Is Travel Tuesday a thing? It should be. Let me tell you a little bit about our trip to London.
As our first international trip together, we decided to take on London, in winter… and while that may not have been wise, we were impatient and pretended as though as we had no other choice. We don’t regret it one bit.
I remember almost regretting it. I remember leaving the warm and stuffy cabin and breathing in an air so cold that my lungs seemed to shrink to half its size. I gasped, and then regretted gasping in this cold air and tried to exhale it quickly. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating, but it was freezing!
I mean it. Temperatures ranged between two and four degrees Celsius and as someone who grew up in sunny Cape Town (Cape Town, if you are reading this, please give us some rain), this was worrisome. However, we put on our sexiest thermal underwear (FYI, it’s not sexy), and our multiple layers of clothing and went out.
We were in London over the festive season, including Christmas day, the day when a city run on public transport, has no public transport (except really expensive taxis). It was a blessing in disguise… Instead, we walked. We spent the entire day walking, seeing all the things we wanted to see. I could not suggest a better way to get to know the city.
There’s the Big Ben!
There’s the London Eye!
There’s Buckingham Palace!
There’s the other thing that looks familiar from the Sherlock intro! (Have I mentioned that a Benedict Cumberbatch lookalike was our hotel host? The Husb and I politely spoke to him and once we got to our bedroom, questioned each other to make sure Benedict did not have a part time job as a hotel host. We Googled it, he doesn’t.)
Seeing the London landscape for the first time was a weird feeling for me. I am someone who had London at the top of her list of places to visit. I watch a ridiculous amount of British films/series and I really love Harry Potter (but we’ll get to that).
As civil engineers who are interested in structures and architecture, we enjoyed the Tower Bridge, big, beautiful and often confused with the London Bridge. We looked up the Shard and the Gherkin (I love that they have a building called “The Gherkin” that looks like a gherkin. I also love gherkins) and we walked along the Thames, a hot beverage in hand to keep the blood flowing through my fingers.
Christmas in London has its perks, one of them being the decorations! They are big on street decorations and Christmas markets. There were fairy lights everywhere and everything sparkled! We found ourselves standing next to a giant Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, which is an annual gift from Norway in recognition of Britain’s support in World War II.
Using an Oyster card made us feel like locals, we very smugly loaded the card and swiped it, looking around as though we wanted a real local to be proud of us. They were too busy to be proud, which is something about London that I really liked; the hustle.
Being the obsessive planner that I am, I bought a combination tourist attraction ticket, which allowed us three things, a visit to Madame Tussards, The London Dungeons and The London Eye.
Madame Tussauds was a wonderful visit. The detail in the wax models are truly something to see. The amount of wax models that were there were also very impressive. A nice treat was the 4D Marvel experience on the top floor where they screened a short animated Marvel movie with 4D effects done so well, that I was not ready for it.
The London Dungeons is something I will insist you do. More than any other attraction, it was extremely enjoyable. Perhaps not if you are claustrophobic or easily frightened. Without giving too much away, it walks you through a theatrical and scary history lesson on London’s terrifying past.
Conveniently located next to The London Dungeons, is The London Eye. We hopped on and then it started raining. The first and last London rain we experienced. We were there in winter, and the only rain we experienced were for those few hours. #Blessed.
The London Eye is also something I would highly recommend if you enjoy a good view, and if you enjoy lights, go when it’s dark, like we did. Seeing Big Ben lit up gold and green was beautiful. It’s peaceful up there and relatively empty, since winter is off-peak and we barely had to queue at any of these attractions and according to TripAdvisor, in summer, you could queue for up to three hours!
Another wonderful winter surprise are the ice rinks. In London, during winter, they have “pop-up” ice-rinks with the most wonderful backdrops. We visited Somerset House Ice Rink and it was gorgeous. There was music playing and everyone, of all ages, was having a good old time.
The thing about London is that almost all its attractions are indoors, and almost all of its indoors are centrally heated. There are wonderful Museums, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and West End Theatre! If you enjoy theatre shows, London is an absolute must, but keep in mind, popular shows sell out pretty quickly. We went to see Ghost Stories and it was amazing, the set was so cleverly changed without the audience noticing, at one point I stared at the set, trying to make sense of how they made this single stage, tell me such an amazing variety of stories.
Have we discussed the food yet? A South African will be more than pleased knowing there is a variety of flavours floating around London and many halal places, including a cheeky Nandos. For once, SA Nandos seemed cheap, but nonetheless, we dug in. I had a mild wrap meal, and it wasn’t the same tasting mild that I was used to, it had a sweet-chilli tang to it. Also, they have an extra flavour at the bottom of the chilli chart called “Plainish”, yikes.
We had soups, biryanis, curries, Chipotle, and even then we couldn’t make our way through all the places we wanted to try.
I loved every bit of it and absolutely plan on going back. Are you planning a trip? Have you already been?
Ps. WITH REGARDS TO HARRY POTTER, LONDON HAS PLATFORM 9 ¾ IT HAS PLATFORM 9 ¾. GOOD BYE WORLD, HOGWARTS NEEDS ME OBVIOUSLY. WE WENT TO KINGS CROSS AND THERE IT WAS AND ALSO THERE IS A HARRY POTTER SHOP AND I CAN’T STOP TYPING IN CAPS BECAUSE I NEED TO GET TO HOGWARTS. BYE.