We planned to spend our day in London, the city founded by the Queen, written about by Morrissey, and lived in by James Bond. Even if our day wasn’t destined to be as fun as the times spent by famous detective John Constantine, we still had a really fun day planned out in front of us. Let’s see, is the city really as captivating as it appears from the inspiration it’s given to musicians, writers, and filmmakers. As the British band “the Clash” said, “London’s Calling!”
09:30 – Of course we started the day with a traditional English breakfast. Admittedly, while English cuisine may not be of the highest renown in the world or have the widest range of foods, English breakfast is still something that I think people of a variety of tastes would enjoy and should be tried at least once by all. Even if a delicious spread of toast, fried egg, mushrooms, tomatoes, baked beans, sausage and bacon doesn’t interest you, porridge in English is still something I can comfortably recommend.
11:00 – After breakfast we headed out. Because the closest tube stop wasn’t really within walking distance and because it was raining, we decided to get on one of the famous “Routemaster” buses. After spending 10 minutes on the top floor of the bus and eyeing the grey skies match with the green and brown of the city, we got to the nearest metro station. Our first stop was “King’s Cross” so even though that was a bit far away from where we were, the tube goes everywhere so all you have to do is figure out the color of the metro line you need on the map and make your way over there. It’s all fairly easy, honestly. We took the “Piccadilly Line,” or the blue line.
13:00 – We got to the front of King’s Cross Station. This massive brown structure was built in the 19th century, and then redesigned by the architect John McAslan in 2012. Don’t ask how someone could rebuild a historical station! The project has won awards and it’s clear that they’re deserved. The station is gorgeous, and they’ve even placed a “Platform 9 ¾” just as in the famous Harry Potter movies/books, complete with Harry Potter products and souvenirs. For people who love Harry Potter (or for yourselves) there are scarves, uniforms, postcards, replicas, busts, and everything you could imagine in between available for purchase.
14:15 – We got closer and closer to the famous Tower Bridge. We took the black tube line called the “Northern Line” all the way to the London Bridge Tower (also called “The Shard”), which is the tallest building in Europe. Also around here we had the opportunity to see City Hall and 30 St. Mary Axe (also known as the Gherkin) and other iconic skyscrapers in the same area. Construction of Tower Bridge began in 1886 as a drawbridge over the River Thames and it took 8 years to complete the whole project. During the Second World War, German fighter planes used the bridge as a beacon for finding their bearings, and as a result left it undamaged, they say.
15:25 – Finally we got to the London Eye, which is something everyone should stop by to see at some point (and was one of the places we’d long decided that we were definitely going to see). This is the world’s third largest Ferris wheel, each one of its 32 cabins is capable of carrying 5 people and you’re provided with an amazing view of the whole of London at the highest point the Ferris wheel reaches. As of 2013 the price was 20 pounds and, because it’s already in one of the most touristic parts of London, the lines can get really long and you’ll be forced to wait for you turn. You can make reservations before you go though, and weekdays, afternoons and evenings are slightly less busy.
16:20 – Afterwards we went and caught our breath at Whitehall Gardens before heading over to Big Ben. This incredible 13 ton tower has become an icon both in name and presence. The building actually is not as one saw it in Danny Boyle’s famous spooky thriller “28 Days Later”: it’s crowded and lively rather than left to whither as depicted in the film. Next to the Thames River and around Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are many different things that were of interest to us. Across the river you can see St. Thomas Hospital, in the southeast is Lambeth Palace and the tennis courts of Archbishop’s Park, as well as objects used in the First and Second World Wars on display at and around the Imperial War Museum. A little farther north is “Charing Cross Station,” which is nice to visit.
17:30 – We made it to Piccadilly Circus.” The name comes from the Latin word of circus meaning a round open space at a street junction. We all met up at the famous statue of Eros. There were a ton of ads in neon flashing lights around the buildings and between them was the bronze statue, which produced quite an interesting contrast. Everyone who comes to London makes sure that they end up seeing Piccadilly Circus at some point, and what they can do there includes going to the famous Shaftesbury Avenue, buying gifts in any of the neighboring shops, watching the street art, staying at the major hotels and checking it at all the airline offices. We bought a couple of gifts and souvenirs from the stores and watched some of the street performances, after which we decided to stop in at a restaurant to people-watch and get something to eat.
19:30 – After eating we made our way over to St. James Park. Nearby are two bigger parks that are green as green can be: Hyde Park and Green Park. At the same time there’s a massive lake inside the park, with unusual birds fluttering their wings all around you. Even though the weather was a little chilly, there were many people out for a walk and the clean air had lured many other tourists out. We saw a young couple stretching themselves out along the grass and other couples and animals all dotting the landscape in front of us. From one of the park benches an old man came up to us and with hands full of walnuts started walking towards the trees making a sort of “eek eek” sound. We turned our heads and noticed that there was an army of squirrels racing towards the man! There were even people who were feeding the ducks bread that turned at looked over. The man threw the walnuts out to the squirrels and watched them with obvious pleasure as they scampered about. The tranquility of the greenery was accompanied with this scene that we rarely get a chance to see elsewhere. We got up with smiles on our faces and figured out which of the four different ways to get to that famous avenue we’d take.
21:00 – We got to the famous street, “Oxford Street.” This packed avenue is equivalent to Nişantaşı in Istanbul, with famous brands and major stores and no shortage of restaurants and famous English pubs. Basically you can find just about everything on this street. On the one side is Soho, with narrow streets and clothing prices out of this world. We knew that we couldn’t leave London without going to a pub for something to eat and something to drink, and with that in mind we saw a pub that led us inside. The song sung by Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was the first thing that came on: “There’s no place like London.” In the cold, the inside of the place looks even warmer and more inviting. We were very contented, as people were polite and the food and drink were excellent and we’d just spent the day walking around in one of the world’s ,most beautiful cities. This is definitely an opportunity that should be taken by any of those that have the chance!
Before going to London you should
From JK Rowling to Virginia Woolf and from Jane Austen to Alan Moore there are no shortage of amazing English works that have been translated into many languages. If you’re interested in reading a novel that takes place in London, I recommend Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere”.
Of course the Beatles! Also, Alex Turner’s “Piledriver Waltz” provides a lovely companion to the familiar air of London and is the perfect music to put on during a stroll through London’s streets.
Madonna’s former husband Guy Ritchie’s famous film “Snatch” is quite popular, or the Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” is the sequel or you might prefer to watch the modern television series called “Sherlock” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman that’s produced by the always excellent BBC.