Tag Archives: England

5 things to do in London in a day

Over 30 million tourists visit London every year. 30 million. That’s nearly half the UK population (and doesn’t even take in to account the residents). One city with so many people? Somehow it works.

As a Brit, I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the city, and after brief breaks to the place I’ve always been happy to retreat back to ‘normal’ England. Now, though, I was seeing it through tour guide eyes, showing D-man around and trying to pack in as much as possible within a short amount of time.

So here is a list of what you could do in a day. More realistically, you will probably want to spread the activities out over a couple of days. I’ve not even included museums or galleries, gardens or markets or shops. The Science Museum, Tate Modern, Kew Gardens, Brick Lane, and more and more and more. So much more. Ah, another time, another list.

For now though, let’s run with this very standard tourist list of things to get the London experience started:

1. Start your day by swinging by some famous streets, sights and places

Watching the shooting of a Bollywood music video in Trafalgar Square

Watching the shooting of a Bollywood music video in Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square cliché?

Trafalgar Square cliché?

Picadilly Circus curves

Picadilly Circus curves

Of course it exists. At King's Cross train station.

Of course it exists. At King’s Cross train station.

Big Ben put into perspective

Big Ben put into perspective

2. Squish in amongst the crowds to watch the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace

When did this become such a HUGE tourist attraction?

When did this become such a HUGE tourist attraction?

Crowds start to gather outside of the palace

Crowds start to gather outside of the palace

Fighting our way through the crowds at Buckingham Palace

Fighting our way through the crowds at Buckingham Palace

Perfectly in time.

Perfectly in time.

3. Boat trip down the River Thames

Let's go join to procession

Let’s go join to procession

Spying St Paul's Cathederal

Spying St Paul’s Cathederal

Tower Bridge and the Shard

Tower Bridge and the Shard

One less thing to worry about at the Tower of London

One less thing to worry about at the Tower of London

Every room has a river view

Where every room has a river view

4. Watch the sun set over the city from high on board the London Eye

Ready to join the queues?

Ready to join the queues?

Views down on to the South Bank

Views down on to the South Bank

Time it right to get the best dusk views.

Time it right to get the best dusk views.

5. Wind down in one of London’s many theatres

Cultured. We can but try.

Cultured. We can but try.

And then you could finish the day and party on until daybreak at Fabric or one of London’s many clubs or squat parties. We didn’t. Wiped out from a day of flights and now a day in London, D-man, me and my mum headed back to our comfy airbnb find.

My guess is that at the end of the day you too will be tired. Your feet will hurt. You may decide that you don’t like the shuffling crowds, that this city of 8 million people and hoards of tourists is too chaotic and the depths of London’s underground belly too claustrophobic. You may groan about high prices, about sold out shows, about the fact that this city doesn’t seem to sleep.

But stop. Take a breath. You can’t really deny that London is a bold, beautiful city, alive with diversity and culture, can you?

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Filed under cities, culture, dancing, europe, history, museums, travel, uk

What do you miss when you’re on the road?

www.travelola.orgThe American travel writer William Least Heat-Moon said

When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then.

I can identify. On the road, you are what you are, in your thoughts, feelings, in your person. You are in the present moment. You are the present moment.

When I travel, I’m totally in that moment; I’m busy meeting new people and having new adventures, my senses are being stimulated with fresh sights and smells and sounds, and there isn’t time to miss anything or anyone.

Really?

Often, yes. Busy-busy keeps the brain distracted.

But every new experience and person encountered along one’s travels is sub-consciously referenced to your old life – the past – and I regularly make links between travel people, events and moments to the people, events and moments in my lesser travelled life:

Such-and-such would love this!
I remember when I did something similar with Ms. X or
That’s exactly the same way that who’s it does it!

 You get the picture.

And so now, after nearly two years away from the UK, every now and then I have reflective moments, moments where beautiful past memories come floating to the foreground and I feel that little twinge in my chest that tells me maybe, maybe you do miss a few things after all.

So what is it I miss about England? Some things include:

  1. Cosy country pubs and open mic nights with my friends sitting around a blazing fire and listening to a mix of musicians including the multi-instrumental-acoustic-folk-mash-up of the quirky creative talents of Woodford Green.
  2. Devon cream teas. Hot tea and fluffy, warm scones. Clotted cream, then jam, of course. Why would you do it differently? (Cornish cream teas, I agree, differ, but let’s save that for another discussion).
  3. Wild weather weekends. Getting rugged up and braving the elements, marching along a blown-out beach or hiking cliff tops as the rain comes in, followed by gathering around a roaring fire and hugging a hot mug of tea. Too many days like this, no thanks, but occasionally, absolutely.
  4. Van trips with friends in Devon and Cornwall. Surfboards, beanies, sleeping bags, one-pot dinners, makeshift fires, guitars and bongos and all the other clichés. Because it works. Absolutely.
  5. Snow. Crisp, early morning snow undisturbed, save for a few cat paw punctures and some light bird footprints. And whilst we’re on about snow, you just can’t beat a white Christmas with the family. Warm Christmases on the other side of the world just feel strange to me.
  6. Spring. The marked change in seasons is something I treasure about the UK, but spring is my absolute favourite time of the year with its signs of new life, lambs bouncing about in freshly green fields and daffodils setting the land alight with a blaze of yellow.
  7. Cooking for and with friends. So many good, hearty times. Love, love, love. And family cook-ups too, with parents and sister and grandparents and godmothers and aunties and uncles and cousins and houses of chaos and chat. Ah, just writing this makes me want to pack my bags and book a ticket, homeward bound.
  8. Christmas catch-ups with my Masters crew. Short and sweet, this is usually a day in December in the North East of England where we eat well, stretch our legs for a crisp, winter walk and chat the last year before disappearing off to different parts of the globe once again.
  9. Summer BBQs and camping by the beach. Waking up to an early morning knock on the van door, jumping into a wetsuit and greeting the day with a daybreak sunshine surf. Lazy time spent between van and beach and water, barbeque and beers in the evenings. Friends and children and smiles; surrounded by fun and good, good people.
  10. Multi-culturalism. Whilst there’s often talk about population problems in the UK, I love the fact that you can have access to a multitude of cultural events, foods, and so forth in any of the major cities. I’ve not witnessed this level of diversity and acceptance of differences anywhere else on my travels.

And what am I glad to be away from? I definitely don’t miss months of blustery wind and rain, the low morale brought on by the recession and our damaged economy, the threat of redundancy that hangs over everyone, the bleak job prospects for my previous students, the bureaucracy and bulls**t of what could otherwise be the beautiful profession of teaching.

What do you miss when you’re on the road?

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Filed under australia, oceania, random, reflection, travel

Speed boats vs. sailing boats

It was a fun way to start this trip away, spending Sunday morning bouncing across a bit of chop on a little speedboat. Out at sea you get such an alternative vista of the world – of the land at least – back towards Poole and the surrounding coastline. You step outside your norm, you observe and escape at the same time.

But which is the best way to go about doing it – under motor or sail?

I don’t really know the politics, but have observed quite a split in opinions. If I had taken my Day Skipper teacher’s advice, I wouldn’t have stepped on to a boat called Delirium, but I wasn’t going to start getting funny with friends. I’ve noticed how often speed boats seem to take on more hedonistic, dangerous names whilst sail boats rely on more romantic, playful names like Restless or Kids’ Inheritance. These names seem to be an extension of the differences between sail and motor.

Whizzing along in a speed boat is fun – the wind whips your hair into a knotty, exciting mess, the spray blasts into your face, you feel alive. Speed boating is thrilling and naughty; you burn fuel, you create excess noise, and if you’re honest, you pose a bit (or a lot, in some cases). In terms of sailing, physically interacting with the elements and successfully harnessing the breeze gives you a huge sense of achievement.

Sailing is often viewed as being much more smooth, real and rugged; there is dignity in sailing, – something upright and honest about its nature.

My hippy side pulls towards the hard graft and reward of sailing, of a communal effort to get the yacht moving, of the peace created by nature carrying you over the water; but don’t get me wrong, I do get why people love their speed boats.

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Filed under activity & sport, sailing, sea, uk

Not so Megabus

Driving a bus all day isn’t everyone’s ideal career, but don’t take it out on the customer!

Having left Middlesbrough a little late, we still made it to Leeds in good time. Just as the leaving announcement blared out over the tannoy, a lady turned up at the door. ‘Is this the bus to Birmingham?’ she asked, ‘Yes, but you need to be here 15 minutes early, you could be refused entry on this bus, you know?’ he barked. She protested, he reiterated his point and wouldn’t let it go. Even as he loaded up her bags he repeatedly shouted at her, pitch rising each time he outlined the potential delay she had caused. Her child clutched a little rucksack and looked bewildered. On board people bristled and muttered, and a toddler started to cry. ‘Make sure you fasten your seat belts’, he pointedly instructed before booming it out again as the bus pulled away.

I tried to understand him, tried to imagine the annoyance of late comers, of having to drive all day, of the monotony. But something in his tone, in his manner seemed harsher with this woman than it had been with others and I couldn’t help but sense a bit of a racist undertone. Driver No.2 was perfectly cheery, and suggested that as Driver No. 1 was from Manchester, he would have of course been moody and short. Discrimination lives on.

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