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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

By Mauverneen Blevins

London Phone booths
London has been getting a lot of attention recently – the wedding of Will and Kate, the Queen’s Jubilee, and the BIG EVENT – the Summer Olympics.  Lucky people who not only get to see history being made, but the hustling, bustling, beautiful city of London itself!
I had a 24 hour stopover in London and wondered exactly what I could see in that short a time. After doing enough walking to give myself blisters on the bottoms of my toes, I can tell you that with a little advance planning you can actually see quite a bit. 

Kensington Palace Gardens
  From Kensington to the London Eye, I detoured through some of the most famous of London’s beautiful Royal Parks, past two Palaces, a couple of well-known Cathedrals, Parliament, Big Ben, crossed the Thames and even managed to squeeze in some souvenir shopping here and there. And of course, I was shooting photos every step of the way.

Surrounded by lovely gardens and impeccably manicured lawns Kensington Palace housed the recent royal newlyweds for a time, was the official residence of Diana, Princess of Wales, and was the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria.

Buckingham Palace Gate

Crowds surrounded Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard ceremony and hoping for a glimpse of the royals I would imagine. A marching band of guards went by as I stood in front of the Queen Victoria fountain, colorful in their uniforms of black, red and white, carrying their shiny brass instruments.

In nearby St. James Park I saw colorful ducks, black swans and a quaint English cottage that once was the home of the official bird keeper.

Royal Coach
Whitehall Palace is just across the road, where there were more guards and then it was on to the Royal Mews – the queen’s stables and carriage house where there are ceremonial carriages on display.

Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral are two separate places and not to be confused. Westminster Abbey is a special place and should not be missed! It’s hard to describe the feeling of awe and reverence as one walks down the hallowed hallways of this 700 year old building that is the final resting place of some of the most famous names in England’s history.

Big Ben on the Thames

The Parliament building and Big Ben are quite impressive. A massive building on the Thames, Parliament was beautiful in the glow of the afternoon sun. 

I considered going to a play in the evening, but it was a good thing I didn’t as I found myself literally falling asleep at my table after a late dinner.  I had to ask my waiter for the check lest the other diners suspect me of having a bit too much wine with my pasta. A good thing my hotel was only a block away or I might have been tempted to find a park bench for a short nap.

Lucky you if you have more than 24 hours in London.  It’s a beautiful city and I can’t wait to go back.  I’m just going to be sure I schedule enough time for a more leisurely visit that includes a play, some upscale shopping in Mayfair, a ride up the Thames, the Beatles exhibits…  Yes – I definitely need to go back, but this time with better shoes!

If You Go
There are a number of ‘‘hop-on hop-off’ double decker buses that stop at all the popular attractions and what better epitomizes being a tourist in London than riding on the upper level of the red bus! What’s really great about these is that you ‘hop-off’ to do your sightseeing and ‘hop-on’ whenever you’re ready to move on to the next stop, allowing you to pretty much set your own schedule, spending as much or as little time as you want at each location. Nice.

London - Whitehall
The London Pass is good for entry into a number of attractions and museums and comes with a little guide book, a map marking all of the city’s places of interest - highlighting where your pass can be used.  It works like a credit card, is activated at your first use and is good for 24 hours.  One of the most useful features of the London Pass, particularly on a limited time schedule, is the ‘Fast Track’ offered by many of the participating venues – no waiting if there is a line.  Very nice! 

Outside Westminster Abbey

The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace is in the morning so plan accordingly if this is something high on your list. Other stops to schedule for the morning are Westminster Abbey, which should not be missed and the London Eye. Westminster Abbey has a service at 3 p.m. at which time it closes for the day and the lines for the London Eye only get longer as the day goes on.  It takes about 30 minutes to complete the revolution on the Eye and the views of London are spectacular.

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life;
for there is in London all that life can afford.  Samuel Johnson

All text and photos property of Mauverneen Blevins.

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