Once we returned home, people started asking me which city was my favorite, and I can never answer because I truly had absolutely magical experiences in all three cities. As a whole, though, I think our little group fell hardest for London, and I know we all would go back to London in a heartbeat if we had the opportunity. Several of our major London highlights will have the dignity of their own posts, but today I wanted to mention a few random spots and experiences that we enjoyed, in no particular order.
1. Big Ben. Because, obviously! I do wish that we would have spent some more time on foot, wandering around the area of Big Ben & Westminster & Parliament — but we did get to hear the clock chime on a couple different occasions, and what a thrill. We caught our best view of Big Ben during our cruise down the River Thames, truly breathtaking.
2. The London Eye. Yes, it’s a tourist trap, and yes, it’s probably overpriced, but honestly, we loved it. We booked our tickets online in advance, and for a slightly higher fee, we purchased the Day & Night pass, which allowed us to ride London’s most famous Ferris wheel twice within 24 hours.
When we went the first time, the weather was grey and gloomy and rainy, which made the view less than stellar, but when we went back again near sunset, the sky had cleared quite gloriously, and I knew we got our money’s worth. I especially loved how long the full circuit takes (about 30 minutes), and how large the capsules are (each capsule can hold up to 20 people), so you can stand up and move around and enjoy every angle of the spectacular view.
3. Millennium Bridge. The pedestrian suspension bridge that famously features in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. With St. Paul’s Cathedral in view on one side and the Tate Modern on the other, it is a bridge well worth crossing!
4. Trafalgar Square. Sadly, I don’t feel like we truly experienced Trafalgar, even though we visited it twice. On the first day, there was an outdoor band concert in the square, and we came up from the Tube station into a massive crush of people that just about took my breath away. Of course, it was delightful to listen to the music for a few minutes, but there was no way we could make our way into the square to actually see it.
The next day, we came back to visit the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery (which we rather rushed through, but both well worth visiting), and most the temporary structures for the concert were removed, but there were still trucks and tents and vehicles scattered around the square. Bummer! At least on the second day, we could wander down and explore Nelson’s Column and the famous fountains.
5. London Bridge at commute hour. Although London Bridge itself is surprisingly unremarkable (the iconic bridge that everyone recognizes is actually Tower Bridge), we did decide to walk across it at commute hour one day, which turned out to be quite an experience. Apparently a vast number of pedestrian commuters use London Bridge, and we suddenly found ourselves walking “counter-commute” right around 5 o’clock, which felt rather like paddling upstream against a waterfall. As a writer, I felt utterly overwhelmed as we watching hundreds upon hundreds of faces pass, and I wondered about all of their stories — so many fascinating, commonplace, and delightful stories in one place!
We certainly experienced much more in London, but I will save those stories for later posts. In the meantime, what London highlights should I put on my list for a return visit?! Come join me in the comments!