Asking me to select my favorite travel destination is kind of like asking someone to pick their favorite child, it is so hard for me to choose. Is it London? Brussels?Amsterdam? Breckenridge? Charleston? San Francisco? So many great cities and so many great adventures. However, if I were forced to pick, I believe London takes the cake.
I'm not sure if it's the deep history, beautiful buildings or the fact that it was my first true travel adventure without my family, but London has a special place in my heart. The ties to the literature I love (remember I am an English major with a huge focus on the British Novel and British Children's Literature) creep up on every corner, the history of the world, the pubs and the people who frequent them, the fact that royalty still exists. It is all so exciting.
As most of you know my first adventure in London happened in May 2006, when my best friend Lindsey and I decided to go on our own to London. We were excited, young (I was 20, Linzi was 19) and eager for an adventure. London was a safe choice, we spoke the language, the culture was similar to our own and there was plenty to see in a week period. And see and experience things we did, we had (despite me sporting a major fever/bronchitis most of the trip) the perfect adventure. One that I still think about with a huge smile and which planted my traveling seed.
I have been to London two more times, in 2007 I took part in a study abroad program and took a British Children's Literature Class, and then over New Years I spent two days in London with four of my best friends. Every time I go to London I find something new, try something new, and find something new I want to do.Another famous Sameul Jonson quote is “By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show," Jonson had it right. London has so much to offer and so much to show, and this is my top 10 list of things you MUST do when in London.
1. Visit Westminster Abbey - see where Prince William and many other royalty was married. Visit Poet's Corner and the graves/tombs of some of the world's greatest thinkers. After you explore this wonderful place which there is no other place like it one Earth take a break in the yard outside. Sit in the grass and watch the people walk by, enjoy the people watching and the cool weather and the sunny day (okay so maybe it won't be sunny), From your view you can see Parliament, Big Ben and West Minster Abbey. Take it all in. Love it. Enjoy it. (Pictured below Pictures of West Minister Abbey and Lindsey and I in 2006 enjoying laying around in the park.
2. Take a Thames River Cruise. Start off at Parliament (or the Westminster Bridge?) and go alllll the way to Greenwich. On the river cruise you will see some of the most famous sites in London and some you didn't even know existed. You'll learn all about the OXO building and Cleopatra's Needle and everything in between. Once you get off in Greenwich you can go see the Prime Meridian and walk around the quaint little village and then hope back on the boat or on the underground and head back up to Parliament. I suggest going back via boat where you can learn even more history and maybe get a better view of Shakespeare's old pub or of The Globe Theater. The Thames River Cruise is a must in my book. (Below views from the river and me and some of the girls from study abroad 2007).
3. Sit in a pub, and eat a plowman's lunch or fish and chips and drink really good beer. I think this explains itself. Ooo sticky toffee pudding is also a must.Oh and singing karaoke in London is much more fun, they don't judge you for singing badly! They encourage it!ooo and definitely have a Pimms drink if you are there in the summer! (The Cheshire
Cheese is great and apparently it was Dicken's haunt!) Picture below: an awesome pub, awesome pub drinks, karaoke, and great friends circa summer 2007.
4. A proper English Tea. Now this I for some reason do not have any photos of. But you must have a scone and you must have clotted cream and you must miss it preserves and you must eat it as often as possible. It is delicious and impossible to find good clotted cream here in the states. Trust me I've tried.
5. Visit Oxford - hop on the train and get out of town! Go into Oxford and you'll see where Harry Potter was filmed and if you take a tour of the dining hall you can see the Alice WIndow. It's a stained glass window with some of the Alice in Wonderland pictures hidden in. If you do go to Oxford make sure you explore it and that you check out the garden where Alice Liddel (the girl who inspired Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) used to play. I believe this garden is usually marked private but my Children's Lit Class and I managed to sneak in. While you're in Oxford you might as well check out the Eagle and Child pub it's known for it's interesting literary connections. J.R.R. Tolkein, Lewis Carroll as well as other literary figures started a group called the INklings and used to meet. They nicknamed the pub The Bird & THe Baby, and it is said great ideas were discussed there.
6. Explore Camden Town. Camden Town is an eccentric neighborhood located in Northwest London. Known for it's market and musical connections it is never a dull spot. Known for its Alternative lifestyle, famous people such as Dylan Thomas, Amy Winehouse, and the headquarters of MTV Europe and known for bands such as The Clash getting their start Camden Town is exciting. The Market is an Open Air Market with hookah stops, art, clothes and accessories. If you are in Camden Town you have to check out the Original Doc Martin Store where you can buy special one of a kind shoes, as well as famous record stores. Go there, check it out and be amazed.
7. Explore Kensington Gardens - so much to do so little time to do it! Kensington Palace is here, as well as the Peter Pan statue, Albert Memorial, the Italian Garden's and my favorite the Diana Memorial Playground. This playground is designed to be just like Neverland in Peter Pan, take note that if you don't have a child the only way to see this playground is only open to you from 9:30-10:00!
8. Visit the Harrod's Department Store. AMAZING Food Hall, unbelievable luxury in anything you can imagine. Want to see how the other side lives or find something fabulous and unique? Hit up Harrods. You must check out the Food Hall, especially the chocolate, cupcakes and cheeses! So amazing! Oh, and check out the Princess Diana Memorial!
9. If you're a Harry Potter Fan you must check out Platform 9 & 3/4's at King's Cross Station! Who knows maybe you can catch a ride to Hogwarts! (At Platform 9 3/4's London 2007).
10. Choose your own adventure. Do what you wish. Take a bus or the underground and get out somewhere random. Do something random. This city is your oyster. Do whatever it is you want to do. Check out the Imperial War Museum which (though I hate war) has an amazing Children at War exhibit, do anything and everything. Take a photo in the phone booth, try to make a palace guard giggle. Do something completely touristy or spend the day laying in the park watching the locals play soccer. Do something, research what you love about a city and pursue it. London can be one of the greatest places on Earth, take advantage of it.
There are soooo many things that make London my favorite travel destination. Go and find out why it might be yours.