Friday, 31 August 2012

Touristy in London

London Bridge 2012 Olympics 
In the summer of 2012, just as the Olympics were drawing to a close I set off for a backpacking trip to the United Kingdom. With London, Lake District and Ireland on the itinerary I was on to quite an eclectic adventure.

I have always had a fascination for London, its double decked buses and phone booths firmly etched in my mind through countless encounters via cinema and various art forms. In contrast to this while browsing through the map, the northern most parts of Britain seemed like unexplored territory which attracted the vagabond in me. That’s why I chose the Lake District, changing three trains in all a day long journey but totally worth it. 

A part of me played the perfect tourist i.e bringing back a bag full of sightseeing brochures, catalogs and superbly random photographs of what a normal Londoner would call mundane city life, oh but that's the fun of playing touristy!

Getting There:
We chose Turkish Airlines due to its decent fares and a variety of early morning arrivals so as to save a day. 
So here's what I recommend you must do when visiting London for the very first time.

After landing at Gatwick Airport we proceeded to London city center (where the hostel was located) via a quick ride on the tube, accessible directly from the airport.   

Hostel Recommendations

I enjoyed my stay at Travel Joy Hostel Chelsea the most. This was largely because I met my first London crush - Sven, a tall, blue eyed German gentleman (who happened to be sleeping on the bunk bed above mine (innocent pleasures)! Don't think further, I assure you nothing happened! Just some fabulous conversations in double decked buses, a few laughs shared in the hostel lobby, but amazing memories non the less!

Of course the hostel was nice, not as cramped as some of the others I have stayed in. A friendly staff not to mention great location. We had a balcony with a gorgeous view of the river too.  On day one after sharing a few drinks, we set off on a tourist trail around the city.

I took at least a dozen of these back home, memories!
Tourist Trail
I am not much of a tourist trail-er, but I have to give it to them for the organised nature of these routes. I started with the Original London Sight Seeing Tour, one of London's many Hop on hop off options. You name a spot and it has that on its many blue, yellow, red, green routes! It is just like a local bus with set stops across the city, the colour representing the route it takes, the only difference was the hilariously funny guide extolling the virtues (or not) of every spot we passed by. How I wish we could introduce this concept in Bombay, my home city! 

From Hyde Park to Piccadilly, from Oxford Street to Trafalgar Square, with Covent Garden, Buckingham Palace, Baker Street, Camden market and more, it was like a joy ride I was on! If you are in London for a 48 hours and have a tourist checklist, the Hop on Hop off ride is your first stop.

Once done with ticking off the checklist, I decided to wander around the streets of London just taking in the vibe of the city with no set route, plan or itinerary for the day. Why you ask? Well that's because I feel my feet will take me to fascinating parts of the city, all I have to do is look! So I set out.

The first thing I noticed - men and women on their bikes or in their running gear  peddling away at 7 am. When I ask ask around I am told it is a common practice to run or ride a bike to work. I find that fascinating. Also work begins at 8 am and ends at 4.30 or 5 pm post which I saw quite a few runners and bicycle riders on the street once again. What a healthy way to live whereby you have a social life post work hours instead of slogging it out late in the evening like most people I know. No wonder Great Britian took 7 Olympic medals at the cycling event alone that summer!

London Eye as seen from the Thames Cruise
London Eye
Yes its a part of the tourist trail. But I chose to visit London Eye separately. That's because I could spend the entire day there and not tire! No I dint do that, but I sure would have loved to. 

There is just so much to absorb in an eclectic city like London, I just had to pause for a moment and take it all in. So I sat by a cafe near the eye and browsed through my memories.

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