This ended up being a fantastic, though pretty tiring day. I will be doing this in two parts, considering I plan to take the bus on both days, otherwise this post will seem like I’m going on & on.
I got dressed fairly early today and went to a nearby Cafe for some coffee & breakfast. The avocado toast was lovely. Oddly it had a piece of tofu on top, which literally tasted like tava fried paneer. But it tasted good, so that’s that. I sat happily munching my toast, intermittently reading my book and observing people. Different people from all walks of life walked in. Mothers with their kids in prams, office goers sharply dressed taking their coffees to go, two women sitting opposite each other where one was giving an interview and last but my most favourite this dog. He stopped in and literally peered into his shop, as his owners read the menu listed on the outside window. It literally looked like a poster I could frame.
This was my first day out, solo exploring a city, any city for that matter. With the help of my friend, I understood the maze that is the tube. Apparently it’s very common, but I was surprised to see a Rottweiler in the tube, with its owner of course, but it was amazing to see the dog merrily standing in between people with its tongue out. I got off at the stop, and the first thing I noticed were the red telephone booths. I think the red is so attractive and it makes so much sense. For a city, which is mostly grey, I think they add color to it. It’s like an art work in black & white, but with that one element of red, which strikes your eye. Imagine in the older days, the only way to get in touch with someone was through these telephone booths. On a long working day, walking home under gloomy grey skies, the telephone booth red reminded you of someone to call, someone who could take you away from the world that you lived in. There’s something romantic about it.
I walked onto Trafalgar square. A busy place with streets artists, Yoda’s floating in air holding on to a stick, artists drawing graffiti with chalk on the pavement and musicians singing their heart out for your love, and of course all the change that is pretty useless in your pockets. I headed to the Bus tour. Though my parents said you can enjoy the city by taking a 3 day pass and getting on and off as you please, I wanted to know the history of the place, the quirks as they may be of the people, the monarchy, the buildings. I’m not one to be touristy, but this made sense to me. I took the Original Tour (Hop On Hop Off) bus. Having paid the ticket, I literally hopped on and went straight up. I was lucky that it was sunny today, otherwise I can’t imagine what one would do on a rainy day on these things.
Highlights of the tour (for me)
I took the Yellow Route which showcases the key sights and top attractions of London including the Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, Westminister, London Eye, The Shard, Tower Bridge and Leicester Square. Don’t worry, I am not going to give anyone a history lesson, but there were some interesting tit-bits the guide mentioned so I thought I would highlight those for you.
So, the Big Ben, apparently if the Big Ben were to strike 13 times the four lions of the famous statue at Trafalgar Square would come to life. I found out, that Big Ben is undergoing renovation, so for three years, all anyone is going to see is scaffolding. A lot of Central seems to have that as of now. Major renovation in progress it seems.
Interesting trivia, you can visit the famous Ritz Hotel (also namesake 🙂 ) by paying 50 pounds. It does get you unlimited tea refills and you can have as many cucumber sandwiches! I have to say my tour guide was pretty funny. One of the things he said was about Oxford street. It apparently has 51 shoe shops (all women scream in disbelief…) and for the gentlemen he said, there is sadly only 1 pub.
King Charles II was very fond of Green Park and used it to entertain visitors. Like my guide said, “He was extremely energetic and was a busy man.” The story is with the picture below.
Green park. Apparently King Charles II was an energetic & busy man and courted many women while being married. He used to take these women and give them a flower while walking plucked from a flower bed. His wife, as a sort of revenge had all the flower beds removed. Till date this park has no flowerbed. #travel #london #thingsilearnt #sightseeingtour #trivia #travel
You might think the British flag is called the Union Jack, right? But that is only when it’s on water. On land, it is simply called the Union Flag. The bus ride was filled with little trivia like this. I think anyone would have enjoyed a bald Irish guide with a sense of humor on a sunny-windy day, atop a tour bus. Did you know, the London telephone booth was made so tall so that an English gentlemen didn’t have to remove their top hat when they entered. How thoughtful. And finally, the champion for women power in me, loved this tit-bit about the Waterloo bridge. It was built by an 85% female workforce, as the husbands were away at war and is also known as the Ladies Bridge.
Part 1 of my bus tour was over here. I then proceeded to go climb a structure called The Monument to the Great Fire of London. It was built to commemorate the Great Fire of London and to celebrate the rebuilding of the City. It has a cantilevered stone staircase of 311 steps leading to a viewing platform. It was a fun climb, though I must admit, I may have been too quick for my own good. With only 6% battery left, I went atop the Monument, which had a wonderful view of London and came back down only to receive a certificate from the management. It was funny, because I somehow remembered climbing Shankaracharya in Kashmir and if someone were to give certificates when people came down, everyone would laugh!
One has to admit, the London Eye does catch your ‘Eye’. (*Get the pun?) Anyway, while the bus goes around from one bridge to another, you get some amazing shots of the London Eye. I for one wouldn’t go on top something that moves so slowly and the ride lasts 30min. In lieu of that I went on the Monument. But again, everyone has different choices. After the Monument I headed towards the Embankment to get a look at the London Bridge, and when I got there, it was ok… it hadn’t fallen down. *By now, if you have not understood my sense of humor, then … umm I have nothing left to say to you, you may now switch screens.
It was a lovely walk across the Embankment to the Tower Bridge (the older bridge). Once I got there, I had no intention of going to the Tower Hill so I went towards the pier and hopped on a small cruise liner. When you do the Original tour, they give you one ride across the Thames. So this was my way of getting back to Westminister without taking the road. It was a bit of a wait to get on to the cruise but it was still a fun experience.
After this I met up with friends and went to Aldgate to a pub which serves over 300 types of gin. A recent gin convert, I was more than happy to see what it was about. It’s name ‘The Oliver Conquest’. I tried two types of gins there and I must say, I loved it. I especially liked their glasses. But more than that the ambience and the company was a wonderful way to end a pretty eventful day.
Hope you enjoyed seeing London through my eyes for half the bus tour. The rest to follow in the next post.