Highlights of London
If you’d love to travel to a foreign country or city, but are concerned about the language barrier, go to London. There are many advantages to visiting a country where you can understand everything and London is a great choice.
With so many things to see and do in London, I can only cover some of the highlights. My daughter and I spent four full days in this vibrant city, but we could have easily stayed longer.
Changing of the Guard
No trip to London would be complete without a visit to see the changing of the guard outside Buckingham Palace. To get a good spot for taking pictures, you should be there a couple hours early – the actually change only takes about 15 minutes. The changing of the guard is worth seeing, although I’m not sure it is worth seeing again and again.
The London theater scene is unlike anything I’ve experienced. The city – even most of the shopping – seems to shut down around five in the evening, so residents and tourists alike can attend a show or musical. The hostess at our B & B said that if we saw a show every night, it would take more than a year to see them all.
During our time in London, we saw three shows – Billy Elliott, Phantom of the Opera, and Les Miserables – each one better than the last.
The National Gallery, located on Trafalgar Square, was my favorite museum in London. We spent a couple hours visiting works in our favorite art periods, only covering about half of the gallery.
The British Museum is a treasure trove of ancient artifacts. The highlight for us was seeing the Rosetta Stone. If you’ve been there, go back, because the British Museum’s holdings are so large that they must constantly rotate the exhibits. You can’t see everything in one visit.
The Tate and Tate Modern Art Galleries also have a rotating display of works that are owned by the museum group or on loan from other museums. Special exhibits enhance the experience. None of the museums mentioned here charge a general admission fee, although some charge a little for the special exhibits.
London isn’t really known for its food, but we were not disappointed. We enjoyed a few traditional dishes like “bangers and mash” (sausage and mashed potatoes), macaroni and cheese, and fish and chips. We had good burgers and fries at a corner bistro.
The highlight of our dining experience, though was the afternoon tea we had at Sotheby’s Auction house. The tea was served with three types of finger sandwiches, scones, breads and cake. It was delicious!
We didn’t shop at Sotheby’s – it was definitely out of our price range – but it was interesting to watch the auction on a monitor while we had tea. We had fun window shopping at several modern stores at Oxford Circus – not a circus, but the busy-ness of the shopping district made it seem like one. (Circus here is more of a circle, similar to Piccadilly Circus, also in London). We shopped at Liberty department store, spending most of our time in the yarn and fabric department. We spent a morning perusing the markets on Portabello Road, made popular in the movie Notting Hill.
We visited three of the most well-known churches in London. We listened to to a string ensemble play a concert of Handel, Bach and Vivaldi in St.-Martin-in-the-Fields. This church, located next to Trafalgar Square in central London, is known for its concerts. Although our seat choice was limited, we were able to buy tickets in the morning for the evening concert.
We enjoyed an evensong service at St. Paul’s Cathedral, getting a glimpse of the beautiful church without having to pay the entrance fee (about $25). I would recommend attending an evensong service at St. Paul’s or another church even if you pay to tour it; the service adds another dimension to your visit. (We attended evensong at St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey).
We did pay the fee to tour Westminster Abbey – it was worth the cost (about $28). Throughout the abbey, tombstones and memorials honor notable Englishmen and women. We especially loved the “Poet’s Corner” where we saw the familiar names of William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and C. S. Lewis.
London is a big city with so much to see and do. I could go back for another four days and see all new attractions. Maybe I should start planning…