Recap of My Quick London Stopover
London AdventuresLondon was a flurry of colors – summer reds and pinks overflowing from window boxes at banks and pubs; the lush green gardens around St. Paul’s cathedral and throughout the sprawl of the parks; and the constant grey-brown of the Thames, steady and sure. Even though this was my second time in London, it felt familiar and homey. The people have a polite charm; the red buses and metros zoom through the crowded city; and Pret-a-Manger, Waitrose, or M&S Foodhall around nearly every corner make it easy to grab something healthy and delicious on a minutes’ notice. As I said yesterday, I only had a few hours to experience London. After a few major travel glitches (my travel buddy’s flight was cancelled by the airline and we had to make some calls to see if we could still get on the same flights), I was on my way to use the few hours I have to take in London summer.
Summer London Transit Recap:I booked a hotel about a mile from London Bridge Station. This was also a good half-way point between London City Airport and Gatwick, and gave me the opportunity to see more of east London than on my last visit. As London is very crowded, and taxis can take just as long as walking or taking the metro, depending on where you are going, I usually try to walk as much as possible (bring good walking shoes!), and combine it with a short metro or bus hop. Your phone can show you the best routes on the metro or bus to get to your next destination or back to your hotel. Remember, just check in the wifi of a museum or Pret if your cellular isn’t working.
Santander bike rentalSince I only had a couple hours, I rented a Santander bike near my hotel and took off towards the Tate Modern. I hadn’t seen it yet, and was eager to experience the beautiful modern architecture of the building. Arriving only a little bit before 5, I still had the opportunity to walk in briefly and wander around the beautiful gardens filled with people having picnics and relaxing in the afternoon sun. At that point, I left the bike and decided to walk along the Thames.
Thames River WalkThe Thames was magical in the golden afternoon light, with many street performers lining the walk. There was a violinist playing classical music, creating a beautiful ambiance. A man was blowing giant bubbles, and a gaggle of children were running to pop the bubbles. People were fishing and wandering along the river bank. I noticed for the first time the stones of the Thames, and realized that they appeared like ocean rocks, there at the melting of the river with the sea.
St. Paul’s CathedralI walked and walked along the Thames, taking in the magic mix of culture, nature, and humanity, and then crossed back to the other side of the river with my eye set of visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was closed for the evening, but the lush gardens were a real treat. There were people lounging and picnicking in the gardens, and beautiful flowers blooming throughout. The highlight for me was seeing the golden statue of St. Paul behind the Cathedral. I was surprised by how touched I was by the silence in the back garden. I’d definitely recommend it for some peaceful meditation or prayer.
Food and Floating GardensHaving experienced the peace and beauty of St. Paul’s, I decided it was time to pickup some food and head back to the hotel. I considered Pret, Pod, Fresh, or Wagamama, some of London’s ubiquitous fast and health restaurants, but decided to pickup some prepared salads at M&S foodhall. Armed with a couple avocados, a box of apricots, a roasted beet and feta salad, and a caprese salad, I headed back to the hotel. Another Santander bike would have been a good decision at this point, as I was still far away and made a couple wrong turns with the GPS. But, 45 minutes or so later, and after discovering a lovely floating garden, I arrived back at the hotel.
Main Point – Pick One or Two HighlightsIf you have a short time in London pick one or two classics to see or do – a museum, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, a Broadway or off-Broadway show, the London Tower, etc. and the rest of the time, enjoy the scenery along the way. You will get a wonderful feel for the vibrant city and all it has to offer. To cap off a wonderful trip, I picked up a locally made scone at Costa Coffee, of all places, in the airport, and ate it by the gate on my way to Barbados. Until next time, thanks for a wonderful time, London. What about you? Where have you had a long layover, or a day you really enjoyed? Thanks for reading. Cheers, Kimberly
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