London With An Empty Wallet (Part II)

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After looking around the entrance to St Paul’s Cathedral (I could see parts of the interior from inside the door), I decided to save the £15 entrance fee and be content with the view I had from there.

#5. You can see quite a lot without paying for entry, but you obviously don’t get the full tour.

I then headed to the tube and made my way to the Embankment, back down by the river. The District and Circle tube lines were not working, so we packed together like a can of sardines in order to fit into the carriages. I wove my way up to the very front of the train, where few bother to venture, in order to save myself from being forced into someone’s armpit. I did, however, virtually get blown to bits by the wind of the open carriage central door.

The embankment is the north side of the river, opposite South Bank, where all the tour boats generally depart from. They frequently have some genuinely decent deals on these types of tours. I, however, was making my way to Westminster on foot.

#6. At this moment, there is 50% off (£1 tickets) if you buy tickets to particular London attractions. Keep an eye out for those deals, especially if cruising up the river sounds like a relaxing way to see the sights (less walking!).

The houses of Parliament and Big Ben are fundamental ingredients of the tourist diet. Crowds are never-ending in this area, teeming and swaying in a throng of excited bustle and activity. It is a good pace to hone your dodging and weaving skills.

GOPR0123-copyPhoto Courtesy of Emily Freeman

#7. The best time to visit this area is in the early morning or late afternoon for some beautiful photo opportunities, as the sun is in a particularly great position in the sky. Once you’ve had your fill, wander around the statues of Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and other notable politicians, historical figures, and general do-gooders in Parliament Square, just opposite Westminster Abbey (you can go inside, if you dare to brave the impressive queues spewing out of its doors and down the road into the distance).

I stopped in Parliament Square to witness a married couple, having their wedding photos taken with Big Ben as the backdrop. The white dress was in danger of being soiled by the mud and general London grubbiness. Yet, they managed to capture some spectacular photos to show their future grandchildren. I couldn’t help but respect their bravery in the face of so many gawkers and spectators.

From there, I then traveled on foot north to St James’s Park. No, not the Newcastle football ground, but a picturesque little green nirvana that will drop you off at Buckingham Palace’s front doors. The hustle and bustle of inner London is virtually silenced as you venture further in to the park, and the ducks, geese and swans flock to your presence – little beady eyes probing you for the expected bread. Unfortunately, I had no bread to give, so I left behind a few grumpy geese and headed for the bridge across the partially frozen water to observe Buckingham Palace for the first time.

Even if you have never seen Buckingham Palace, you’ve probably heard about most of its highlights already; a large palace, guards who do not move or show any facial expression, and the intimidating gates that keep everybody out (except those who are dressed as batman). If you are lucky, you will be able to witness activity behind the gate, such as visitors or ambassadors, cars being checked for bombs, or the changing of the guard, which is well worth a watch.

#8. Try not to torture the guards too much; not being able to smile, move or talk for long periods of time would make me solemn too.

Then, I headed to Costa – nothing like a good hot chocolate to warm you up when your extremities are turning blue. With this warmth in hand, I set out for the next destination; to visit 221b Baker Street (if you do not know the significance of this address, contact me immediately and I shall set you on a golden path of entertainment).

To be continued…

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