Originally published November 6, 2009
London was incredible, and was the perfect beginning to a six-week, 10-country vacation with my brother (Chris) and my mother. Anticipating we would need lots of time to explore, I booked flights for Chris and myself three days before we were scheduled to begin a Contiki tour. This was a very smart idea, and is my first recommendation to those planning on doing Europe guided-tour style.
Chris and I arrived at Heathrow Airport in London at 7:30 a.m., which was just after midnight in Winnipeg. With all of our flight connections and stopovers, we had been travelling for 24 hours. And, to top it off, we could not check into our hotel until three p.m. later that day. Therefore, we had to fight fatigue, and spend the day sightseeing. I wont go through absolutely everything Chris and I did in London, but I’ll mention the highlights…
St. Paul’s Cathedral is absolutely breathtaking. You can’t take pictures inside, which is the only downside. Of all the churches and cathedrals Chris and I saw in Europe, his favourite is still St. Paul’s. We climbed three levels of stairs to the dome on top, and were rewarded with the most amazing view of the city!
Westminster Abbey was old and impressive. As I walked through the passageways, and through the different rooms, I tried to picture all of the people who had walked inside. The Abbey was especially important to me because of Poet’s Corner, a large section where many famous writers are buried. I stood there for a good half hour, writing down names of the deceased writers in the little notebook I carried with me all throughout Europe. Charles Dickens and Geoffrey Chaucer are buried there, to name a few. Other authors have memorials there, such as Jane Austen, three Bronte sisters, and my favourite author of all time, George Eliot (a.k.a Mary Ann Evans).
The Tower of London was nothing like I expected. First of all, it is not simply a tower, but a large fortress. There are many different buildings, including where the Crown Jewels are kept. My favourite building was the Beauchamp Tower, where prisoners were kept before their executions. Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, two of Henry VIII’s six wives, were kept there before being beheaded. So was Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen. Tower Green, where the scaffolding was erected, has been turned into a memorial to honour those who were killed there.
Tower Bridge was also very interesting, but there were lots of stairs to get to the top! Chris and I then crossed the bridge to the Southwark area, where both William Shakespeare and Jack the Ripper roamed during their days. We visited the Globe and Rose Theaters, walked in Jack the Ripper’s footsteps, and spent a few hours in an underground bomb shelter that was converted into the Britain At War Museum.
Chris and I went on the British Airways “Eye in the Sky,” and the thirty minute ride was worth the twenty euros! We also wandered around Parliament at dusk,which felt slightly magical, and slightly creepy.
Another highlight was visiting the Abbey Road crosswalk and the recording studio. Being a huge Beatles fan, I have wanted to visit there since I was a kid. We walked for about an hour to get there, and spent another hour attempting to snap the “right” photo. We also met a couple from Winnipeg at the crosswalk, which shows how small a world we really live in.
After our three days in London, we met up with our tour, and took a ferry from Dover to Calais. The White Cliffs of Dover are quite impressive! We drove through Belgium, and the next stop was Amsterdam.