“I think London’s sexy because it’s so full of eccentrics.” – Rachel Weisz
“I think the whole, like, cultural diversity and the arty side of London is really, really great.
And how it’s so historic as well.” – Lily Allen
Of course, Laurie & I visited famous sights like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, London Eye, Tower of London, Tower Bridge etc. but the English capital has a lot more to offer than these most visited London sites, shopping sprees at Oxford Street, Knightsbridge and Carnaby (though I visited these too without Laurie hehe) and lots and lots of huge museums!
Since Laurie is not fond of doing touristy things, we thought of just walking around wherever our feet will lead us, so we were just amused whenever we stumble upon a famous site without the intention of finding it. We have discovered lots of London’s hidden gems, visited interesting markets (Notting Hill and Camden), explored the city without a map guide and learned more of the culture through pub-crawling, every single night :P
Laurie have been to London several times but this is his first time (again in very long years) to walk around and admire London’s diversity and beauty, in his own words –“London is a very special city.”
It wasn’t our original plan, but after a day in London, our main agenda became like – to see London without spending a penny! (of course, only for food, beer and the tube :P) After a day of seeing London main sites without spending anything for fees etc, we realized it’s possible to achieve this goal hehe.
After the witnessing the Changing of the Guards, we started walking towards St. James Park where I was able to take my photo with the entire Buckingham without drowning with the huge crowd. Then upon reaching the St. James Palace, we saw 2 palace guards just standing there! I was just too shy to take pictures with them, but I think it’s ok for them, they don’t move anyway hehe.
Without a map, we just find ourselves from one famous spot to another like:
Horse Guards – a huge building that used to be the house of the Commander-in-Chief of Forces and the entrance to the St.James Palace. Now it is a museum and only the monarchs can drive through the arches. You can see the half of the London Eye from here!
Downing Street – the office of the Prime Minister, they close now the street to tourists so we can only view it from afar, and yes we didn’t see David Cameron :P
Ministry of Defense – well, this is not a place that you must see, but when we were on our way to Downing Street, we have to pass here and we witnessed some VIP arriving the building, so we were stopped by the guards and we have to finish the welcoming ceremony before we can walk again haha!
Cenotaph – a war memorial for the victims of the WWI.
Big Ben – one of the prominent symbols of London, it’s the clock tower at the end of the Westminster Palace, it’s over 150yrs old now but still holding the record of world’s tallest four-faced chiming clock. It is really called as Elizabeth Tower.
Westminster Palace – or commonly called as House of Parliament, used to be a royal residence.
Westminster Abbey – a church that used to be the coronation place and burial site of British monarchs, now it’s a cathedral that most royal weddings are held. Latest will be Prince William and Kate Middleton.
London Eye – Laurie asked me if I wanted to ride this, but I am not that keen as I am not keen with Singapore Flyer as well hehe, so we just viewed it from River Thames at Westminster area. London Eye used to be the largest Ferris wheel in the world.
River Thames – the longest river in England, and best known as river that flows around London. I found out that it actually starts at Thames Head at Gloucestershire when we were in the area of Kemble, one of the villages we visited whilst in Gloucestershire.
We stayed at Kensington High Street area, even if it’s in an up-market location, it is close to almost all places of our interest and close to Hyde Park where the 50th ANNIVERSARY CONCERT OF THE ROLLING STONES was set to hold! Weeee!!!
It was the best birthday present for him even if he always tells me not to give him anything for any occasion. I just felt that he should not miss this concert while we were in London because he is the only person I know who loves the Stones by heart – who can name their songs in 2 notes and can sing with it in tune. We almost didn’t make it together, but in the end, I’m glad we did! It will be one of the BEST remarkable experiences I had so far!
Again, click this link to see a separate blog entry for this concert.
We left London the day after the concert and went to his hometown, a 2-hour drive from London, at Stroud Gloucestershire (Cotswold), click this link for a separate blog entry :)
After 3 weeks, traveling around UK, South of France, Amsterdam and Stockholm, I went back to London for my flight back to Dubai. I stayed for another 4 days, but this time, crashing at my friend’s apartment (Jon) at Old Street. During those 4 days, I just planned to rest as this was the last leg of my month-long holiday. But I just can’t get enough of London! I will rest in the morning, then in the afternoon, I joined several guided walks, and I’m really glad I did it.
The guided walks I’ve joined were:
On my last night in London, Jon took me to one of their weekly London’s expat parties at one roof-top bar in Kensington area. Whilst there, I suddenly miss my life in Singapore back then! A scene I no longer have in Dubai, not because Dubai doesn’t have it (they’re as crazy too!) but by my own choice to just spend my spare time with Laurie (who is not really keen with parties) and I am enjoying that choice, maybe because I’m getting old or maybe expats are just different here in Dubai imho
In London, it was just one night, but I already felt the warmth and openness of the people I’ve met, I felt very welcome regardless of my nationality. Because of that observation, I’ve even considered relocating to London someday if God permits me to! I kept saying this to places I have visited that, it is the people in that foreign land who always makes my visit worthwhile :)
I used to think London was over-rated, every time a friend who just went there makes positive remarks. I used to think British people (sorry friends!) are less compassionate and too proud (just because they have the largest empire in world’s history hahaha!) But seriously, it all changed my judgment after this UK trip, I now understand why Britain is called – GREAT.