Having now lived in London for almost half a year, Mr Jones and I felt it only right that we take some time to actually spend time in the City and appreciate it - I work in West London, he works more centrally but all we see of this amazing place are the day-to-day sights on our commutes. What better way to explore than to spend a day as tourists?!
We originally planned to visit a few places - the Tower of London was a definite and then possibly the Churchill War Rooms and London Dungeons...I got an email from my uncle the day before with the advice of if we were going to the Tower "(which BTW, will likely take all day, at least) do go to peer at the crown jewels". So off we set!
We started the day with the only way to prepare yourself for a day of being a London tourist - with a fry up! There's a great "caff" just around the corner for us which really is a typical English cafe. The all day breakfast came with tea/coffee (no questions around milk/sugar - it just comes as it comes!) and a plate full of thick slices of margarine-d bread. Excellent fuel to prepare you for the trains, tubes and walking!
Our train took us directly to Waterloo which is a great starting point for any London adventure because it has great connection to most parts of the City whether by tube, bus or by foot.
We hopped on a bus and started our adventures through a hazy but beautifully sunny London.
First stop (and a spur of the moment first stop, I might add) - Postman's Park. Tucked away between sprawling buildings and busy roads is the tiniest of parks with a hidden treasure. It's within walking distance to St. Paul's so would highly recommend the slight detour to admire the plaques by Victorian painter and philanthropist GF Watts. The small gallery is made up of tablets to remember people who gave their lives attempting to save others and is beautiful and interesting but also quite sobering.
A couple of minutes walk down the road and St. Paul's cathedral dominates the skyline...
Not being in any sort of hurry we wandered from St Paul's with the general idea of ending up around Monument...
It's a stunning monument that was finished in 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London. Apparently if you laid the monument on its side it points to the exact breakout of the massive fire that destroyed a huge amount of the city but recent research points to a different location...you can also climb the 311 steps inside the tower to take you to the viewing platform for some stunning views.
We headed back to the Thames path and I came across this magnificent mosaic which covered the history from the beginning of London to recent Jubilee celebrations...
We arrived at the Tower of London just after midday. Tickets were purchased (I found a great "2 for 1" offer online, be sure to check if you're planning a visit!) and we walked to the entrance. There was a board that said that there would be a guided tour (free!) at 1pm which was only 5 minutes away so we waited at the entrance for the tour to begin. I can't remember ever going on a guided tour for anything so assumed it would be quite rubbish but it was free and figured we could walk away from it at any time so why not?!
The guided tour was actually one of my favourite things about the day! Yeoman Huggins was so engaging, so animated and had a huge amount of great history to tell us about the Tower - I started the hour long tour being a bit unsure as to whether I'd like a tour but by the end of it I just wanted to take him with me to tell me about all of the other things not covered in the tour!
After gazing longingly at the stunning Crown Jewels we walked down towards the White Tower and came across a fun re-enactment which included a jail break!
The White Tower contained all sorts of interesting items including a massive collection of armour including the rather portly armour worn by Henry VIII, old guide books and probably my favourite, an incredible sword that appeared to have a calendar engraved on it. Someone tell me what it is because I can't for the life of me find anything online about it!
Across from the White Tower is Beauchamp Tower which is where prisoners were sometimes held. Obviously having a fair amount of free time on their hands they carved some pretty impressive "graffiti" into the walls.
After 5 hours we felt we had seen everything there was to see at the Tower so wandered outside of the walls. We had wanted to go and visit other places but we'd unfortunately run out of time. It wasn't quite the end of our tourist-y day though as we decided to hop on the Thames Clipper from just outside the Tower and head towards Embankment. It really is a great way to see some of the sights!
A short walk west from Embankment took us up to another iconic London tourist spot, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. No way was I having a tourist day and not joining in with all of the other visitors to take a snap of this magnificent structure!
We strolled across Westminster Bridge and along the South Bank towards Waterloo and home but I couldn't resist a final tourist photo of the gloriously red London Eye! I was tempted to have a ride on it but thought it would be much better during daytime for a better view of the city...next time (and there will be a next time to do all the other things we wanted to do)!
Do you have any favourite tourist spots we should visit next time? Let me know in the comments!