From the moment you land on London ground, to that last glance from airplane that is rising in heights, you are followed by a feeling that you are in the center of the world. All the power, dignity, a harmonious blending of old Victorian and modern architecture, top fashion, culture and, above all, the presence of the royal strength can been seen on with every step and you become temporary a part of all that beauty. That feeling is amazing.
For many people, first thing associated with London is rain, “stuffy” Englishmen, high prices and Big Ben. Well, it’s not quite so, there are other interesting things that leave an impression on tourists.
I was told that from the spring it wasn’t raining very much, not until that week when I was supposed to go to London. But, I didn’t mind the rain, I really got easily used to it. For me it actually represented a part of London charm and it didn’t spoil the wonderful image of the city. I had just one heavy shower and for the rest of my time in London it was just a little drizzle once in a while and I didn’t even notice it.
I didn’t feel like a stranger in London because everywhere was people with different skin color and I could her different languages walking through the city. Everyone was so kind, when they see you open the city map on the street; they come immediately and offer their help. I read all about it, but it was nice to actually experience it. One gentleman even carried my suitcase down the stairs in metro. Not a trace of the mentioned “stuffiness”, their behavior was really pleasant.
The prices are really high, accommodation and transportation were the most expensive, and so did various tickets that are all more than £10 per person, for example entrance to St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, London Eye, some of the exhibitions, and the most expensive was the ticket for Madame Tussaud Museum, £25.
But still, the best things are cheap there. The best museums and galleries are free and they are one of the largest in the world – the famous British Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, National Gallery, Tate Modern, Science Museum, Natural History Museum and many more. In every and each of them you can spend days and days observing magnificent artifacts , enjoying the artworks of world’s best artists, old architecture, miracles of science and technique and rare animal species. I didn’t have much time to let myself really enjoy in every and each of the artifacts, so I just ran through all those enormous spaces, made a hundreds of photos and then hurried up to some other locations. It is really a shame that I didn’t make it to spend more time in these stunning edifices, but there is always “some other time”. Museums are some of the largest and most beautiful buildings with expensive equipment. So much money is invested in building and equipping them that I didn’t know whether to admire more Picasso’s and Van Gogh’s paintings or the colorful flower arrangements in the huge lobby of a museum.
I am a real admirer and fan of painting, so I had to visit National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. I couldn’t believe when I walked in. It is a huge space; it covers an area of about six and a half football stadiums. This gallery has one of the best painting collections in the world; paintings of famous artists of Western Europe from 13th to 19th century. I was fascinated with artworks of Rubens, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Van Gogh and various other artists.
London has wonderful bridges, but the most romantic one is definitely the Tower Bridge. It is nice by day, but it is magical at night. No one leaves London without taking a photo with it in the background, so neither did I. This bridge blends so nicely with neighboring London Tower, which was actually a condition for building the bridge. London Tower has an official name – Her Majesty’s Royal palace and fortress, and in the past it actually was a fortress, prison and a place for torturing, but since the 14th century it is a place where Queen’s jewelry is kept. For a while, here was also the Observatory but it was moved to Greenwich. The Millennium Bridge is also interesting, it is a bridge built for pedestrians in honor of new millennium; it looks somehow unearthly and connects City College and Tate Modern Gallery.
Sport was never my thing, but I wanted to see the new Arsenal’s stadium, Emirates. It is a really big stadium and very nicely built. It has a museum where you can find things from the history of the team, trophies, sculptures of famous player, a place where you can buy souvenirs and much more. There is also a possibility for taking a tour through the stadium, and even more interesting, a tour named “Legends Tour” which includes famous ex-players as guides, but that tour is double the money, so you’ll have to be a real fan to pay for that one.
I couldn’t be in London and not go and see the Buckingham Palace, the residence of the English Queen. It is a huge building, 80,000 m2 built about 300 years ago. In the back of the palace is the Buckingham Palace garden, which is the largest private Garden in London. One of the most interesting things about the Buckingham Palace is the Queen’s guard and the changing time of the guards. They change every 2 days, 3 times a day.
I continued my trip to the St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of the most recognizable sites in the city. Impressive dome, one of the biggest in the world, gives you an astonishing view at London. The Cathedral that is today there is at least 4th in a row built in the same place. The first church was built in 604, but it is well known that at least two more are built before the one that stands there today. Even though the edifices changes, the church was always dedicated to St. Paul. On the top of the dome is the Golden Gallery which gave me an extraordinary panoramic view at London. Below it is the Stone Gallery and Whispering Gallery known for its exquisite acoustics, to which it owns the name. This Cathedral tells a story about the Reformation of Anglican Church.
Another building that is connected to London’s history is nevertheless The Monument, a memorial dedicated to the catastrophic Great Fire of London in 1666. Tourists love it because of its impressive height and because of the view that it gives you from the top. By now, I concluded that there are many buildings in London from which you can see the whole city and I think that it is a benefit because of the everyday crowds of tourists trying to visit all these places and have a look at London from the heights. The only less good thing about climbing to The Monument is that there is no elevator, only stairs (311), so you need about 10-15 minutes to the top and if you are not in a good shape, maybe even a few more.
From the Tower Bridge I decided to take a cruise down the river Thames, from the Parliament building to the Greenwich. All more important buildings are located on the banks of the river, so I suppose that the one hour cruise was the fastest and simplest way to see probably all of them.
The real surprise expected me when I stepped on the prime meridian, when I stepped with my two feet on two Earth’s hemispheres. In that moment you feel like you are rulers of the world. I made a promise to myself there, that I will do my best to get to know those two hemispheres. There is the Royal Observatory, Royal Navy Museum, Queen’s House and arranged parks where numerous squirrels are permanent residents; they come to you and eat from your hand. Queen’s House is built during the 19th century and since 1997 it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Greenwich Village is a suburban and peaceful place, away from the noise of the metropolis.
One of my favorite experiences in London was a ride on London Eye. I bought tickets online so I saved some time in buying ticket there because it was crowded. I waited for about an hour and when I finally sat in it the amazing ride began. It was rising me up very slowly so the whole ride or the whole circle lasts about 30 minutes. It has a 4D effect and you are able to see or sense fog, snow, rain or wind. It wasn’t a very fair day so I couldn’t see far in the distance, but what I saw when it brought me to 135m in the sky was amazing – a wonderful view at London, probably the best view of all the buildings that give you that possibility and to which I have been. I wanted to stay there the whole day, but sadly it wasn’t an option.
It would take a lot of time and space to describe all impressions from London, interesting redbrick buildings with protruding windows, maintained gardens around private houses – I didn’t see anywhere in the garden lettuce or cabbage, only flowers and decorative bushes. Red double-deckers, payphones and black taxies – those are attractions known to everyone.
I watched at the same time at the gloves on my hands and their women who were walking without socks in so low temperatures, they just had some shoes, almost the kind I wear in the summer. The biggest problem for me there was the traffic that goes on the “wrong” way of the road. They had a smart idea – they put signs beside the road that say “look left” or “look right”, but in the last few days I was so confused of all the new stuff I saw, so I didn’t really look on any side, I just hoped that their drivers are so kind to watch out for the tourists like me.
Everything that I read about London and the people living there was what I saw in London – it was much, much better, believe me. Even though I took over 1000 photos in 8 days, these photos represent only a little part of what I really experienced there. Waking from a sweet dream is always a uncomfortable process and everything that is good doesn’t last much, so I had to go back home too. No matter what, I will always have that great, unforgettable experience and a hope to return there again one day.