As I promised on my last (but first) article, I’ve come back on my blog to share with you some London ‘stuff’, the capital of United Kingdom. The thing is that I’ve been to London three times now and I can say that I like London mostly because it makes you feel free. It is said that when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life (Samuel Johnson – writer in the Age of Enlightenment, 18th century). If in the 18th century somebody proclaimed this idea, can you imagine what is happening there nowadays? If not, close your eyes. Really, do it right now. Ok, maybe not right now, but after you will read what to think about when you do it. The thing is that London has everything you need, you like, you hate, everything you can imagine or not. London is a melting pot of races, faces, cultures, customs, traditions, architecture, brands, colors and every other single characteristic that something or someone can have. Before going to London as a tourist (or even if you consider moving there) you have to understand what London really means not to get scared and because I am a little nerd I did my homework and I searched a definition of London, not as a capital city but as an individuality. Of course, the dictionary did not help me this time, but I recommend taking a look on Benjamin Zephaniah’s site, a contemporary writer who perfectly describes in his ‘poems’ what to expect when you get there. In other words, London is not about visiting only. London was, is and will always be an inspiration for many writers (See V. Woolf – Mrs. Dalloway – 20th century) as for people who were, are or will be there.
Leaving behind the essayist part of me (who apologizes and asks for understanding; the university year has just finished and I am still stuck in theoretical concepts), the part of me which suffers from wanderlust is back. Now, if you expect me telling you how beautiful Big Ben and London Eye are, talking only about them, and if you really want to hear this for the 53853809th time, you can close this page, go outside, take a run, ask someone to slap you twice, chill down and come back. I admit it, they are beautiful, but London is much more than that.
So just leave and when you get in London, live. I mean, try to live because you need a good budget to have a great time there and if your country is in the central or eastern Europe, you may want to consider bringing your food resources and not paying 10£ for a burger without chips in a ghetto, especially if your purpose is to travel not to get fat. The good part (maybe the best part) is that in London you can actually live as you want to (British dream). Nobody will give a ‘sheep’ if you walk half naked on the street, if you sing your national hymn out loud (they are actually huge chances to meet some other people from your country and to be joined) or if you have pink hair on your legs. To live in London means to be free and not afraid to be yourself but for that you have to go there after you have cumulated three to four months of patience because for surviving there as a tourist and especially using the public transportation you will need it; that and an Oyster. An Oyster is a blue card, as a credit card is (always empty and you have to constantly deposit money to it) that is indispensable but don’t worry because you can buy it from everywhere and it will be a nice souvenir for your London chest when you go back in your country. With this talisman, you can use every single ‘public vehicle’ to go in every single place you want, except the one-day trips, but I will probably talk about them in another article. And as a bracket, if you are passionate by literature you will find in every single subway at least one of the Shakespearian sonnets, right next to the advertisement panels.
And pretty please, do not go only to see Big Ben and London eye, take a picture there and say ‘Ok, we can go’ because if this is what you really want to do, you will need like 6 hours there and even the wind will say ‘go away, do not lose your time here trying to take the perfect picture’. So expect it to be windy everywhere, at every second of day or night.
London is a beautiful and a very interesting city at all. So after you visit those two must-sees that I’ve mentioned before plus checking Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral (which is interesting because it burnt in 1666 during the Great Fire of London and it was exactly reconditioned after that, using the same materials), and after you take a ride with London Eye (the view from up there is amazing and don’t worry if you are superstitious because there are 32 capsules but they removed the 13th one because it is said that this number brings bad luck so they are numbered 1-33) you can stop for a few moments down there and take another ride with the marry-go-round. As I’ve said, London makes you feel free so why not feeling like a child again, even for 5 minutes?
I truly advise you to visit Madame Tussauds also (there is the original one), but I recommend you to book the tickets in advance because you will have some discounts if you choose to visit 3 objectives. I’ve picked London Eye, Madame Tussauds, and The Aquarium. I am not impressed by The Aquarium but Madame Tussauds, is definitely not just a museum with wax figures, as I expected it to be. I am not going to reveal too much here, but a 7D cinema is waiting for you at the end after you have taken a ride with… [insert maleficent laugh sound effect here]. Also, I recommend visiting The Royal Kew Gardens (but during the summer) the largest and most diversified botanical garden in the world.
After you’ve spent a half of your budget on those places, you can go crying for walks. A must-do is, for sure, taking a walk (or more) in Camden Town, no matter if you are a rocker, a hipster, a mermaid or a unicorn. Everybody loves Camden Town. Take a walk in China Town too, but to be honest I was not so impressed by it. If I were a mermaid, I would not like it. What I really enjoyed in China Town’s area was the M&M’s World which is definitely a must see plus the Lego Store in front of it, which was unfortunately closed when I got there but I managed somehow to stick my face on the window and peek inside [maleficent me strikes again]. Take a walk on Bond Street, the 4th most expensive shopping street in the world and cry again but do not miss Picadilly Circus and Soho either. Take a walk in St. James’ Park and lie down on the grass (you will have no benches to be tempted, do not worry) and let the Buckingham Palace there keep you company. Check on the internet the hours of guard changing and try to attend to it, but avoid to do it on a weekend because you will see nothing if you are not around 230cm tall. Take a walk in Stratford Shopping Center too, the biggest mall in London but be careful with your time because you will probably spend the whole day there and it will be a pity not going to bowling or mini-golf instead.
In terms of restaurants and pubs I cannot say too much, but if you are looking for panoramic views, try the Sky Garden and Duck & Waffle. I was there and I prevent you that you will need a reservation respective an identity card to go in there. Also, I ate at GBK (not impressed) and at Jimmy’s a couple of times and I really recommend that place because it is an all-you-can-eat restaurant, with the 5th most popular kitchens in the world.
They are still a lot of things unsaid about London and they will always be, and a lot of places waiting to be explored, but if you want to know them all, start saving and take the risk. Now that I’ve given you a pretty subjective detailed London guide the main thing you have to do is not to forget the must-do things in every single foreign country: to have a great time, to learn and to take pictures first with your eyes and then with your camera. Do not forget to live, to laugh, to love and do not forget that you have to visit London at least once in your lifetime.