The beginning of the journey, finally !
Having always wanted to visit England, choosing London as a starting point was a no brainer. Westjet just happened to start to fly to Gatwick, what a great way to spend our travel points !!! Despite our best hopes for affordable travel following the Brexit and the decrease in the value of the Pound Sterling, London remains a very expensive city to visit. We arrived in London on the morning of July 9 after a “red-eye” flight. We then made our way, with our heavy backpacks, to the apartment we had rented via Airbnb. Perhaps, we should have walked around our
neighbourhood to get used to walking with all that weight on our shoulders;), but it is now too late to change anything. We truly hope that the weight of our bags will decline as the year go and we get stronger. Travelling for the first time by train or in the tube in London is just not that easy, and Londoners have a very particular way of giving directions, but we got there with a little help and were able to enjoy a well-deserved afternoon nap when we got to our “flat”
No wonders the Underground symbol is often used to represent London. The network is dense, very well-developed and easy to access if you take a little time to study the map of the tube. Children under 11 years old can travel for free. The bus is the most economical choice, followed by the DLR, and finally the tube. Contrastively to Montreal (or other Canadian Cities) where we can use the same ticket for a transfer, in London, everything is independent. You need to pay by area, but with most of the attractions in zones 1 and 2, we decided to find accommodation in zone 2. We had an Airbnb on Isle of dogs and while it was very convenient for us to take the DLR and the tube, the boys were disappointed not to always take the “double-decker bus”. Isle of dogs was very quiet and a perfect place for a walk around a nice neighbourhood while being close to the city centre. At walking distance, we crossed the underpass of the Thames river and visited Greenwich Village, a world Heritage of Unesco.
The TATE Museum
We took advantage of the fact that the TATE Museum was open until 10pm to visit it. Most of the museums in London are open one evening per month and many are free for the delight of travellers on a tight budget as we are. Tate, is an attraction you must see. Close to the Millenium bridge (the bridge that can be seen in Harry Potter and the half-blood Prince), this huge Modern Art Museum offers several galleries and the two hours that we spent there, unfortunately, did not allow us to see everything.
An afternoon with friends
I was able to take advantage of my visit to London to spend a lovely afternoon in excellent company. Moïra is a good friend from University who works and lives now in this wonderful city. Even after all these years, we were able to reconnect and the afternoon went much too quick. We took the opportunity to visit the Science Museum, although I only really chatted with Moira, Simon and the boys took the time to enjoy this very nice museum. We finished the day with a beautiful walk in Hyde Park and visited a nice area close to the Paddington Station called little Venice. We were very surprised to discover that since the price of housing in London is incredibly high, many people chose to live on small boats moored on the banks of the canals year-round.
The Tower of London
We also took some time to visit the famous London Tower, a historical fortress near London Bridge whose construction dates as far as the 11th century. This site is also classified UNESCO World Heritage. This is a rather expensive tour, so it is important to buy your tickets online if you want to visit as you will save a bit. It is a very popular place with millions of visitors per year, there was an impressive crowd even on a weekday. The Tower of London had several pavilions that explained the different functions of these facilities through the ages. There was also an exhibition of the jewels in the Crown of the Queen, but due to the endless queue (and our very little interest for the jewels of the Queen), we chose to ignore this part of the visit. If we would have the opportunity to start over, we would have started by the White Tower, which had the most interactive activities. Unfortunately, the boys were getting tired and we walked through this part rather quickly. It’s quite amazing to think of all the history that took place at this location.
You unfortunately can’t visit the Buckingham Palace in the summer, but it is possible to see the change of guards that takes place every day at 11:30. We, as usual, showed up too late to be in front rows of the crowd who had heaped outside the gates in order to see this event. The boys could only see the top of the soldiers black “hats” moving and hear the fanfare. We are going to watch a YouTube video for to make up for this. We have, however, walked around the site and observed the Palace behind the gates. A visit to London would certainly be incomplete without seeing Big Ben, and it was during a rainy day that we walked in this part of the city to observe this clock (Bell) at the top of the Elizabeth Tower which is part of the Westminster Palace. The British Parliament has certainly nothing to envy to any other country, this building is imposing and beautiful. In “Trafalgar square”, where we were planning to sit and relax if it had not been for the rain;), we also visited the “National Portait Gallery”. This incredible museum is showing some magnificent paintings such as Van Gogh, Monet or Rembrandt. Kolya was finally able to see with his own eyes the real sunflowers.
We have experienced London all the way including the rain, let’s say that our rain coats were well used during his short stay. Food wise, we took advantage of this trip to eat a traditional Fish and Chip from a London pub where the kids are always welcome (love that), we also enjoyed a Pie & Mash & Mushy Peas at Goddards and had a few Stout to drink. Last but not the least we had the pleasure of enjoying an “afternoon tea” that we drank accompanied by scones at the Valérie Patisserie.
In order to stay on our budget travel for the year, we decide to stay only four days in London. We had three complete busy days, but the boys followed without a fuss, we are so proud of them. Let’s say that this is only a see you later London! as we are promising ourselves to come back sooner than later.