London…Hop On, Hop Off
Wow, our first trip into the big city and we almost missed it! We had purchased our train tickets online at a great discount because we had earlier obtained a National Rail Two Together card. We also bought our tour tickets online so we thought we were all set. But…when we picked up our tickets at the railway station I (Mark) realized I forgot our Rail Card at our home. It’s clearly stated that you must present both the card and tickets if asked when the agent comes through for their ticket check. Our new friend Jane, who we’ve met at our housesit, had graciously driven us to the station and now we had to phone her, and ask if she could come back and take us home to get the forgotten card. That also meant returning us back to the station, about a 20 minute trip each way. What a trooper, she returned to get us but needless to say we missed our intended train but caught the next one into London. So, after two trips to the train station, one train and two subways, we reached the Original Tour office to board our double decker bus for the narrated guided tour.
Our Tour Experience
First off, this tour is excellent! Our guides (we had two who split the trip) were incredibly knowledgeable of not only the sites, but the historical significance of each. The kings, the queens, the conquerors, the architects, who all contributed to the London we see today, get their due.
It’s always amazing for us as Canadians to actually see and hear about how old many of the landmarks are in the UK, and how they’ve managed to age magnificently. Every building or statue that has been referenced in books or movies that we’ve all seen: Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Tower Bridge, and Big Ben to name a few, were experienced. In old cities there is always ongoing restoration, and London is not exempt. Scaffolding abounds around Parliament and churches all in need of some TLC. Sadly right now Big Ben is undergoing a facelift, which could take up to four years, so it will remain silent for a while. As the tour bus wove up and down the streets of London, we were able to capture a few of the sites with our camera. The pictures don’t really due them any justice as the sites are spectacular!
Initially the weather was fine, just slightly overcast with the occasional burst of sunshine. Nearer the end of the 2 ½ hour tour it got quite cool and windy, so we decided not to take the included Thames River boat tour. Our day in London was capped off with some pints and a light meal at The Admiralty pub in Trafalgar Square before we caught the subways and train to return home.
The tour was better than expected and we’ll use it as a reference as to what to explore closer when we return, maybe next year, who knows? The beauty of taking a tour like we did, is that it would likely be impossible to see everything on your own, and to drive it yourself would be insane. The high volume of traffic never stops, just like every major city in the world. Lastly I want to mention that no one ever came through to check our tickets so we may have been able to make the earlier train, oh well.
Linda & Mark