A shade of the dramatic, where different is all there is.

MIND THE GAP (a journey in London, England)

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.

~Robert Louis Stevenson

The month of May is almost over and I had yet to do my monthly travel post, so I decided it was definitely time to get on it! My trip to London England feels like it was forever ago and I guess by many standards it was.  It will be four years ago this summer that I ventured through London, France, Spain and Italy (which we will get to in the coming months).  I had banked up all of my vacation time at work and decided to take it all in one big swoop and see as much as I could in 24 days. Flying into London direct from Calgary is an 8 and a half to 9 hour flight and a 7 hour time difference.  It might take you a day or two to get used to the change.  But if you are anything like me, you can usually hit the ground running out of pure excitement and anticipation.  🙂

For a Canadian, the exchange rate to the British pound was and still is expensive.  London is not an inexpensive place to explore, even for hostels you can expect to pay $100 for a double private room with ensuite.  Cheaper than a hotel, but less convenient.  The metro to downtown is 30-40 minutes from the sticks and you won’t have A/C in your room for that price.  And in July/August, you will be cooking.  For me, that was at the Globetrotter Inn in London.  It is only a 200m walk from a metro station, and only one transfer will take you straight downtown.  (Stamford Brook will be your station and Acton Town is where you will transfer.)  It is a very busy place with a small restaurant/pub attached that is full of young travellers on a budget.  Dorm rooms are available too in this WWII nursing residence turned hostel.

affordable Lodging in London

View from my room at the Globetrotter Inn, London

Ensuite Bath in Globetrotter Inn

Ensuite Bath in Double Bed Private Room

I didn’t mind the train ride into the heart of the city at all.  It gives you a chance to map out your day in your guidebook and take in the some of the locals.  Maybe it was just me, but being surrounded by British accents everywhere you went was an experience all in itself.

tube map of London england

London Underground Map

Something else that will likely make you smile while riding the underground is the incessant warning “mind the gap”. Mind the gap, London england Mind the gap is literally a warning to take caution while crossing from the train platform, to the train car and vice versa.   This iconic warning is even one of the most common souvenirs you can get as a tourist, commonly printed on the London Underground’s symbol across the chest. London Souvenir

There really is so much to see in London, it is a very beautiful city.  Being the capital of England, London is heavily populated.  By Canadian standards we would consider it a giant – afterall just the city limits house nearly 8 million residents. So, even though you could spend weeks there exploring and still not see everything, I want you to take a peek at my “must-see’s”.

1. Palace of Westminster

The Palace of Westminster is London’s House of Parliament and home to the very famous clock tower, Big Ben. House of Parliament, London Big Ben, London Palace of Westminster

2. Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site 25 years ago, is a very large gothic styled church which construction began in the 1500’s.  It may be best know for as of late as the church in which Prince William and Kate were married. Where Kate and William got married London England

3. The London Eye

This giant ferris wheel, the London Eye, extends 443 ft in the air.  In the peak season (July and August), expect to wait quite sometime in line for your turn.  It would be wise to arrive first thing in the morning when they open.  The London Eye is the largest ferris wheel in Europe and takes approximately 30 minutes to make a full rotation.  Be prepared to shell out the big bucks for this must-see tourist trap.  At the steep price of £17, it adds up quickly if you are in a group or with family. The Thames River The largest ferris wheel in Europe Largest Ferris Wheel in Europe

The views of Westminster, the Buckingham Palace and the Thames River are incredible and worth the money in my opinion .    Have fun jostling for the best camera shot with the other onlookers.  😉  Don’t worry, 30 minutes is a long time so everyone can get the pictures they want, just don’t pick a rainy day! Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace from the London Eye

4. Buckingham Palace

Built in 1705, Buckingham Palace is the official residence and office of the Britich Monarch.  Tourists flock from all over to take in views of the palace in all its grandeur.  Not to mention, the very beautiful St. James’ park creates a beautiful atmosphere.  You might even forget that you are in the middle of a very busy city. Changing of the guard, London

The crowds are aplenty, daily to witness the Changing of the Guard.  It takes place every morning at 11:30am. Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

Depending on your schedule, if you have time to visit more than once, the palace has a completely different atmosphere when people haven’t gathered for the Changing of the Guard ceremony.  You will be free to walk around and take in the area at your own pace.

Buckingham Palace, London

5. Tower of London and The Crown Jewels

This historic castle built on the River Thames also goes by the name of “Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress” and the Tower of London, is just that.  You can spend several hours trying to explore all of the buildings.  Once inside the walls of the fortress, it is like a mini city.  Not an inexpensive excursion by any means though, £20 in person, or £18 if you purchase your ticket online in advance (£11 and £9 respectively for kids aged 5-16, children under 5 years old are free). Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress You can visit the quarters and throne room and even the torture chambers in the basement.

Throne, Londontorture device inside the tower of london basement

And although, no pictures are allowed, a visit to The Crown Jewel’s is worth a look too if that sort of thing interests you.  I was absolutely floored by what there was to see in The Jewel House – crowns, sceptres, swords, and orbs, you name it.  I found a small sneak peek online here if you would like to see a few pictures.

6. Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge (built 1886–1894) is a stunning creation both at day and night.  It is located very close to the Tower of London castle and is built on the River Thames. view of Tower Bridge from inside the Tower of London Most beautiful bridge in London England

Don’t make the common mistake and refer to Tower Bridge as London Bridge.  London Bridge is a completely different bridge, and much less marvelous. the actual London Bridge

7. Notting Hill and Portobello Market

Notting Hill is a beautiful area of London.  Every side street is lined with beautifully coloured, quaint homes.  There is even an old style theatre just a minutes walk from Notting Hill station, Coronet Cinema, that is always featuring two current movies.  To put things in perspective timewise, I saw “Dark Knight” in this theatre.  🙂  Also, just a five minute walk from Notting Hill Gate station is the world famous Portobello market.  Fridays and Saturdays are the best days to visit, they are completely closed on Sundays and is not worth visiting the other days of the week (trust me, I found out the hard way).

Street in Notting Hill, London Coronet Cinema

Thanks for reading everyone, I hope you enjoyed a look at London through the eyes of a 20 something traveller on a budget! Just remember, bring your walking shoes and camera and you’ll be sure to enjoy everything this incredible city has to offer!  Have fun!  And as always, travel safe!



Red telephone booth in London

7 responses

  1. I love London. It’s been a while since I’ve been, but I can’t wait to go again.

    May 25, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    • Very cool, how many times have you been? What was your favourite part?

      I’ve only been the one time and it was only for 4 or 5 days. I think if I were to go back, I would explore other parts of England and not just stick to the city.

      May 25, 2012 at 10:14 pm

      • I’ve been twice. Once as a teenager with my family, and again as a college student with friends. I’m a history freak, so I loved the Tower. Each time, I manage to spend a week there.

        I’ve never spent any time outside of London while in England. I’ve done enough traveling through Europe to know I need to do more. I know Spain the best since I lived there for 3 years. The last time I was visiting Europe was 4 years ago. It’s been way too long.

        I love your pictures. Thanks for sharing.

        May 25, 2012 at 11:35 pm

        • Very cool, three years in Spain! Where did you live specifically? I visited Madrid and Barcelona on the same trip, but would like to go back someday I think. There is so much to see in Europe, there is never enough time! I haven’t been to Europe in 4 years though, so I’m certainly due for another trip there I think…it’s just deciding where to go that’s the hard part. I would likely want to go somewhere I’ve never been before to try something completely new, but who knows. We still have our honeymoon to plan and haven’t been able to find the perfect trip yet that fits all of our criteria (money and time off available from work). I’ve been actually doing a lot of research on Iceland, perhaps that will be the destination. It’s a hop skip and a jump from Ottawa. Any chance you’ve been?

          May 26, 2012 at 10:20 am

        • I’ve never been to Iceland. I’ve been wanting to go, but I haven’t the time or money now that I have children.

          As for Spain, I live 2 years in Valencia, and 1 year in Alicante. Two of those 3 years were with my family when I was a small child. The last year was during University when I wanted to live abroad for a year.

          I’ve traveled to every region in Spain, and visited every large City. If you ever go again, visit southern Spain. Cordoba, Sevilla, or Granada. These cities are so different from Madrid and Barcelona. They are much more laid back and super friendly. It’s just blazing hot during the summer. And I mean “bake cookies in your car” or “fry and egg on the sidewalk” blazing hot. Last time I was there it got to be over 123 degrees Fahrenheit.

          May 26, 2012 at 4:20 pm

        • OH my goodness, that is way too hot for me. I would melt! Sounds like Spring or Fall would be the perfect time to visit there. I will keep that in mind if I ever make it back that way!

          May 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm

  2. Pingback: My Must-See’s for Paris “The City of Lights” « eyemasq

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