Arriving for the first time in London can be a daunting experience. Straight off a 24 hour flight, we were jet-lagged and disoriented, but excited to immediately see many iconic London sights on the way to the hotel. Red buses jostling for space on the congested roadways, sometimes with less than inches to spare, red phone boxes, taxis and, of course, drizzling rain.
This failed to dampen our enthusiasm to set out and explore on our first every evening in Europe. It was our first time in London, and we were not going to miss a minute, despite the tiredness.
We had chosen accommodation in Kensington, giving convenient access to two tube stations, which we took advantage of during our week long stay. It was also within easy walking distance of a number of restaurants, pubs and local attractions. Our hotel was one of many located in the collonaded terrace houses lining the streets of Kensington.
We later found that the colour scheme of the various streets historically delineated which Lord owned them. From cream, to white and then brown, the facades of the buildings were maintained in their uniform colour schemes.
Guided tour of London
On our first morning, we found our investment in a guided day long coach tour was well worth the money. Not only did it give us an expert commentary on the London attractions, but it also gave us a great orientation to help our self-guided exploration of the city for the remainder of the week. Our tour collected us from our hotel at 8am to begin our London adventure.
Royal Albert Hall
First stop on our tour was a quick visit to the Royal Albert Hall, where sound crews were setting up for “The Proms” which we had watched many time on ABC TV back in Australia. Across the road we found the Albert Memorial, which Queen Victoria commissioned in 1872 in memory of her beloved husband.
A short coffee stop gave us the opportunity for the mandatory photo opportunity at Big Ben and the houses of Parliament as we strolled around the Westminster Abbey precinct.
Definitely an item to put on the itinerary for tomorrow’s self guided walking tour.
By the time we arrived at Buckingham Palace it was raining steadily, but this didn’t deter us from donning our trusty rain jackets and heading down The Mall to witness the full regalia of the changing of the guard.
The weather had cleared by the time our tour bus dropped us at Trafalgar Square for lunch. Here we found Nelson’s column, the National Museum and art galleries and the historic church of St Martin in the Field.
We passed on lunch in the cafe now established in the crypt of the church, opting instead for a counter meal and a pint at the maritime inspired pub across the road.
Once again, somewhere we needed much more time to explore at our own pace.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Included in our tour was a visit to St Paul’s Cathedral, an amazing piece of Christopher Wren Architecture. During our tour of the Cathedral we had the opportunity to stand on the spot where Lady Di “fluffed” her lines during her wedding ceremony nearly 40 years ago, before visiting Wellington, Nelson, Churchill, Thatcher and other notable departed in the crypt below.
Those not averse to heights can climb the spiral staircase the the “Whispering Gallery” high up in the dome.
Photos are strictly prohibited within the Cathedral.
Tower of London
Our final stop for the day was a visit to the Tower of London. Crossing tower bridge, often mistaken for London Bridge, we gained our first glimpse of the massive fortress which I felt was worth a post on its own
Here we had a few hours to explore the White Tower, visit the Crown Jewels and the various royal quarters within the complex. If planning a trip to the Tower of London, you really do need a whole day to visit everything at The Tower.
Our one day guided tour finished with a cruise along the Thames back to Westminster, just in time to finish the day with “Fish n Chips” and “a pint” at the local, ending the perfect first day in London. Our guided tour had not only given us a great orientation of London and entry into some of the main attractions, but also a detailed itinerary of the things we wanted to visit in coming days.
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