Hop-On, Hop-Off: A Tour of London

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A wide shot of Buckingham Palace.

 

Even though I’m a native New Yorker I get lost in my own city. No matter where I work (or how long) I rely on my map in my iPhone to get me from Point A to Point B. Public transportation? Yeah, not a fan. I find nothing thrilling about waiting in a dirty train station for a train that may or may not come in five, ten or fifteen minutes. Don’t get me started on the garbage, the rats or the smells.

However, I completely understand when people come from other countries the excitement they feel going on their first NYC train ride. It’s the same way I felt when I first got on the train in London.

The train was clean. It was quaint. The novelty didn’t wear off during my two week trip there. Hell, if New York trains were as clean as the ones in London I would cease all of my complaints.

Getting around London was easier than I thought. Still, I used to my phone as a guide. Yes, I got lost several times but taking the wrong route sometimes leads you to a better one.

When I was planning my trip to London there wasn’t that much planning involved. I went with one ultimate goal: to see the Harry Potter play. Of course I also wanted to see the sites and be a complete tourist. The easiest way to go about that for me was to buy tickets for the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour.

I’ve taken the same bus tour in Spain, Greece and Paris. If you like to see things at your own pace like me with minimal guide then I’d highly recommend the bus route. I could have easily taken the train to get from museum to museum but the bus allows you to see everything you’d be missing while underground and with minimal walking.

I am a big fan of minimal walking.

Especially when it’s the middle of winter and snowing on your much needed vacation.

Even though I complain about the weather, the perfect vacation for me doesn’t involve tanning at the beach. I like to see museums, marvel at the architecture and eat too much food.

Here’s a list of the some of the highlights on ‘The Original’ bus tour:

  1. St. Paul’s Cathedral
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A partial view of St. Paul’s Cathedral

As a Catholic I make it my mission to visit at least one or two places of worship when I’m in other countries. With my anxiety it gives me a sense of calm to know there are other people out there in the same vicinity that are seeking guidance from a higher power, whoever that may be. The only thing about visiting religious sites is you usually cannot take pictures inside. To me that isn’t a major downside. Putting away your camera allows you to quietly reflect and capture the essence of the place even if it is for a short period of time. For Americans, seeing St. Paul’s Cathedral is especially interesting because Lady Diana and Prince Charles were wed there.

2. Buckingham Palace

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Here am I cheesing in front of Buckingham Palace. Enjoy the mother-daughter duo taking selfies next to me. They were just as impressed as I was!

Did you really think I was going to come to London and not visit the Queen? Go figure it was raining in London practically everyday I was there (or snowing) so I didn’t catch the changing of the guards. I couldn’t go inside Buckingham Palace either because they have summer tours. So if you ever get to go inside you have to promise me you’ll write in detail about the experience and share it with me. I didn’t feel like I missed out though because the outside of the palace itself was mind boggling.

For some reason I assumed because it was winter time there wouldn’t be a lot of people around. Wrong. Apparently I’m not the only one that likes a cold vacation. There were several groups of people (with selfie sticks) running around the palace taking photos. We all stared in awe at the gates and the crest of the House of Windsor.

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Not to mention the sheer size of the palace. All I’m saying is it would make a great AirBnB listing.

3. The Tower of London

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Do you remember sitting in history class and learning about all of the different battles, fights and beheadings that happened back then? Yeah, this is where they took place. The Tower of London was originally a royal palace and then became a defense system in the late 19th century. It is a fortress and it is actually extremely spooky. Maybe it was because of the snow but I felt an eerie chill the entire time I was there. I don’t believe in ghosts but twenty-two executions took place within the Tower, that information itself spooked me out just a bit.

It was worth fighting that feeling because the Tower of London is where the Crown Jewels are! For security measures you aren’t allowed to take photos but it was great to see a video of the coronation of the Queen and see the different crowns wore by several monarchs, the coronation spoon (over 800 years old–I mean really, a spoon!) and more.

4. Tower Bridge

As you exit the tower of London you will see a perfect view of Tower Bridge and the prettiest view of London. To be honest it is rather expensive to walk along the glass suspension walkway. I didn’t realize you had to pay. I’m sure photos from the top look amazing and granted it’s an experience but I’m also afraid of heights so it wasn’t a necessity for me. The bridge is a must see because it’s iconic and is a good photo opportunity.

5. The British Museum

If you wanted to you could spend an entire day here. The British Museum is huge. It has several floors all dedicated to different collections ranging from South Africa, Korea, China, Iran, Greece and more.

If you couldn’t tell from my blog I have a lot of love for Greece. I can admit I spent a little too much time looking through the sculptures and artifacts from Greece. However, the obvious highlight at the British Museum is the Rosetta Stone. As a lover of history to see the Rosetta Stone in real life was thrilling. Yes, I get excited over hieroglyphics and granite slabs. I know what you’re thinking…I am a cheap date.

The bus tour of course includes a number of other stops and sites to see but I wanted to put emphasis on these five locations because I visited these stops on my first day. Convenient? Yes! Traveling can be overwhelming, especially when you want to see everything but you’re on a time crunch. I’ll admit it might not seem like much but when you take into account the sheer fact I spent easily two hours at some of the bigger sites the day was practically over before it started.

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