Friday, August 28, 2015


I will never forget the first time I saw London.  I had dreamed of seeing this old city when I was a little girl watching Peter Pan, as a teenager seeing My Fair Lady and as a young adult reading so many novels about the British Royals from Henry the VIII to the current house of Windsor.  Your flight will probably land in Heathrow, one of the largest international airports in the world and the airport itself is an adventure.  People from virtually, every corner of the globe, rush to claim their bags, speaking languages that I had never heard before.

From there, we took a double decker bus to transfer to our hotel.  The accommodations in this great city are as varied as the nationalities encountered at the airport.  Most rooms come with a full English breakfast every day.  The Brits early morning meal differs from ours, only slightly, offering tomatoes, mushrooms and baked beans, but include also, eggs, sausage, bacon and toast with butter.  Of course, tea is their beverage of choice and I avoid the coffee in England, it is not the best.   This generous meal is a great way to start a day of nonstop sightseeing.

There is so much to see and do in London that I can only touch on the most popular sights today.  On our first trip we jumped on a Hop On Hop Off double decker bus to just get the lay of the land and it worked really well for us.  Our first view of the majestic Parliament Buildings on the Thames, took my breath away.  I had seen the pictures a million times but to see them in person is so different.  I sat on a bench for a few moments so I could be right below Big Ben as it rang Westminster chimes on the hour. Yet another, "goosebump" moment for me

 Among my first stops was St. Paul's Cathedral which has the second largest dome in the world (the largest is St. Peter's in Rome) and is an iconic feature of the London Skyline.  Climb to the top of the dome and experience the Whispering Gallery where you can speak lowly and your companion can hear you, clearly, on the other side of the dome.  Another "must see",  is Westminster Abbey, the site of so many royal coronations.  It also contains the crypts of many of them.  My favorite place in Westminster Abbey is Poets' Corner where the likes of Chaucer, Lord Byron, Dickens, Kipling and more recently, Laurence Olivier, among many others.  Though arguably the greatest of them all, Shakespeare is not buried here but is honored by a memorial.

From there, we moved on to the Tower of London.  We did the Crown Jewels tour and a tour given by one of the Tower's famous Beefeaters.  It was well worth doing.  If you are going and have planned your trip more that six weeks prior, you can arrange to do the Ceremony of the Keys, where you accompany them on the evening rounds as they lock up the allegedly, haunted Tower.  Though I have yet to do this myself, I am told that the Beefeaters consider it part of the job to scare tourists to death on this tour.  It is something I will do on my next visit.  It is a very eerie place when you can stand in the spot where Anne Boylen lost her head on the orders of Henry VIII.  Built in 1066, the Tower has a very long and sordid history that is well worth exploring.

Of course, no trip to London is complete without a visit to Buckingham Palace to watch the Changing of the Guard.   The Guard has performed this ritual since 1660.  It takes about 45 minutes and is done daily from April until the end of July at 11:30am.  Any other time of year, check the schedule before your visit so that you sure to see it.

I also highly recommend a stop for high tea at Fortnum and Mason's or Kensington Palace.  This is a nice British tradition and it is still done today as it was a hundred years ago.  The tea sandwiches are very good and the sweets will satisfy any sweet tooth.  On the day that we schedule high tea, we always plan on a very light dinner because it is all that is necessary after this late afternoon snack.

Lastly, do not, I repeat, do not, miss London Theater on your visit.  I try to see at least one or two shows on every visit.  Tickets for the most in demand shows should be purchased prior to your trip but if you aren't picky about what you see, tickets are readily available through your hotel concierge or at the theaters themselves.

We love London and always eat in the Pubs.  We have met so many delightful people, both locals and other tourists. (Believe it or not, I once met a woman in a London Pub who knew two of my daughters.)    Pub fare is usually very good and reasonably priced and with the strength of the British pound, reasonable is a good thing.  Again, there is an unlimited variety of dining options for you to chose from budget to gourmet, or grab a delicious meat pie from one of the many shops, to eat as you explore.

Well, that's it for today, I will blog on London again, sometime in the future because I have just touched on the many things to do and see.

Until next time, safe travels!

Westminster Abbey

Tower Bridge
St. Paul's Cathedral
Tower of London

Beefeater at the Tower of London
Big Ben

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