Just returned from a highly enjoyable two week holiday including a trip to the big smoke – London. To avoid congestion charges I left my car at my Uncle’s house in Croxley Green from where we travelled into the City by tube.
Now, for anyone planning on visiting London I’d thoroughly recommend obtaining an Oyster Card which will really simplify negotiating your way through the various underground networks. The system is essentially a pay-as-you-go railcard system which you load up with credit and everytime you make a journey the remaining balance reduces. It should be noted that to receive an Oyster Card requires a £3 deposit; however, this is returnable if you decide to relinquish the card at the end of your trip. For full information visit http://www.tfl.gov.uk/.
On our opening night we went on The London Eye (aka Millenium Wheel) which is the world’s tallest observation wheel giving you panoramic views of up to 25 miles. Other interesting statistics are: the wheel travels at 0.26 metres/second, takes 30 minutes to revolve, can house 25 passengers per capsule and weighs 2100 tonnes.
Another recommendation would be to sign up for the open top bus tour which is run by Big Bus Tours. This is an excellent way to see all the main sites of Central London. A ticket is quite expensive at £25 but, as we purchased ours through our hotel, we paid less than if bought direct through a Big Bus Tour representative. The entire circuit takes approximately 2-hours and has plenty of stopping points where you can hop off and rejoin the tour later if you desire. There were two lines on the London Big Bus Tour: Red and Blue. The Blue Line allows you to put headphones on for an automated commentary as you progress through the City. However, I’d recommend you find a Red Line bus as they have tour guides on them which we found very entertaining and give you extra pieces of information. For example, we passed Chelsea billionaire owner Roman Abramovich’s London residence in Kensington and also Margaret Thatcher’s abode which had high security presence.
Another highlight was visiting the Lyceum Theatre in London’s West-End to watch The Lion King. The Lyceum Theatre returned to staging musical events in 1996 having been used prior as a Mecca Ballroom. As the website states, this really does ‘redefine your expectations of the theatre.’ The whole performance was stunning both visually and audibly. The impressive 2000-seat theatre, designed by Bertie Crewe, was full to capacity thus creating an electric atmosphere.
AND TO TOP THINGS OFF…
Our final morning was perhaps the highlight of the trip – a tour of The Houses of Parliament. Due to Parliament being in recess, we pretty much had full access during the tour to all the main sections of the building: Westminster Hall, St Stephen’s Hall, Central Lobby, Commons Lobby, House of Commons, Peers Lobby and The House of Lords.
One interesting fact from the tour was where the expression to ‘toe the line’ is reported to originate. In the House of Commons where debates could get very heated, to discourage members of opposing parties from attacking each other, two parallel red lines are marked, two sword-lengths and a foot apart, on the floor of the house. MPs are expected to stay behind these lines when a speech is in progress. Members no longer carry swords, but the tradition remains.
I was very surprised how close Government and Opposition MPs are to each other in The House of Commons. The elevation of the seating also does not appear as steep compared to television images. Our excellent tour guide, Ewan, commented that debates can get very loud which does not come across on television.
Below are a few of my personal favourite photos from London. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge images and please feel free to leave a comment below.