I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea or not to purchase airline tickets to India in a way that gave me a day-long layover in London. I mean, for someone who has visited a major European city like this before, stopping over for a day makes sense for a relaxing break in between flights. But for someone who has never been to the city, there was a lot of pressure to see as much as I could! However, I decided early on that this probably wouldn’t be my only chance to see the city, so I took my time during my seven hours and enjoyed what I did.
My favorite part about traveling by subway into a major city is the first view you have as you walk up to ground level. It is especially amazing in European cities when you “emerge” into what seems to be another world, what with hundreds of years old buildings surrounding you. London was every bit as “Londony” as one might expect, as double-decker buses rolled by and people chatted away in their British accents.
Picaddilly Square..my first view as I came up from the Tube (subway)!
London is quite diverse, just as I had been told it would be. Actually, there were more “foreigners” working in the shops and restaurants than there were traditional British people. I felt much more comfortable than I did in Paris because in Paris I was definitely a tourist..everything about me–my clothing, my accent–screamed so..but here it was a little easier to blend. People don’t dress nearly as fashionably as Parisians do, and because there was so much diversity, I didn’t stand out so much.
It took me a while to find, but eventually (after a ride on a double-decker and a stop for some tea) I found Westminster Abbey. I passed by Big Ben on the way but for some reason I had my mind set on paying the $20 fee (pretty standard to get into anything you want to see in London) to get into the Abbey. Because Europe is pretty much the only continent in the world with the beautiful cathedrals, I always like to visit them when I am over there. Westminster was uniquely different from other “cathedrals” or abbeys I have seen before. It is shaped like a cross with two intersecting “hallways”. The shorter of the two is more open, but the longer one was filled with the tombs of almost every British monarch..including Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, and some Richards! There is also a large choir area with a massive organ (much of which is hidden from view) and possibly hundreds of monuments to or graves of distinguished people of the past. One of the most poignant areas of the abbey was a grave to the “Unknown Soldier” from the 1st World War, honoring all of the fallen unknown British soldiers of that war.
After finishing in the Abbey I walked over to St James park with lunch from a cafe called Pret a Manger (if you ever travel to London check it out! they have a few in Heathrow Airport also). One of the things I love most about big cities are the parks. No matter where it is (Paris, London, NYC), you will see couples laying in the grass, old people playing board games, children running around or climbing trees, and all sorts of different people walking through.
Finally I made my way over to look at Buckingham Palace. The changing of the guard had happened hours before, sadly, but it was still a sight to see! Interestingly enough there were even a lot of Brits milling around out front, gazing at the palace and such. British nationalism/loyalty?
Seven hours definitely was NOT enough time in this amazing city!