While attending Colby, I had an opportunity to spend a semester in London. It was a truly memorable experience and since then I’ve held high hopes of returning to enjoy more time in the city I grew to adore.
Recently, I welcomed an opportunity to return to England’s capital for a quick, two-day trip, so I packed a bag, grabbed my camera and prepared to make the most of my short time abroad.
After traveling almost ten hours via plane and Tube (subway), I checked into my hotel, attempted to shake off my traveler’s fatigue and then shuffled off into the city. I could have benefited from a quick nap, but after losing a half-day to trans-Atlantic transit, I had to save sleeping for a later time.
My first stop was Piccadilly Circus where I grabbed a bite to eat in Chinatown and then immersed myself into the bustling crowd of locals and tourists.
With daylight completely gone, I journeyed to Tower Bridge with hopes of capturing well-lit photos of the famous landmark.
After fumbling with my camera settings, I finally snapped a few good pictures of Tower Bridge, London City Hall, The Shard and other colorfully illuminated buildings along the River Thames. As I began to stabilize my image lighting, my camera batteries died. And, of course, I forgot the backups in my hotel room. Such is life.
Having experienced a long day of traversing time zones, I took this as a sign to head back to the hotel, get some rest and prepare for the next day’s adventure.
The following morning, I ate a tasty breakfast at the hotel, strolled around the neighborhood and then jumped on the Tube to continue my day.
My first visit was to the iconic Big Ben at the Palace of Westminster. As you exit Westminster station, you immediately gaze upon the historic timepiece towering above. On street level, you get an excellent panorama of the London Eye and Sea Life London Aquarium just across the River Thames.
With the sky slowly greying, I trekked on foot along Whitehall until I reached Trafalgar Square, the home of The National Gallery.
Rain began to fall soon after arriving, but I was able to snap a few shots of Nelson’s Column, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, the impressive fountains and massive iron sculptures before getting soaked.
What’s great about many of London’s museums is that entrance is free, so they make a great place to stay dry when the weather turns.
With nightfall quickly descending, I headed back outdoors to enjoy my few remaining hours in the city. On my way to Buckingham Palace, I passed through Admiralty Arch and briefly stopped to capture photos of the stately Horse Guards building and Household Cavalry Museum.
With my time in London running out, I took the Tube to Oxford Circus to spend the remainder of the British Pounds in my pocket.
Once above ground, it was clear that London was in the holiday spirit. Brightly illuminated overhead decorations gave Oxford Street a warm and festive glow.
After taking in many of London’s famous landmarks, I momentarily hopped off the beaten path and traveled by Tube to Bayswater, the area where I lived when studying abroad, to grab a traditional fish and chips dinner at a local pub.
Well fed, but tired, I traveled back across town to my hotel where I had only a few hours to rest before an early morning train ride to my next destination…. the City of Light, Paris, France.
My return trip to London was fast and furious, but definitely worth it. I would have loved to stay a half-day longer to visit Tate Modern or East London, but the high cost of a later-in-the-day Eurostar ticket to Paris dictated otherwise.
Until next time, London. Cheers!
Enjoy my London travel tips below and stay tuned for my recap of Paris.
Quick London Travel Tips
- Purchase a Visitor Oyster Card before leaving home. I pre-loaded it with 20 British Pounds and had more than enough funds to travel throughout the city over 2 days. Plus, it saves you from having to buy a pass at a hectic Tube station.
- myhotel Bloomsbury is a very nice boutique hotel in the High Holborn / Bloomsbury area. It’s about a 5 minute walk from the Tottenham Court Road Tube station and a 10 minute walk from the Holborn Tube station. Food from the on-site bakery is delicious. The rooms are a bit small by U.S. standards, but comfortable. I found a great same-day deal on Hotel Tonight. (If you use HotelTonight, feel free to use my promo code LRANKIN9 for $25 off your next booking.) And if you’re heading to Paris after visiting London, it’s close to St. Pancras International railway station.
- If you are planning to visit Paris or another city via Eurostar, purchase your ticket EARLY, especially for weekend trips! I booked about a month in advance and there were only six seats left on the 7 am departing train. Plus, the longer you wait to book, the higher the fare.
St. Pancras International (London) and Gare du Nord (Paris) train stations are both well-situated within each city (unlike Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle airports, which are on the outskirts) and connect to the local subway system, so traveling via train is an efficient and easy way to get from one city to the other and then seamlessly continue to your final destination.