London Done Right
If you’re going to London, there are some guarantees
You will eat fish and chips. You will experience rain for an extended period of time (especially if you go in the winter). You will see Big Ben and scramble for a space to stare through the fence and peer at Buckingham Palace. You will make funny faces and lewd gestures toward guards in giant fuzzy hats, and you will absolutely, and somewhat regrettably eat some sort of meat product off a cart in a drunken stupor. This we know, but what you will do with the rest of your trip is up to you. Traveling is about experiencing every facet of a culture, especially when you have to cross an ocean to get to your destination! If you’re going to do London, you’ve gotta do it right.
Tips from a Pro
Stay at a hostel, but do your research. Wake Up London is an awesome youth hostel in Paddington with the option of a single room, double room, or dorm style accommodations. If you happen to be traveling with friends you can share a dorm and cut down on hotel costs. Wake Up boasts WiFi for a small fee, housekeeping, and a bar that is open later than most. Be sure to ask at the front desk for exact directions to Paddington tube station, because the area can be confusing. At the tube station purchase an Oyster Card. DO NOT buy one-way tube tickets. An Oyster Card allows you to store value, and therefore guarantees that you are not wasting funds.
What To See
Plan at least four solid days in the city of London and be sure to see the big sights. See the Tower Bridge (London Bridge), but know ahead of time that it is slightly anticlimactic. Go to Westminster and see Big Ben but don’t bother to take the tour if you’re not all that interested. It can be very expensive and in reality, Big Ben’s greatest value is aesthetic. While in Westminster cross the Thames river and view the landmark from afar. Before you hop on the tube grab a crepe from the vendor who makes fresh crepes dripping with Nutella on the Westminster Bridge. Scoff at the London Eye and call it an eye sore before whipping out your Oyster Card and tapping it on the sensor.
Take the tube to Piccadilly Circus and take pictures of the double-decker busses whirling by. Fool around with your camera taking pictures of the London architecture; there is nothing else like it in the world. Go into the Trocadero and play videogames until your fingers hurt. Relax and smoke some shisha at Dar Marrakesh. Take a stroll to Leicester square and take pictures in front of the Odeon. Wander over to Trafalgar square and feed the pigeons. Climb the lion statues and take in the London air. Watch children play around the giant fountains and pray that one of them falls in.
Grab A Guinness
Head over to Covent Garden for a Guinness. As you walk be on the lookout for street performers. There is a particular performer who gathers an audience and has them sit in a large circle quietly. If you suddenly find yourself in an empty space and the people around you are staring, you are about to be hilariously scared by a slightly homeless looking clown. Drain your Guinness at the Freemason’s Arms and get ready to feed your rumbling tummy.
When hungry in London remember the following: it is just a myth that London only produces terrible food. Many tourists make the mistake of heading to the pub for a plate of pasta, or stopping into a sandwich shop and expecting a great deli sub. The food will be a little different, but trust me, it’s great if you go the right places! Eat at Pizza Express for excellent pizza, and Yo Sushi for sushi that will come to you on a conveyor belt. Choose Belgo Central on Neal Street for awesome mussels, outrageously good beer and ambiance like no other; Belgo is carved out of an old monastery and the waiters wear robes. Saunter into Harrods for mouthwatering oysters and champagne, and while you’re there sample some delicious cheese; sampling food at Harrods can easily fill you up. It may sound crazy, but eat Indian food in London! England’s capital is known for it’s wonderful Indian cuisine. Ask locals where their favorite curry place is and they’ll point you in the right direction. Go to Waitrose or Tesco, local grocery stores, to get a sense of what the locals eat. Embrace the culture and buy an Aero bar as a souvenir. Eat it and run back to the store for six more ten minutes later.
Don’t Get Too Comfortable
When you start to feel comfortable in the city it is time to branch out. Plan mini excursions to towns outside of the city to take your trip to the next level. Take the Bakerloo line to Marylebone station and hop a commuter rail out of the city. Choose Beaconsfield for an alehouse destination you will never forget. Built in 1066, the Royal Standard in Beaconsfield is older than the United States of America. Sit and soak in the location’s history while eating a savory pie in front of a crackling fire. Run your hand along the wall and learn about the ghosts that seem to eternally walk the halls of the alehouse. Call a cab and proceed to Gerrards Cross, a town just minutes away from Beaconsfield. Stroll through the commons and even watch some locals play football. Call it football, not soccer, just for the hell of it. Ask a police officer where you can find Camp Road. It is a short walk. Walk there and look for the footpath. Stroll down the path and stop when you come to the clearing. Take in the breathtaking view of the beautiful, long grass and billowing trees swaying in the breeze. Walk. Breathe. Note the differences in the air. Keep your eyes open and your camera handy; the field has several wild horses that trot around merrily. Snap a few shots and head back into the city with the smile of a satisfied traveler.
London is one of the greatest cities in the world. Its abundance of national landmarks alone makes London an ideal destination, but its strong culture steeped in history gives it a must see twist. As you traverse the streets don’t forget that a fag is a cigarette, a banger is a sausage, and the bog is the bathroom… or the loo. Blimey! Before you know it you’ll be chuffed that you’ve traveled to such a bloody brilliant destination.
By Alexandra Gury