Three weeks ago we sat in our living room and debated where we might like to travel this Fall. Numerous destinations made the list, were crossed out, returned to the list, and crossed out again. It’s a silly problem to have when you have been fortunate enough to visit so many places that you can’t decide on where to go next. This is a challenge we rarely have but for some reason this time we could not settle on a location.
A week later while getting ready for bed, I mumbled through the noise of my electric tooth brush, what about London? It was almost instantaneous, Kevin looked up and his eyes told me it was a serious enough consideration that this would now be an easy sell. The next day we booked our flights.
It has been four years since we were in London. In 2012 we finished a 5 week backpacking trip across Europe in the famous foggy town, and despite having spent the past month experiencing some of the world’s most famous sites, London left us in awe. With less than a month until we finally revisit this favourite destination we wanted to share our experience as first time visitors before we are no longer members of this club.
We first arrived in London via bullet train from Brussels and disembarked into the bustling St. Pancras station. Central London is big and busy, however once you have positioned yourself it is relatively easy to navigate. Our first time, we cheated. With family residing in England we were fortunate enough to have a guide. Like excited puppies we followed our trusted leader to the area of Bay Water where we would be staying. This area is ideal not only for the budget traveller, but also those seeking a location with easy access to the train, and in turn all of the major tourist sites. We loved the tree lined streets, tall white buildings and local feel.
Our first night in London was a whirlwind. We made our way down historic streets with family in tow taking in Big Ben, a ride on the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, a lift in a black top cab, and dinner at the Green Park Hard Rock Cafe. Heading back to the hotel our body’s were tired but our minds were exhilarated.
We woke early the next day to travel to Sevenoaks, a picturesque town located 34km from Charing Cross. Home to Knole Park,where the Beatles filmed promotional videos for Strawberry Fields in 1967, the town was first established in the 13th century. Upon arrival, it’s easy to see why so many residents choose to live here and commute into London. We enjoyed a traditional english afternoon with cream tea and family visiting before a trip to Hever Castle, the family home of Anne Boleyn.
As Canadian’s we become accustomed to living in a young country with a very short history. Exploring a place like England easily leaves us shocked by the sheer age of things. Imagining the medieval ages when a young girl left home to become the wife and future Queen of King Henry VIII is almost unfathomable.
By our third day in London we felt confident in our ability to navigate the Tube. We spent the morning exploring the Tower of London, which is in fact not a tower at all but rather a fortress, Tower Bridge which is a tower and a bridge as it’s name suggests, Southwark Cathedral and the replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. With strong legs and eager hearts we were able to cover significant ground. In the afternoon we travelled North to Baker Street and Abbey Road and as well versed tourists took part in the infamous crosswalk photo.
Having grown up with British grandparents a trip to London would not be complete without a visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral. There is no photography allowed inside the cathedral however I’m not quite sure if a photograph could do justice to the beauty inside. St. Paul’s has for centuries welcomed the Royal Family and is home to the largest dome in the world outside of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Next on our list was Westminster Abbey, a walk up St. James Park to the Churchill War rooms and Buckingham Palace. As a first time visitor to London we highly encourage you to explore all of the famous tourist attractions. While yes they are ‘touristy’ there is a reason they are also so well known and famous. Our trip to London would not have been complete without seeing these sites.
On the evening of our fourth day we bought same day tickets to see ‘Ghost A Musical’ and we instantly fell in love with London Broadway. So much so that I am already scoping out which show we will see when we return at the end of the month.
Before making our long journey home we were adamant about seeing as much as we possibly could. Our very last day consisted of seeing the changing of the guards, shopping on Oxford Street and a visit to Covent Garden. What surprised us both was a spur of the moment trip to the Transportation Museum. Here we perused aisles of historical artifacts and educational material focusing on the evolution of London’s transportation system. Coming from a city where winter temperatures often drop below -15 degrees celsius and yet our entire train system is above ground, we were in awe by the ingenuity and genius that has gone in to developing London’s vast network of transportation that moves an estimated 1.34 billion people a year.
Although London served as our final destination on our backpacking trip it will be the first destination in the United Kingdom/Europe that we return to after four years away. We encourage everyone to visit this magnificent city and are excited to be able to share more stories at the end of the month about our time here.
Stay tuned for our ‘second time visitor’ post!