I was beyond excited to be in London. All those years of pouring through history textbooks, reading British literature and watching documentaries about events that happened in the relatively small city! The nerd inside me was practically doing cartwheels by the time the bus entered London. 😉
I went to London to have a little escape so really, how could I not explore the place?
Wait. Scratch that. I was in London. I need to explore the place!
I didn’t have time to do much, to be honest, since I was spending most of the time having awesome conversations and food with friends (not that I’m complaining). But when I wasn’t doing those things, I was out and about, taking in as much of London as I possibly could.
Like I said in the previous post, London is busy. Busy, busy, busy. From the metro trains to the streets, it was such a beehive of activity. I’m not used to crowds (I avoid Orchard Road and shopping centres back home as much as possible) so it took a while to get myself acclimatised to the buzz.
Of course, telling myself repeatedly that I’m in London helped a little. I mean, hey, I’ve made it! Might as well live it up right? 🙂
The National History Museum was my first tourist stop since it was a short walk away from Syifah’s place. I’m not exactly the brightest in science but it was a joy going through all the different exhibitions. I love walking around and reading all the write-ups, so I was glad I was alone. I had all the time to just wander at my own pace. 🙂
Unsurprisingly, I spent the most time in the Dinosaur section. I love dinosaurs!
I used to read up every possible thing about dinosaurs from this series of children encyclopedias when I was a kid! I still have them at home, actually. 😛 Ahh the worlds books can open up to you. ♥
Anyway, I’ve digressed.
London was a skiparound for me precisely because I only had a very brief introduction to it. There are so many things to do in London, I can understand how anyone can visit the city repeatedly. Since I had such a limited period of time, I figured I wanted to see the main sights.
Now, here is where I impart to you one of the best tips for (solo) travelling on a budget: Go on a ‘free’ WALKING tour on the first day you’re in a new city.
- It’s not exactly free (HAH!). The (young) tour guides work on a tips basis. It basically means that they will do their best to show you around the main sights in 2.5/3 hours while making engaging commentary along the way. You then decide how much you want to tip them at the end. It can go from £2 (for us poor students, haha) to £10/£15 (if you’re feeling generous). Since it’s on a tips-only basis, the guides are really invested in giving you a good time, so you’re in for a good time!
- It’s better than bus tours because you’re interacting actively with your surroundings and fellow travellers. You actually get to see the place as you walk from one sight to another. And hey, you have the opportunity to meet pretty cool people from all over the world too. (Bus tours are boring. But hey, definitely a good choice if you have small children/elderly people with you.)
- You get a tour of the place – you’ll find out more of the history, the stories behind and around it, what it’s being used as now etc. Legit information you won’t get if you’re just walking around (even if you have those little
pesky, bulkyguidebooks in hand).
- It gives you an good introduction to the place, putting everything into a nutshell. You get a much better perspective before you venture off to explore the place on your own.
- You get to take better pictures, compared to in a moving vehicle. 😉
- It’s a walking tour so a very important tip: wear comfy shoes and appropriate attire!
SANDEMANs New Europe Tours is a good place to start. They have one in London which meets at Hyde Park Corner at 11am and 1pm daily.
I’d say it was a fantastic way to spend the 2.5 hours! My guide was small but so full of energy and enthusiasm. It was hard not to catch on. 🙂
You know what’s another cool thing about walking tours? The guides will know little things about the place that will make your experience a lot different! For example, see how crowded it is when people wanted to see the changing of the guards ceremony at Buckingham Palace:
My guide basically went, “Look, you’re not going to see much and it’ll be uncomfortable. I’ll show you a better place to see it happening.”
She then took us to the place (one of the other palaces) where the guards changed their position to. Major points were that we had great views and no crazy crowd!
I was really excited to see the marching band, more than the guards, to be honest. Must be the marching band background in secondary school! 😛
I even had a picture taken with a guard! Though I have to say, I kinda pitied him for being taken as an object of interest though.
The walking tour ended at the Houses of Parliament, after a good introduction of the main sights. I was really glad cos I basically struck off a whole bunch of ‘must-see’ places during the 2.5 hours! It meant I had more time to venture out and explore the other places on my own. The ending point was also at a convenient enough location for me to head off on my own trip around the city. 😀
Having said that, I’m going to leave the second part to another entry. Think Tower Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe and a whole bunch of other places! For now, I think we’ve had enough for the day. 🙂
Till then, live up life people! And if you have anything particular for me to write about or give tips off, sound off in the comments section or drop me an email ok? 🙂 ♥