I am sure there will be many posts to this page, since there is just so much to see.
And I realise this is a vacation travel blog but my first trip to England was due to work, in London in 2012. While work kept me busy for most of the weekdays, making most of the little opportunity, I thought of making most of the two weekends before and after the weekdays when I was working.
So, one weekend, I was off to Oxford where a kind friend studying in the university there showed the place around while London was a wonderful walking tour all by myself. Really enjoyed it… read on for more details…
TRAVEL NOTES HERE ARE FOR TRIPS IN DEC 2012, AUG 2013
- Airport/transfers: London has two airports – Heathrow Airport which is on the outskirts of the city, bigger and very busy, perhaps one of the busiest in the world in terms of aircraft traffic. The other airport, not surprisingly is within the city. Heathrow, where I got down from, was quite efficient in terms of getting through immigration, baggage and the likes, and connectivity to the city is very good. You have the buses, trains, cabs etc. The cabs can set you back by as much as 100 pounds if you are going to the eastern side of London and are not cheap at all. Nevertheless, overall, the arrival experience was a breeze. Departure however can be quite cumbersome mainly due to security check lines which are really long… really really long, unless you are on business class. Spare yourself as much as an hour sometimes for this. Otherwise, it is all smooth.
- Phone connection: There are many booths offering simcards, international calling cards etc at the airport. Else, the city has many shops offering sim cards for any data plan or voice plan. Not an issue.
- Money exchange: As a thumb-rule one should not exchange FX at the airport, but after coming out of the arrival gate, there are bank counters, which did offer competitive rates. There are many money exchangers in London (mostly run by Asians) whose rates are ok, not as competitive as I could get from Hong Kong, but nonetheless.
- Language: Haha, is mentioning English here needed? With presence of truly a huge variety of nationalities, one can hear a lot of languages being spoken in the city but of course, everyone would be knowing fairly decent English throughout the city.
- Getting around: Public transport is easy and convienient but quite expensive. Cabs can be prohibitive especially for long distances and tube system is the more efficient way in London. Other cities I am told, one is better off with car rentals.
- Food and eating out: London has a great mix of nationalities. And with that naturally comes a huge variety of cuisines to choose from, while deciding restaurantes. There are many spots throughout the city that can be famous for certain cuisines such as Turkish food, Lebanese food, Indian or Asian food, and so on. Clearly, London is a great place for food lovers and those who would love to try new cuisines in their somewhat unadulterated form and that too in one city. London!
- Tipping tips: Tipping in London I felt was not mandatory as in the US given that some restaurants charge service charges. However, be on a lookout whether this is being charged or not and typically, tipping is expected in restaurants, hotels and even cabs, albeit to a lower extent as that in US.
WALKING TOUR – LET THE PREPARATIONS BEGIN…
So, on Friday evening after winding up work post a fabulous drinks and dinner session with my ex-colleagues in the streets of London, I sign into my hotel (Sheraton Park hotel, decent hotel, great location in Knightsbridge), and start searching for the spots I have to capture for my two day tour. As much as I wanted my Oxford friend to come along, who would have better idea where to start from while I also have company (which later I realised, I do enjoy by myself as well), since I knew that was not happening I started frivolously searching for hotspots to cover.
So, after spending over 3-4 hours of research and shortlisting, I came down to the following spots that I needed to cover during the trip. Not to say that this list is exhausting, but I think I did a good enough job to cover what I thought were the key highlights of London.