Always a good time for London! Never enough time in London!
Article and photography by Michael Morcos
This would be my forth trip to London and I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the things I want to see and do. There are always my favourites that I must return to, and then there is a list as long as my arm of the new places and attractions I want to visit.
On our first of three days we would start with a trip to Buckingham Palace. Entry is usually permitted but this time it was not. It was probably closed for one of her Majesty’s weekly audiences with the Prime Minister or a reception. Even so, walking around the Palace is still amazing and serves as the venue for many royal events and ceremonies. Wandering around, we and the multitude of other tourists enjoyed snapping pictures and videos of the Royal Guards in their regalia and the grounds. We particularly enjoyed the Victoria Memorial, the monument to Queen Victoria located at the end of the Mall in London. Designed by the sculptor Thomas Brock, it was unveiled in 1911. Quite majestic, 82 foot high and shows the queen on a throne and above her a column supporting a bronze winged ‘Victory’ angel on the top.
In what would surprise most London visitors, I have walked and drove by the St-James Park many times but never actually went in. So, it was finally time. We went to a little shop and bought a couple of sandwiches and drinks to enjoy this sanctuary in the dead heart of the city. To find such a beautiful place within a bustling city is a real treat. The famous flower beds are really stunning, and the views of the lake and fountain are really something else. The park is over 400 years old and a great feature is the resident pelicans that were originally presented as a gift from the Russian Ambassador to King Charles II. We finally saw what we had been missing!
This is a magnificent way to get oriented to a city. Our double decker bus with an open roof drove us through the heart of London and to the most visited attractions. There are two tour routes to choose from, a 90 minute jaunt and an almost 3 hour journey. Both are great ways to see London’s most famous attractions like London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, Madame Tussauds, London Bridge and much more.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
We would climb to the heavens in St Paul’s. Not knowing what was ahead of us, we found the stairway…there were a lot of stairs! The first level was the Whispering Gallery, where it is said that whispers spoken in one area can be heard in the opposite end of the dome, and offers an interesting look down on the massive Cathedral. From there we found more sets of stairs cases, two to be exact; these would lead us past the Stone Gallery and the Golden Gallery, the highest part of the dome. To our amazement we would have a breath-taking panoramic view of London, as far as the eye could see. But what goes up must come down, descending is definitely easier. Finally, at ground level we found out that we had just climbed 592 steps in each direction.
Tower of London
The dread Tower of London! There are so many tales and stories about this really awesome building. It has been maintained throughout the centuries and is a really fun place to visit. There are so many interesting things within. My favorite parts were the ghost stories our guide would tell us as we visited the execution room and the dungeons. It must have been terrible to be placed here – no wonder it’s haunted! There is also the Jewel House in the Waterloo Block where the Crown Jewels have been on display. They include 23,578 gemstones, the 800-year-old Coronation Spoon, St. Edward’s Crown and the Imperial State Crown. Any one of them could pay off the national debt!
West end theatre district
A perfect trip to London would have to include a live play in the West End. There is something for every taste, age and schedule. We chose to go to the 113 year old Novello Theatre and Mama Mia, which was a perfect ending to an amazing day and has been running for some years now and still has packed houses. I hadn’t seen the musical before, and the actors were terrific and brought the house to its feet at the end with the wonderful music of Abba. Before and after the show we enjoyed the district where many of London’s theatres, major tourist attractions and shops are found.
The National Gallery is an art museum in Trafalgar Square and has a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. It was absolutely incredible and we were surprised that entry to the main collection was free of charge. It is easy to see that it is among the most visited art museums in the world, after the Louvre, the British Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
We always wanted to do more of this, but time is limited on vacations. We had a bit of time, so we visited Bond Street, which is chic and very expensive. Though we only did some window shopping, it is packed with designer clothes and other extravagant stores.
Oxford Street is the main shopping street and is filled with miles and miles of stores including more than 300 shops, designer outlets and landmark stores. Home to the legendary Selfridges, it also boasts a range of famous department stores and well-known chain stores. Selfridges is a very different place, from softer lighting, hardly any price tags and live music from string quartets. Really unique!
We enjoyed some good eats at Fortnum and Mason food court that had a delicious range of goodies to choose from. Packed hampers, picnic essentials, chocolates and sparkling wines are abundant and ready to enjoy a meal.
So much more!
Exhausted from three days on the run, we would need a vacation to recuperate. London is deep in history; after all it was the capital of a world empire! We were delighted and amazed around every corner. So much to see and do, I may never get through my long list of things to do even with multiple visits. I just might have to adopt London as a second home!
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