My visit to London wasn’t a planned trip. It was my first Business Trip abroad. And that in itself, made the experience all the more special. It was just a few days before this was informed to me by my HR, that I had gotten my passport ready. I don’t remember having left even my house unassisted prior to this. That said, this seemed more like an adventure to me at that point. A lot of shopping was done, lots of ideas went into how I could fit in all that stuff into a flight baggage limit of 30 kgs maximum.
It was 19th of June 2012, I along with my two other colleagues, took our flight from Kempegowda International Airport –Bangalore (to London Heathrow Airport via Dubai International Airport), in the wee hours of chilly morning. Overall it was a smooth and comfortable journey.
We had our accommodation booked in the heart of the city, with Marlin Apartments(behind Mansion House Station). This has Domino’s Franchise outlet by the side of the entrance to the apartment, a Tesco store for Groceries in a lane parallel to Marlin and Boots Pharmacy just about a kilometer away, easily at our convenience.
And from my bedroom window (6th floor), I could get this glimpse of the dome of beautiful St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Most of our weekdays were spent at work and evenings were best to hangout in places close to our apartment. Weekends were definitely meant to explore the city. It was summer around this time in London when we’d arrived and thankfully, the sky was mostly clear. And that made it easier for us to go about exploring. For starters, you could buy a good London Street Map, you can easily avail them in airport, news stands and shops.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
This is one of the most famous sights of London, located at Ludgate Hill. It is open from 8:30am till 4:30pm for sightseeing. This is also where Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding was held on 29 July 1981.
On our first day in office, one of our very friendly colleagues took us in and around our office buildings as part of Campus Tour. And St. Paul’s Cathedral being close to one of our office buildings, we paid a visit here too, at around 9am.
Filming and Photography wasn’t allowed inside the Cathedral, hence we could only manage to capture a few images from the outside. (The one below, was clicked later in the day as I’d not carried camera to office that morning.)
A walk beside the Tower of London:
This was the closest and our most favorite place to take a walk post dinner almost every other evening. You can definitely spare some time here to experience the sight of Tower Bridge lift for a passing ship. This is one of the must-see sights in London. Spending some time talking as we go about walking here, listening to the call of seagulls, and the flowing waters of river Thames, with an ice cream cone in our hands(..from one of those mobile ice cream shops!!) used to be the most peaceful way to wind up our day.
This is one of the most renowned tourist attractions in London. The Houses of Parliament and Elizabeth Tower, commonly known as Big Ben. [Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London and is usually extended to refer to both the clock and the clock tower as well. The tower is officially known as Elizabeth Tower, renamed to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012; previously, it was known simply as the Clock Tower(~source: Wikipedia)].This place is illuminated with lights in the night which makes the sight all the more spectacular.
This is the world’s tallest observation wheel, standing 135 meters tall with glass capsules which take about 30-40 approx minutes per rotation gave us a bird’s eye view of the city of London. Each capsule was equipped with interactive guides to explore the important landmarks of the city.
When we went to buy our tickets, we were offered to choose 3 iconic places to visit in London for a combo pass. Of which, London Eye was one of them. Along with it came a free pass to watch a 4D show of London Eye, while we waited for our turn to enter the glass capsules of London Eye. This 4D show gave us a picture of not just the London Eye background and experience, but also gave a hint of how London has evolved to become a home to people from different cultures and ethnicity.
Madame Tussauds’ Wax Museum:
This is one place which every tourist looks forward to visiting. It has several wax models of famous celebrities from across the world, including some of our Bollywood favourites-Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai, Hrithik Roshan, Shahrukh Khan to name a few. This ticket of ours included an amazing 4D movie experience of fictional superheroes and also a Black Cab train run-through with audio visuals to help us see how the city of London has evolved over time. It indeed was a good weekend getaway.
Somerset House is a large Neoclassical building situated on the south side of the Strand in central London, overlooking the River Thames, just east of Waterloo Bridge. The building, originally the site of a Tudor Palace, was designed by Sir William Chambers in 1776, and further extended with Victorian wings to the east and west in 1831 and 1856 respectively. The East Wing forms part of the adjacent Strand campus of King’s College London. Somerset House is a popular filming location with its exterior featuring in several big budget Hollywood films. Among these include two James Bond films, Tomorrow never dies. (~Source: Wikipedia).
We paid a casual visit to Sommerset House one afternoon and spent some peaceful time soaking up the sun and dancing around the fountains here. Although I believe it would’ve been rather more beautiful a sight in the night amidst those flouroscent lights.
We also did experience the multicultural carnival and watch mind blowing fireworks for an hour at a stretch as part of Annual Mayor’s London Thames Festival-2012. Some images from the event below..
These were some of the things a tourist in London must not fail to see.
Not to forget, shopping is one thing that one must never ignore in whatever kind of travel you do. Be it a casual visit, a long vacation break or on Business, everyone definitely can spare time off for shopping. That said, some of our favorite shopping destinations were Westfield mall, Oxford Circus and Southall.
- Southall felt like home away from home mainly because, in weeks, we finally found some places which served delicious Punjabi food(one of them was Chandni Chowk), there were also many Indian/Punjabi Ethnic-wear Boutiques, Hijab and Abaya Boutiques, Hand woven thermals stores, jewellery and accessories stores, etc. This place certainly is noticeably full of life, even on a gloomy day when the Sun decides to tuck itself beneath the blanket of Dark clouds or send down some rain.
- Yet another place where you can find a tab bit of South Indian Population and restaurants (including the very famous Saravanaa Bhavan), is East Ham. This place also has Primark for you to do some budget shopping.
- Oxford Street is one happening shopping destination every shopaholic touring London, must visit. Usually crowded over the weekend, but has a lot of stores of various top brands to choose from. Some of my personal favorites back then were Marks & Spencer and H&M and I’d pay random visits to this place with my other two colleagues and return to my apartment hands full of shopping bags every time.
The list can go endless, but I think I should stop here for now 🙂
Upcoming… : A day at Cotswolds