Travelling anywhere is usually a fun experience, but of all the different types of travel I have done, exploring new cities is always a fantastic adventure. I enjoy the hustle and bustle, the noise of traffic, and the hundreds of people, all scurrying off to meet deadlines, no doubt past due.
London, England is one of those cities I never tire of. I have had the good fortune of visiting numerous times and each visit is a new and memorable experience. There is so much to see and do, that your days will be constantly filled with adventures.
About a year ago I wrote an article about my visit to Warner Brothers studio and the sets of all the Harry Potter films (Focus on Scugog, October, 2016). My last trip, however, I concentrated on some old sites that have become ageless in the annals of history.
I find that four day visits are the best, as long as it is en route to or from another destination. My shortest trip has been two days from Toronto, but jet lag and time difference makes that a bit too unrealistic.
I try and stay near Kensington Palace, as I love the area and it’s a half hour walk along Kensington Gardens, through Hyde Park and Harrods department store. I have previously met Meghan Markle on the set of Suits, but when I knocked on the door I was told she was out. No doubt she would have invited me in for dinner, had she been home. From there the city is yours to explore. A stroll through Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus is a great way to clear your mind and people watch.
Another excellent way to spend a day or part thereof, is a visit to the National Museum, where history comes alive. From Egyptian artifacts to treasures from the cities of Troy, the National is unlike many museums, because through films and newscasts, we have become familiar with so many British archeologists and explorers.
If Harrods left you wanting more of British goods than a visit to Selfridge’s department store is a must. Their denim section is an entire floor dedicated to blue jeans, with pricing to meet all budgets. The recent miniseries of the same name has heightened the experience of strolling through the store, which is now owned by Canadian Galen Westin.
Riding the ‘Tube’ is a great way to get around, as it is efficient and a fun experience. Brits will tend to ignore you, but if you have a question, they will answer you in great detail, especially if it’s directions you’re seeking.
London theatres are among the best in the world and to catch a show in the West End is a memorable experience. I saw Kismet and was blown away by the costumes, acting and the Duke of York’s Theatre.
No doubt your visit will take you to the Tower of a London, especially if it is your first time. Get there early if you want to see the Crown Jewels (lineups can be lengthy). The Yeomen or Beefeaters have a great sense of humour, but one of my more enjoyable experiences was an evening, ‘Jack the Ripper’ tour.
We started across the street from the Tower, in Whitechapel, which was at one time the garment district. The buildings are mostly gone, but the guides have an uncanny way of bringing the setting back to life. Walking along alleyways where the Ripper once walked becomes surreal, and the adventure becomes an unforgettable memory.
Buildings such as Westminster Abby or the Cathedral by the same name are historic sites, which have to be seen at least once. Buckingham Place and the Victoria Memorial, as well all the famous buildings London has to offer should be visited, but you will not be alone, as tourists tend to flock to those places in droves.
Big Ben and the parliament buildings are best seen from Westminster Bridge, if it’s not under construction. In the event that it is, catch a ride on the London Eye, the massive Ferris wheel, from where you can see the entire city.
London is one of those cities where you can get or do anything. I once found myself with some free time and decided to take a short, EasyJet flight from City Centre airport to Charles de Gaulle in Paris. The flight was 30 minutes at a cost of 39 Pounds (don’t forget the hour time difference). I took a cab to the Champs-Elysées and had dinner there. I was back in my bed in London by midnight. Where else can you do that?
London has held a great fascination for many tourists and to see it all in one visit is next to impossible. Make the most of any layovers you may have when travelling to Europe and be sure to visit this city of Royalty.
Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit photosNtravel.com