Words of Advice from a Pot to a Kettle

Jun 12th, 2008 | By | Category: Readers Contributions

Dear Travellers,
Welcome to London. I hope you had a safe flight. If you have not yet arrived and are simply thinking about a possible trip then let me be the first to encourage you to turn this thought from a simple daydream into a concrete reality.

I too arrived here as a tourist, a traveller, an explorer and yet here I am, settled in the bosom of London’s heartland. However I remember the first days here and the first impressions and so let me introduce you to the nation’s capital as seen through the eyes of a fellow traveller. Hopefully I can offer an insight and help you make the most of your time here.

London is a vibrant and exciting city, throbbing and pulsating with life. Whether you arrive from a small town or a thriving metropolis, London will surprise and enthral you. What did I love about her? Many things. I loved the Underground system, the tube to regular Londoners. I love that it is so simple to travel throughout the city, whether by bus, by tube or by taxi. Although the former is a personal favourite given that there is no traffic congestion to overcome. However she is not infallible. When she’s good, she’s exceptionally good, but when she’s bad…… I love that even if you sit on the tube for forty minutes it only feels like fifteen. I loved the idea of the oyster card, a travel card that allows you to travel on the underground without the need for physical tickets or the need to forage for change at every station. I love that sitting on the tube provides one of the rare times in London when you can sit and take a breath. When I first arrived the sheer energy of the city exhausted me. To stand in the street to confer over a map was to get in someone’s way. There was never somewhere to be at peace, you were constantly surrounded. Sitting in Trafalgar Square, you find yourself among tourists and workers all looking for a quiet moment. But the trick is to embrace this vibrancy and to find your own moments of solitude, whether it’s sitting on the tube, standing on the ascending escalators or simply having a cup of Earl Grey tea with a friend in one of the hundreds of colourful cafés that line the city’s main thoroughfares or hide up peaceful side streets, a cosy corner amidst the mania.

I loved the fact that you can never truly be bored in London, there will always be something to do. There is an activity and a forum for every whim and passion you may want to pander to. I love that there is so much history here to immerse oneself in, whether you take a trip to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards or whether you catch a glimpse of the Prime Minister as you walk past 10 Downing Street. Lose yourself in the countless museums and galleries that the City has to offer or sit amongst the ghosts in Westminster Abbey. Kings, Queens, Poets, Soldiers and statesmen, they’re all resting there. Take one of many organised tours around London, whether on foot to visit famous literary landmarks or sit atop a famous red double decker bus as you drive past political and historical landmarks. History is so close at every corner that one need only reach out and touch it.

If you are a non-conformist and fancy something different, there is plenty to choose from. Follow Jack the Ripper through the streets of Whitechapel or perhaps you’d rather take a day to visit the Old Bailey and observe a real criminal case, one Jack never had to face. Or perhaps cheese-rolling is your thing. You name it, we have it!
You can’t visit London without taking in a West End show and you will not be disappointed. The variety of productions on offer is breathtaking. Pick and choose as you wish, whether you’re in the mood for comedy, drama or a musical there will be something for everyone in the countless number of theatres throughout London. Sitting in the darkness of a theatre, with baited breath waiting for the curtain to rise before being swept away by world-class performances is still one of the best ways to spend an evening in this bustling city.

Lessons to heed from one traveller to another? Never follow groups at road junctions, it pays to wait for the little green man. Londoners are far braver than the rest of us. Always carry a current London A-Z guide, it will become your new best friend. Get an Oyster card, it will be cheaper in the long-term. Visit the Royal Observatory. For the view alone over the city, it is well worth the climb to the summit. Also for those of us who hail from smaller nooks, to be surrounded by such space again is a welcome reprieve from the rat-race below. Sit atop a double decker at least once, but make sure the weather is conducive to sightseeing. Visit the London Eye and take a photo.

London can be expensive, but that is not to say that you can’t have fun on a budget. The city offers so much and a great deal of the museums and galleries have free admittance and many of the quirky happenings around the city are free to attend also. Shop around and you will find plenty to fill your holiday schedule.

From one traveller to another, I hope you enjoy your time with us and do come again, the welcome mat is always out.

Best Wishes,

Your Fellow Traveller and Part-time Londoner.

© Claire Doohan 2008
Image © badattitudes.com

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