This past Sunday, we spent an deceptively warm day in London. Since London is so huge and we didn’t even know where to start, we decided to take it on the way you’d eat an elephant, one bite at a time. I knew I would be overwhelmed by the sheer size of the city, the amount of people and things to do, so we chose one small thing to do, just to get our feet wet. On our first trip into the city, we decided the inauguration into the city we could have would be to get a bird’s eye view of the whole thing. And the best way to do that would be to head to the top of the London Eye.
We prebooked train tickets and were set to leave on the 930 train out of Huntingdon. The morning didn’t start off great when we forgot to set our alarm and woke up at 830. Rushing to get ready, we left TLF expecting a short 9 minute drive to the station. Of course, the closest gate to the station is closed on weekends though and the 20 MPH drive through base added another 5 minutes to our already shortened time line. We arrived at the station with mere minutes to spare and Tim struggled with the parking machine while I ran to get our tickets printed from the machine. The parking machine ate a coin, Tim had to beg one off another passenger and by the time we got it paid and ran into the station, we… watched the train pull away. Ugh… all that running and rushing and we missed it by seconds. But that’s okay, the next thirty minutes went by quickly as we ate our CoOp Oreo donuts we had purchased the day before and waited for the train.
Once we were on the train, we were able to settle
in for the hour long trip down to London. The train itself was quite nice and had bathroom and electronic screens letting you know the next stop, the final stop and whether the toilets (have to get used to calling them toilets and not bathrooms here) were occupied. Definitely a far cry from trains I’ve been on in California.
King’s Cross station was large but not nearly as overwhelming as Termini station in Rome. We left the station and with the help of our ever trusty sat nav (they don’t call it GPS here), we were able to make our way to the Jubilee Gardens and the London Eye. Like I said earlier, it was deceptively warm on Sunday and while there were clouds in the sky, I felt rather silly wearing a sweater and we definitely didn’t need our coats that we packed in the back pack.
We had toyed with the idea of getting the fast pass, but in the end we opted for the ticket that gave us admission to two attractions. This meant we had to stand in the regular line and wait, but really, it didn’t take us all that long. I think we stood in line for maybe 30 minutes. Once to the front of the line, we joined about 15-20 others in our large pod. We all quickly found spaces to watch the London skyline emerge as we travelled slowly 443 feet in the air. The views were beautiful but since it was a hazy day, they weren’t very clear. I was also disappointed to realize Big Ben is getting a face lift so while we could see where the iconic clock is, we couldn’t see anything more than the scaffolding surrounding it. Other than that though, the trip around the giant ferris wheel was pretty awesome. I definitely know we will have to bring friends on it when they visit.
For our second attraction we chose the Sea Life aquarium in addition to the London Eye. What we didn’t know was that you had to book an admission time to the Sea Life Aquarium and by the time we realized we had to do that, I was too overwhelmed to wait in another line, so we will save that for another day. Luckily, we have 90 days to use the ticket to the second attraction, so we’ll go back another day.
Instead of waiting in another line, we walked across Westminster bridge and into the Parliament Square Garden. With a beautiful view of Parliament on the left and Westminster abbey ahead of us, I finally started to relax and enjoy London. Statues of Winston Churchill, Gandhi and other inspirational leaders lined the gardens and made it quite a peaceful atmosphere. We grabbed a sandwich and a hotdog from a little cart near Westminster Abbey and sat in Parliament Square Garden to eat.
After lunch we decided to take the tube (the London underground) to see the Paddington Bear statue at Paddington Station. I LOVED the Paddington movies and was really excited to see where Paddington was first found. The London Underground is amazingly thorough and you can get so many places on the trains here. It doesn’t compare to anything I’ve seen in the states, but the closest I would say would be the subway system in DC. Granted, I’ve never been to New York, so there’s every possibility it would be similar there. While the tube was stuffy and a little cramped, I could definitely see myself figuring out how to use it to get around the city. I felt less anxious standing still on the tube than when people are rushing all around me.
After Paddington we decided to call it a day and head home. The ladies on the train next to me pulled out a bottle of wine and some plastic champagne glasses and toasted their long weekend away. I was thoroughly impressed and decided then and there I need friends like that in England.
Over all, I think our first trip into the city was a great success and we can’t wait to get back to explore more. If you have any tips on what to see or where to go in London, we’d love to hear them! Please share!