Setting out on a non-guided tour, we flew via Istanbul into London. Staying in a hotel on the edge of Hyde Park, we had a wonderful park view. The train ride from the airport was more expensive than we were expecting, but our hotel was near a metro station, so it worked out great. Because of our budget, we did not want to stay directly in the center of London. We had a lovely walk through Hyde Park every morning to get to the main part of the city…not a long walk!
Our first day was sunny. We walked through Hyde Park in hopes of seeing people on soap boxes. Have you heard the phrase “get off your soap box?” The soapbox speeches derived from a time when people would stand on soap shipping crates (because it gave them a platform) and give a passionate speech. This is still common in Hyde Park. We did see 2 people doing this, but not as many as I was hoping. Lovely paths and trees, monuments, ponds and large stretches of luscious green grass were such a nice contrast to the busy city. Swans and ducks were friendly and we enjoyed playing with them. We also explored Regents Park and St. James Park on the way to see London’s sights, watching the crisp green leaves slowly change colors in the autumn sunshine.
Buckingham Palace with its scrolling iron gates and stone statues were amazing. Unintentionally, we ended up walking by it right when the changing of the guard was to happen. Throngs of people poured in from every direction. Guards on horseback were shouting at people to clear the way for the procession. And we were right in the middle of it all!
The next day it rained. I was skeptical about the bus tour and Thames River Cruise-I thought it was a bit expensive to see the same things I could just walk around to see. However, we took them both. We took the bus from the west side of the tourist area to London Bridge and took the boat back toward our starting point. It was definitely worth it to take both! Because it was raining, being in the shelter of the bus was great. The only problem with this is that I had trouble getting good photographs through the windows, but it was better than getting drenched!
There were so many things to see and do in London, so much more to say about it. Watching “Les Miserables” at a theater was another highlight! Make sure if you go to London, you give yourself at least a week if you want to really see and explore everything.