London With An Empty Wallet (Part 1)

The morning was freezing and the light was only just peeking through the window as I woke up, half an hour late. Since I was catching a train to London, this was not helpful, and I was sprinting out the door 10 minutes later with a mismatched collection of clothes and a bag. I fervently hoped the remainder of the trip would not follow in this vein. I had, however, remembered the essential items; I had my purse and my Go Pro 4. Everything else was superfluous (well, excluding my train ticket reference number. I would have been in trouble without that). Of course, if you are lodging in London, you don’t need to worry about the problems of transport until you leave the city.

#1. One word of advice: enjoy the pleasures of the English train infrastructure. You’re welcome.

I succeeded in catching the train with time to spare for a hot chocolate and a croissant – both tremendously crucial at this point in the morning. My fortune further improved when I achieved the impressive feat of grabbing a hallowed ‘table seat’, so that I could appear important and business-y by typing away on my laptop. In reality, I was more likely browsing very unofficial YouTube videos and blogs, or occasionally the news (just for appearances sake). I was surrounded by businessmen on their commute, after all.

Two hours later, I strode out into the London metropolis, bundled into my winter jumpers (plural, it was incredibly cold) and pondering on where to start. London is a vivacious and sprawling capital of action and spectacles, selecting just a few to see is a struggle. For this excursion, however, I was aiming for the free ones; London for those with mothballs in their wallets. This is mainly due to the fact that I could not afford a guide to London, unless my trip started in a balaclava at the Bank of England and ended handcuffed in the tower of London.

But first things first, I needed a travel day card. No stress, all day travel access for the discerning tube traveler. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my oyster card in a rush – one of my late wake-up fatalities. Luckily, I do have the advantage of owning a 16-25 year-old railcard, which lessens the price of a travel card noticeably. Hooray for being moderately young!

As my train came into Waterloo station, however, my first stop was right on the threshold, so  I walked down to South Bank and regarded the London Eye. If you want truly glorious views of central London, this would be it. But seeing as I had only flies in my wallet, I settled for gawking at the view across the River Thames from the ground.

#2. If you are determined to take the circular ride, standard on the day tickets for an adult, this costs about £21.50, although you can usually get London attraction combination tickets for cheaper.

From here, I ambled east along the River Thames, taking in the diversity of amusements on offer; the book market under Waterloo bridge, the skate park peppered with so much graffiti it has developed into a work of art, the German market, the theatres and film institutes, the views. This head turning walk continued along the river until I faced the millennium bridge, where the south bank features the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and the north bank displays St Paul’s Cathedral:

GOPR0051-copyPhoto Courtesy of Emily Freeman

#3. While you normally need to pay admittance for the last two places , the outside features are worth a look in their own right. There are also frequent events with discounted prices there. 

#4. If art and dead poets are not specifically your field, the walk along the south bank is still an agreeable experience; in certain areas, you can get down onto the ‘beach’ (if you can call it that) and get some really fine photographs. Also, by the London Eye, you can capture some arresting snapshots of the Houses of Parliament. If camerawork is not your niche, there are also an abundant supply of restaurants and pubs. I assure you the footie will be on.

To be continued…

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