An 8 Hour Affair With London
WARNING: Do not do this if you’re not confident you can follow through because this is very risky.
NOTE: Things to consider while doing all these.
1. Always, always mind your time! Make sure you leave about an hour and half padding extra before your flight. Do not underestimate anything.
2. The London weather! It can change from sunny to windy to rainy. When I say windy- it means windy! You might want to consider bringing a light jacket or coat. It also depends on what season you’re going. Spring weather I think is the most unpredictable of all.
3. Priorities. Know your priorities and stick with them.
4. Study the tube beforehand. Travel forums are helpful BUT pick and choose which advise will help you more, advises can be overwhelming. Have a confidence in yourself that you can do it.
5. Don’t be scared to ask. If the first guy does not help you, ask another one. Do not be discourage by snooty British attitude, you’ll find the right one who will help you. A lot of times it will be the quiet girl with a headdress sitting in one corner, you’ll be surprised!
6. Shoes! Use a comfortable shoes- you are going to be walking about 2-5 miles more or less on this travel. So wear comfortable shoes.
Our flight from Barcelona to Stansted boarded about 15 minute early. We took RyanAir, they have a habit of doing that which is even better. Later my cousin told me that as soon as the passengers starts boarding off the plane, the crew and even the pilot are ready with the broom and cleaning stuff to clean the plane because it’s going to turn around right away with passengers on board back! I was laughing until I saw (on our way back that night) with my own eyes, luggages coming out of the plane from the passengers who just boarded off and on the other side we were boarding on the plane! Well, they’re very efficient alright and probably that’s how they can offer better deals- by how many times the plane can come and go. LOL! It’s just my assumption- don’t take my word for it.
Anyways, the flight was fine- I was very much refreshed from a good night sleep the night before. Took some Tylenol every 4 hours (500 mg) for my back ache from Air France flight! I still had it but very tolerable. We arrived at Stansted Airport about 10 minutes early, and of course we gained one hour because of the time zone difference. So we were there at 7:50 AM. Not bad! We lost that at the customs and immigrations. There was not a long line but it took so long because all Non-EU passport are on this line. If you are an International Traveler you probably know how long it takes for those customs officers to clear some people. When it was our turn it just took about 5 minutes and we were stamped and cleared. We looked right away for an ATM. If you have a bunch of cash, it’s probably best for you to find the money exchange booth (they take a lot off the exchange, just to let you know), but if you’re using your card- find an ATM and withdraw your desired amount in pounds. Then find the Information Kiosk and ask as many questions you can remember that you don’t know because it will help you a lot. Ask for pocket maps and buy the necessary transportation tickets. There is also some transportation offered when you are walking through the hallway from the gate to take you to London proper, some of them they offer it as early as when you’re still waiting to board the plane. If you prefer this, it is your choice.
In our case- we were picked up by relatives because we had some gifts for their newborn baby and other family stuff. But you could take the train (Stanstead Express) to central L0ndon, this will take you about 50 minute to your destination which is Liverpool Street Station. This station will be important to you especially if you’re using Stanstead Airport and also if you’re using the London tube. We took this but the reverse when we were coming back to the Airport, it was very smooth.
An Advise: Do not be intimidated by the London Tube. You can ask a free Tube map from any Tourist shop nearby or from any Information Kiosk nearby. Take time to ask and understand what the signs are and where the colors go.
If you’re in Liverpool Street Station (from Stanstead Airport), you only need to use the Yellow Circle Line. For the few hours we were in London, we managed to go in Tower of London (we bought the tickets online, ahead of time), Westminster Abbey, The Parliament Square (includes Big Ben, The Parliament and any other historic building that’s in there) and the Sherlock Holmes Museum. I know it’s very ambitious but you can do it, if you plan it right. Our flight back to Barcelona was at 8:30 that night.
From Liverpool Station, you can go west to Tower of London (Tower Hill Station) our first stop. While there, you can walk towards the Thames River and see the London Bridge from afar, you can walk there if you have enough time- or you can admire the view of the River Thames, take some pictures and then go inside the Tower of London. There are a lot of historic artifacts inside the Tower. Make sure you go to where Anne Boleyn got beheaded and other important and not important people on Henry VIII time. Make sure to at least pass by where they hold the Queens’ crown jewels. I advise you to give it plenty of time here because there is very long line most of the time. It’s worth it to see them all but if not, at least you have to go inside the Tower.
Next, going back to the Tower Hill Station, taking the Yellow Circle Line- go west to Westminster. That will take you to Westminster Abbey. When you come up from the station you will see it right away. The Big Ben towering in front of you is a magnificent sight. There will be a lot of people around, take the time to stop and look up to admire it. It will be across the street. If you turn right when you come out of the station, cross the street with the others on your left, you will be across the Parliament Square. Keep walking and you’ll end up at the Entrance of the Abbey. Do not worry about the Square just yet, you’ll be able to enjoy it once you come out of the Abbey. The entrance fee was 20 pounds for adults (at the time we visited, it can change). Take time to appreciate the architecture, if you’re lucky you’ll be able to fully appreciate it without scaffoldings from the renovations they’re doing. There are a lot to see inside. When you go in, ask for the Audio guide and a brochure. Make sure you know where to start, not just go around with the audio guide not knowing what it’s talking about, it will make a whole lot of difference. By the time you are done with the Abbey, you’ll feel more knowledgeable about the British history and Royalty than when you came in.
After your tour, you’ll find yourself in a hallway and there is a little Museum, the Abbey’s Museum where you can actually see how those Royalties look like, ‘death masks’ I call it- they’re earie but they’re there for you to see. If you are interested in the Tudor Dynasty (the most famous is Henry VIII) you will really appreciate it. Then you’ll have the chance to buy little things, souvenirs and such there.
After all these, it might help if you want to go to the Loo! You can find it near there, in one the hallway leading to the cafeteria. Ask somebody, there will be a guard going out, ask him. You’ll need it. Then find your way to the Square. It’s an experience to sit on the grass and look up around you. There are statues of famous people there including our very own Abraham Lincoln! After a whole bunch of walking, believe me you’ll enjoy a little time on the Square. Take as much photos as you can, you’ll see Big Ben, the Abbey, the Parliament and other old buildings as well. Of course if it’s raining, well- there’s really nothing you can do about it.
IF you have time, you can go walking to Trafalgar Square. It’s about 20 minute walk. You’ll be able to see 10 Downing Street (residence of the Prime Minister) and Trafalgar Square. There you can see the British Art Museum which is free! After all these you can take the Charring Cross Station northbound to Baker Street Station, if you’re interested on going to Sherlock Holmes Museum We did not do this because I was more interested in going to Sherlock Holmes Museum, so something has to give.
After a much needed rest, we went back to the Yellow Circle Line and by this time, we went EAST bound to Baker Street Station. It’s fast and smooth. Just make sure you mind your bag and watch your step. It will be busy by this time already, people going home and taking the tube. If you know where to come out of the station, you’ll be able to walk out then to your right a short walk to the Sherlock Holmes Museum, it will be across- you can easily miss it if you’re not looking, but there are a few people always hanging around it so it’s also easy to spot. If you’re not sure about where to go, ask somebody (there are about 4 exits I saw coming out of Baker Street.) Buy some souvenirs, even the receipt is worth keeping!
hen you’re done with the Museum, make your way back to Baker Street Station take the Yellow Circle Line to Liverpool Street Station. Here you will board the Stanstead Express to Stanstead Airport. It will be about 50 minute to an hour. Go up to the main Station, it’s big and you’ll see the train. On the walls on each side by the entrance you’ll see the self-serve ticket booth. Make sure you know your times. Make sure you select the right time you’re boarding and it’s only for going, no return. Once you get it- you’re off. Hop on the train, sit back and relax. Enjoy the view of the countryside (there is really nothing much to see)…but at least you can say, you saw a little bit of English countryside!