest pleasures of traveling is getting to know other people, whether they are passing through or have lived in the city their entire lives. Every one is an immense resource with knowledge and experience that will enrich your journey and who knows maybe your life!
If you always go to bed early you will never see the Northern star.
Best of London in Five Days
We arrived in London at eleven a.m. on June 2 to begin a 5-day visit of the city. I am traveling with onewayoranother. We are, dare I say, the perfect travel team. I like to talk to people and she loves maps. I can figure out the best place to eat by chatting up some local while she obsesses over exactly the shortest way to get there. Perfect.
Our itinerary was simple. We chose to stay in London proper and not even visit the nearby cities like Cambridge because we wanted to become intimate with London, as much as once can be in five days anyway. The minute we stepped outside of the metro into the street in Gloucester, I knew it was the right decision. Cosmopolitan atmosphere. Little cafes, and shops and beautiful white townhouses lines the swerving streets.
We were also lucky because we had bright skies every day except one. But we rolled with it as did the locals who crowded around Oxford street shopping or drinking and dancing to a little Sunday street concert.
- Westminster Abbey
- Westminster bridge
- Houses of Parliament
- Big Ben
- London Eye
- National Gallery
- Trafalgar Square
- Charing Cross Station
- Piccadilly Circus – Regent – Leicester Sq.
- British Library
- British Museum
- Tower of London
- St. Paul’s Cathedral Self-guided Bankside walk along Southbank of Thames (starts at London/Tower bridge)
- Pub walk
- Notting Hill and Portobello Markets
- Kensington Gardens
- Royal Albert Hall
- Natural History Museum
- Buckingham Palace
- Queen Elizabeth Gate
- Speakers corner - Hyde Park- Marble arch
- Bond St. and Regent Street
- Oxford St. & Circus St.
- Soho & Covent Garden
- Regent’s Park
- Daunt Books and other bookstores
Before You Go:
- Bring clothing that can be layered. Mornings in June are cool and sometimes even chilly. The temperature goes up sharply in the middle of the day and then suddenly dives down around 8 p.m.
- Find your partner bank so that you can debit without paying an exchange fee. You can use the partner bank’s ATM with your normal pin.
- Be ready to feel poor. The pound rises to up to 1.80 USD. If you exchange money at an exchange service center you will pay a fee. Therefore your real exchange rate will be more like 1 pound: 2 dollars. That means your money is worth half! I was stupefied when this first happened at the airport, could not lift my jaw off the floor.
London Cheap Sheet:
Easyhotel. When I first heard of EasyHotel, I thought it was a joke. The rooms are boxes without windows. The biggest room is 12×14 feet and FRODOR’S GUIDEBOOK warns: “not recommended for claustrophobics.” But for at 17 pounds per person per night this hotel is excellent. Remember that the dollar is worth about 1/2 pound so most hotels will be outrageously priced from our American perspective. Yet, EasyHotel is not a hostel. You can have your own private room with your own bathroom. The rooms are large enough to haul in several suitcases and keep them open on the floor. There is plenty of room to move around and a tv affixed to the wall. If you care for TV, you must pay an extra fee. The same goes for daily cleaning service. But if you behave as you would at home you can easily go 5 days with 3 towels.
TIP: open the door after you shower to let the steam out and prevent odors. Maybe drop an air freshner in a corner. Make sure they do not book your room in the basement! The staff is friendly and the rooms are immaculate upon check-in.
London Oyster. Depending on where you are going and time of day, a metro pass can cost up to 15 pounds but with the Oyster card it cost 2.70 per ride. Great explanation here. If you are not in a hurry it’s best to get the Oyster card at the airport and get on the train for 4.80 pounds. The other option is the Heathrow Express which will set you back 23 pounds or 36 dollars.
London Pass. Go to the booth and look at the brochure. It lists the prices of most of the top attractions. Do the math. If what you’d pay for your choices will be more than what the card costs, get the card. In most cases it will be cheaper to buy the pass, unless you’re not on the tourist track.
London Discounts. When you get the London Pass make sure you get a booklet of discounts at the booth. This book tells you the places that will give you a discount for buying the London Pass. For example, the excellent Cafe Pasta in Covent Garden.
This post is part of a series about the Eurotrip! More to come :)