“London isn’t just a city, it’s a world!”
This summer, my husband and I traveled to London to explore all this big city has to offer. We spent four wonderful days trying new foods, delving into the history, experiencing the culture, and marveling at the beautiful architecture! We caught only a small glimpse of this big city, but it was enough to introduce us to the vast world that is London!
The city of London has a history that spans over two thousand years! This city was built up and deserted by the Romans, taken over by Anglo-Saxons, and then invaded by the Normans. It grew in strength under the direction of the Tudor monarchy, saw civil war and devastation in the
17th century, and became a great financial and industrial center by the 1800’s. World war may have damaged the city’s walls, but the people remained determined and strong. And nowadays, London is just as bustling as ever!
As we walked the streets of London, it was easy to find bits of history to fascinate and enlighten us! At the Tower of London, we were taken on a guided tour by one of the Yeomen warders; we learned that these guards are nicknamed “Beefeaters” perhaps due to the fact that they used to be given large rations of beef daily at the court. It was on this same tour that we were introduced to the six resident ravens of the Tower who are under protection by order of Charles II. Legend says that the kingdom and the Tower will fall if the ravens ever leave the fortress.
At the Churchill War Rooms exhibit, we descended into the secret center of Britain’s war effort during the Second World War. The complex, known as the Cabinet War Rooms, was occupied by leading government ministers, military strategists and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. We were amazed to walk through the hallways and rooms, imagining what life would have been like for those working there. Many didn’t go above ground for days at a time; in fact, a sign was displayed in the hallway to advise the staff of the weather outside. The sign might read “Fine & Warm” or “Shower” to express typical weather conditions, but was changed to “Windy” when bombings occurred.
The architecture of London is grand, ornate, and iconic! Our favorite sights were that of Big Ben with it’s beautifully ornate details, St. Paul’s Cathedral (both inside and out), and the iconic London Eye towering over the river Thames! The contrast between brick and tin, stone and copper as building materials throughout the city gives it such a diverse atmosphere!
I had heard that food in London is to die for and I was not disappointed! In fact, one of the best dishes I ate was on Brick Lane on the East side of London; we were welcomed into one of the many curry houses along the street and given the most authentic Indian food I had ever eaten…and for a 30% discount (The neighboring curry houses are known to offer discounts or free drinks and appetizers in order to woo customers into their restaurant)!
We also had our fair share of traditional English cuisine, from fish and chips to a full English breakfast. The entire trip to London was spent enjoying every last bite of a wide variety of foods!
London is a HUGE city, but I was happy to find that the public transportation system was efficient and fun to use! We purchased the Oyster cards and just topped them off when we needed to; the cards gave us access to both the underground Tubes and the city buses.
We also rented bikes one morning to travel in and around Hyde Park. The way the Santander bike system works is you pay a flat fee of £2 to rent a bike all day for use with short commutes; within a 24-hour period you can continue to rent a new bike with no additional cost as long as you return the bike within 30 minutes. So…if you’re looking to bike a short distance from here to there, you can return your bike to one of their many bike stations and incur no additional fees!
A Surprise Around Every Corner
The greatest part of London was meandering the streets and taking in the culture! We stopped often to watch street entertainers, including a machete juggling unicyclist at Covent Garden. Near Paddington Station we played a round of life-size chess. A double decker tour bus drove us through the streets of London right around sunset when the sun shone perfectly off the Big Ben, illuminating the gold embellishments beautifully. Finally, a visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey for their daily Evensong was a breathtaking experience!
This trip to London truly was an adventure as we explored the historic streets, ate delicious food, and created once in a lifetime memories. We learned so much during our travels there, and experiencing this huge city has opened my mind up to a world of possibilities!
Have you ever been to London or is it on your bucket list?
Written by guest blogger Heather Young (my lovely daughter!), whose photography is featured on her blog,Heather Hiding Photography.