My youngest son and I just returned from visiting London for a week. Here are a few thoughts and highlights:
Apparently, everyone in London takes credit card. We didn’t find one thing that required cash. Next time, I won’t bother with Pounds and instead just use Mastercard on my Google Pay phone. One interesting thing is that they don’t take your credit card to a central POS system. They all bring the system as a handheld device to the table. I liked the system as it doesn’t let my card leave the table. Also, a note on the money itself. It was made of a thin plastic, not cloth like American dollars. It was well designed as artwork.
My kid isn’t a foodie, so we weren’t really able to same the interesting places to eat. However, there is clearly a rich tapestry of food choices. The standard English pub is on every corner, but I wouldn’t call it high cuisine.
Wifi and Phone Service
Verizon charges me $10 per day if I want my phone to work like it does here in the states. Instead, I tried to go WiFi only for the whole week. I thought it would be harder, but actually there was free Wifi in many restaurants and tourist spots. We ended up being fine. The only downside is that Google maps wouldn’t let me search for new destinations even though I downloaded an offline copy of London. You would think that would work, but it did not.
Adjusting to the Time Zone
We didn’t. We work up at 2am each night and lied awake for 4 hours. We messed this part up.
I lived for many years in NYC so the subway system is very familiar to me. I found the London Underground to be efficient and well labeled. There were many locations that allowed you to get from almost anywhere to anywhere quickly. I suggest getting an underground app with a GPS to locate yourself. In general, they worked quite well.
Royal Observatory / Prime Meridian
To be honest, I didn’t totally understand longitude until I went to the Royal Observatory. The point where Greenwich Mean Time starts is basically a house on a hill. It is where a guy named Halley (as in Halley’s Comet) set up a very large sextant and measured where the stars were during the day/night. The spot where the sextant was built was the prime median. Using those measurements, you could tell at sea how far east/west you were. A few decades later, a new guy came along and made a new prime median literally in the next room because he didn’t want to disturb the sextant, but wants to built a telescope. Then another guy built a bigger telescope literally in the next room over. It’s kind of silly. The place where zero degrees longitude exists is arbitrarily where that guy built his telescope. You have to see it to understand, but it is totally weird.
This is an old ship that has been restored. It’s kind of neat to see. It is both huge and tiny at the same time. It’s a big thing to build by hand, but each person’s bed is smaller than my desk. People used to be alot shorter.
Tower of London
London has way too much history. The city was founded by the Romans. Yes, the Roman Empire. They built a wall and called it London. Then several hundred years later, (1066) William the Conqueror built a fort next to the wall. Then 250 years later they expanded it. It goes on and on. There is literally no end to the history. It’s overwhelming. Also, I always thought the tower was a super tall tower hundreds of feet in the air. The tower’s are smaller than my house. Each tower is roughly a two story structure with one room each. The whole thing is weirdly small. They had the crown jewels on display in the tower, so that was nice. They have these ravens there for some reason. They don’t fly away so you can take selfies with them.
It’s just a big Ferris Wheel but it goes pretty high up. It was worth the half hour to see the city from up high. London has a wealth of architecturally interesting buildings. From the Shard to the Walkie-Talkie to the ancient buildings, it has alot to offer visually.
Kind of a waste of time if you ask me, but my kid enjoyed it.
This is basically London’s version of Time Square in NYC. It was lively with many interesting side streets. It seemed safe with a bazillion people. There were many, many theaters. We saw Young Frankenstein, which I didn’t really enjoy. We got the tickets last minute. In hindsight, we should have seen a more local play or bought tickets earlier to Hamilton.
Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour and Play
We didn’t actually go to this, but I heard it was good. Warning: If you are visiting and want to go on this, you need to book it a month in advance. Plus it’s not cheap.
One of many palaces, we toured through this one. It was a bit underwhelming. The area where the King and Queen resided was actually quite small. It’s strange to think about standing where Royalty stood hundreds of years ago. The history, once again is overwhelming. It reminded me of Washington DC, but with even more history.
Apparently, when the Queen is in town, you can’t tour the palace. The only thing we could see were the Mews, which is basically where the horses and carriages are. It was kind of boring.
Probably the highlight of the trip for me was the National Galley. I would have liked to see more museums, but my kid was not into it. The National Galley has wonderful classic artwork there. My favorite was the Da Vinci, Virgin on the Rocks. Other highlights were Van Gogh (Sunflowers), Renoir, Michelangelo, Seurat, Rembrandt…the list goes on and on. I could have stayed there for days.
The activity and culture of NYC, the history of Boston and Washington DC multiplied by 10 and the architecture of Paris. Hmm, maybe I should visit Paris next?
I am not a particularly good traveler, but I feel we saw a good week’s worth of London. I could have been more verbose in this trip log, but I didn’t want to bore you too much. Feel free to ask questions.