Pros: Food, entertainment, history, the list goes on and on.
Cons: Dirty, solemn, very busy, etcetera, etcetera...
I travelled to London two summers ago with a group of students from my high school. We stayed for three days in the cobble stone city and toured the most famous of sites. Though it was a wonderful experience, I wish I had someone explain to me what to expect when we got there and how to best use my limited time at each site. Now that I am back and half the wiser, I will give you a review based on my experience and opinion.
What To Expect To See On The Streets Of London
London can be a very exciting place with lights and flashing billboards and neon signs, but everything is surrounded by a prevalent history. The buildings are old and gray, and often sooty and dirty. A lot of people wear black, sophisticated clothes so my high school friends and I stuck out like sore thumbs in our shorts and sneakers. Everything moves fast, except the traffic, which freezes as soon as you board a double-decker bus for a joy ride. The roads criss-cross like drunken snakes with cross walks that require you to run so you aren’t splattered over by a speeding cop car.
The gray buildings usually accent the overcast sky, which lets rain continually drizzle. But that is what makes England so green and lush. The city has the excited hum that every big metropolis contains. There is plenty of entertainment just on the streets. People sing and play musical instruments on every corner, and all the masterpieces drawn on the sidewalks carry you back to the fantasy of Marry Poppins.
Since London is a huge city with many nationalities inside her gates, you will find every type of food or restaurant, but I would guess that you didn’t go to London to eat Chinese food. Pubs and other side cafés offer interesting dishes only found in England. I had to laugh when my friend ordered a chocolate “American” milkshake. It looked like a big cup of melted ice cream with a grand British flag waving over it.
Britain does have amazingly scrumptious treats though. At a little corner shop called Wonderful Waffles (yes a little cheesy I know, but don’t judge the name) they sold waffles fried in a sugar coating that they covered with ice cream, chocolate syrup, sprinkles, and of course, a cherry on top. Don’t miss getting one of those. They are delectable!
The Wonderful Waffle shop was situated right by the London Eye. If you don’t know what that is, it is a huge, absolutely gigantic, Ferris wheel smack dab in the middle of London. You step into a big compartment with seats in the middle and windows surrounding you so you can see all of London. The windowed compartments were big enough to fit our entire group of 50 teenagers! As we were looking about into other ferris wheel bubbles, one was filled with a catered business party, which we thought was terribly exciting.
The windows reveal a bird’s eye view of London. Gazing out through glass, I could not see London ended. It just seemed to eternally continue, like the ocean. A sea of city. For a couple of Euros, you can perceive a spectacular sight. So if you visit London, this is one spot you cannot afford to miss.
Tower Of London
If you are visiting London on a more historic venture, take a gander at the Tower Of London. It is an old castle where the Mid-evil rulers of Great Britain lived. The whole castle is one huge museum, with real Elizabethan furniture still in the original bedrooms. The crown jewels are in display and so is all the royal armor. Those were both very interesting, but I wish I had spent less time with the swords and maces, and more time outside. People walk around dressed up as famous nobles like Queen Mary and Lady Jane Grey. They put on little shows and can tell you the history of themselves and other historical events and people. If you want to go to a place with tons of history and interesting facts, visit the Tower of London.
This architectural giant was one of my favorite places on the whole trip. Westminster Abby is beautiful and so relaxing compared to the hustle and bustle of our tour and the city. It is a location of history and beauty all rolled into one. Inside are the graves of Queen Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scotts, and many other royal people and beautiful monuments dedicated to Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, and other prominent people. Parliament and Big Ben are right across the street so you can swing by them while you’re visiting Westminster Abby.
You cannot go to London without seeing a musical or play production. My tour group saw Wicked and it is the best theater performance I have ever seen. The actors did absolutely stupendous, the stage set up made me feel like I was in Oz, the seats were comfy, and the seats have little magnifying glasses built right into them. I was only disappointed by the fact that you had to pay for a program, something I had never seen before. It was worth the money, I was just too prideful to buy one. But seriously, don’t pass the theater up.
A Walk In The Park
In all the travelling and hustle bustle of our tour, I never got to walk through an English park. I saw several from the road, all lush and green with flowers and dewy grass and trees heavy with tender leaves, but I never got to stroll through one. That is the thing I regret the most about London. Take a break from the city and rest in the parks because they looked absolutely beautiful. Besides, we could all use some exercise.
If you think the Thames River is a cool, blue, clear river, think again. I’ve never seen a river more disgusting in my life. It was filthy brown with trash floating everywhere. It looked like a river of garbage. And you couldn’t see very many sites from the boat tour because there aren’t many interesting sites from the river. They are all more inland. The boat ride was very short, the wait in line was very long, and if you fell in the Thames River, they would never find you. Do something else with your time and money than go on a boat tour.
National Art Gallery
The National Art Gallery sits by Trafalgar Square, right in the hustle and bustle of London. When I went into it, I was excited to see the art. When I came out, I felt like the living dead. I am not one to like art galleries and guess what? This is a huge art gallery! My friend Jill had died and gone to heaven because she loves art. I guess that means I died and went the opposite direction. If you like art galleries, definitely go to this one. If you don’t know if you like art, go just to say you went. If you know you don’t like art, don’t waste your money. If you have to go, don’t take someone who loves art with you or you will never see the light of day again.
All in all, London was an amazing place and there are so many more sites to see that I didn’t get to visit, like Shakespeare’s theater from the 1600’s, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Stonehenge, and so much more. I hope from my review you have more of an idea what to expect, if not learning a thing or two. Enjoy the small things too, not just the big, famous sites. These are what really make the memories. Good luck and cheerio!