I had never felt a huge pull to visit London, partially because it doesn’t seem exotic or mind-blowing, it’s rarely featured beautifully in movies, and I can’t say I have ever been taken aback by pictures of it. But my best friend lives there, and finally, after trying to convince her to meet me in any of the other major cities within flying distance, I caved and booked a flight for two whole months.
Now, for the sake of full disclosure, I am quite in love with all things Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Tea, Men with Accents, The Beatles, Prince “Hot-Ginge”, Adele, Harry Potter (Mostly Rupert Grint), Castles, and Fish and Chips. All of these things exist because of England, and so it’s kind of silly that I had never really considered visiting there, however I think part of it was the idea of paying $1,200 to fly 7 hours to a country that ALSO speaks English as it’s primary language.
But I arrived, 11:30 at night (23:30 hours), completely exhausted from a 10 hour layover (of course I chose Iceland as my midway point) and then I had to figure out how to get from Heathrow airport to Earlsfield, a little town just outside of London. This feat was a bit of a headache on it’s own.
Once inside and settled, I couldn’t help sleeping some 15 hours to finally get my patterns under control. The best thing to do, I learned, is drink massive amounts of water, and try to regulate your sleeping. It actually worked, and I didn’t have too many problems with the time change.
Waking up was difficult, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself from throwing on some clothes, walking the two blocks to the Earlsfield station and hopping on the ’tube,’ which is the train. It took less than 20 minutes to get into Waterloo Station, one of the larger stations in London. From there, I walked directly west to the Thames River, which is pretty famous for being the largest river in Southern England, and it flows through central London, allowing access to many of the most well known attractions in London.
On my way there, I came upon a small outdoor market, full of cheeses and sausages, cupcakes and wines, all of course you could sample for free. Millions of tastes and smells to caress my senses with. These are my favorite kind of places to shop, I find them so much more charming than any sort of supermarket, and you really do meet the most interesting people. It’s open every weekend with nice weather, right by the Royal Festival Hall and the British Film Institute. The foods change, but it is a yummy place to stop. I got a cupcake and a glass of wine, sampled some cheese and breads, and considered having an entire container of the Jerk Chicken, which I decided against because it was my first day and I never know which places are legit until at least day two.
Once you’ve passed the market, if you can drag yourself away, you come upon the banks of the Thames, a muddy brown river that probably has more historically significant artifacts on it’s river bed than any of us could see in a museum. It’s an amazing place, full of artists and performers, and of course, the London Eye;
It’s huge, and the line is obnoxious. If you’re going to buy a ticket, (and Do buy a ticket because it is worth it) buy the express ticket that allows you to skip the line. It’ll cost you about £29, which is pretty expensive if you’ve just exchanged american money, it comes out to about $45. Generally, the dollar is worth 2/3rds of British Sterling, so basically you’re adding 50 cents to every dollar spent. That’s the easiest way to estimate actual costs.
England is expensive, especially London, but so is New York, so I didn’t notice much of a difference of worth, however, because the USD is worth so much less, you are burning through money quite a bit faster than a normal UK citizen. Be wary of that, because unless you then move to England, a great pair of shoes that are £65 are actually $103 American Dollars. And when you return home from your trip, you will have spent quite a bit more than you realized.
It is worth it though, I promise. The eye takes about 45 minutes once you’re on it, and it gives you excellent panoramic views of the river and the area framing it. You barely feel yourself moving as you ferris wheel up to the highest point of view in the area, giving you a beautiful shot of Parliament, and the bridges crossing the river. Small boats cruise beneath you, and people are milling around on the field below, a popular place to gather and have lunch or listen to music. It is a beautiful sight, and if you’re lucky enough to not have a high school field trip in the egg with you, it’s a perfect place to take lots of photos.
The next best view you can get will be from the bridges, which are often crowded and have too many performers to get any good shots. But sometimes you do get lucky.