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The theme of our first couple of days in London will be getting to know the place.
We’ll arrive from Birmingham at Euston Station, the first of London’s inter-city railway stations. Industrialists from the Midlands arrived at this station to visit the Great Exhibition of 1851. The older buildings, unfortunately, were demolished in the 1960s to make way for a larger station.
From there, we’ll take our first tube ride to the Embankment station on the black Northern line. I’m getting quite good at reading the Underground map now that I’ve spent some time planning our days in London.
After check-in, we’ll take a walk using the pedestrian bridges across the Thames. The Golden Jubilee bridges are near our hotel. Crossing them, we’ll walk on the south side of the Thames about a mile and, then, circle around on the Millennium Bridge. We’ll have supper at Gordon’s Wine Bar on the edge of the Victoria Embankment Gardens. Then, we’ll walk over to get our first glimpse of Trafalgar Square before returning for an early night at our hotel, which features an on-site laundrette — our first chance of the trip to wash clothes.
On our first full day in London, we’ll take The Original London Sightseeing Tour, a hop-on-hop-off (aka, HOHO) bus. I went back and forth on whether we wanted to do this, but I realized that there were some important sights we were going to miss completely without it. Joining a throng to see the Changing of the Guard doesn’t have much appeal, but I do want to see Buckingham Palace.
We’ll hop off at St. Paul’s Cathedral for our real destination of the day, the Museum of London, where we’ll learn all about the history of the City. We’ll also visit the nearby Guildhall to see the The Worshipful Company of Clockmaker’s museum.
I hope to hear the bells of St. Mary-le-bow. A traditional definition of “Cockney” is a person born within earshot of the bells of Bow. St. Mary-le-bow is also featured in the Oranges and Lemons song: I do not know, says the great bell of Bow.
I learned from a Rick Steves podcast that one of the best views of St. Paul’s Cathedral is from the roof terrace of One New Change, a new shopping center with some good places to eat.
We’ll finish the tour on the HOHO bus, getting a good overview of the central part of London.
After that tour of London above ground, the next day we’ll take a tour called The Lure of the Underground, hosted by London Walks. I’ve been looking forward to this since I read London Under by Peter Ackroyd. I don’t know where we’ll end up, but I’m not worried. By the end of this tour, I expect to be completely comfortable traveling the Tube.
For the afternoon, we’ll take the Tube to the Science Museum with its collection of old steam engines plus Alcock and Brown’s plane, the first to fly over the Atlantic as I learned from TransAtlantic by Colum McCann. After that, we’ll walk up to Harrods to forage supper from the famous Food Halls. With our new-found expertise on the London Underground, I’m confident we’ll find our way back to the hotel from the Knightsbridge station, a feat that will require a train-change.
What’s your favorite way to get oriented in a new city?