One January, a few years back, my husband and I headed across the pond to experience London during the off-season. Standard fares to London can be kind of pricy, especially during peak season. But we found the frosty weather made our price pretty reasonable.
Weather wise, luck was on our side as well. Having lived several years in New York City, the cold temperatures were nothing new. We had some misty rain a couple of evenings, but nothing to get in the way of our fun. Otherwise, we had the typical grey London weather, giving us a truly English experience.
Buckingham Palace is the London residence of the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II. I guess she got her schedule mixed up, since she wasn’t there when we came by to visit! You can always tell if the Queen is in residence, just look at the flagpole on top of the Palace. If the flag is flying, then the Queen is at home!
A riverboat tour can give a city a whole new perspective and ours along the River Thames didn’t disappoint. Standing tall, the majestic Houses of Parliament is quite impressive. You certainly can’t miss Big Ben, likely the most famous of London’s many landmarks.
Opened in 1894, the Tower Bridge is often, mistakenly, called London Bridge. If you count yourself among those who’ve thought this, don’t feel special; people the world over still think this. This gorgeous suspension bridge is another iconic symbol of London. The not-nearly-as-impressive London Bridge is just down the river. There you’ll find a rather unremarkable, utilitarian structure.
Our absolute favorite haunt by far was the Tower of London. Here we got to explore a historic castle where Queen Anne Boleyn was beheaded, got a British history lesson from colorfully dressed Beefeaters, and viewed the Crown Jewels, albeit briefly from a moving sidewalk. Nonetheless, this was the place for us. We ventured here two times and even contemplated a third visit!
One of our Tower outings was to watch the Ceremony of the Keys. This historic ceremony has taken place without interruption every night, for the past 700 years! This impressive ceremony is well worth the effort to gain admission. For tickets, you need to plan ahead, and apply online well in advance. If you do get tickets, don’t fret about the cost because they are free!
Westminster Abbey is one of the most notable gothic churches in the United Kingdom and the site of coronation for British Monarchs. The most recent event of note took place on April 2011, when Prince William married Kate Middleton there. There is, however, a fee to visit Westminster Abbey. It is used to help provide upkeep of this 770-year-old building. We didn’t mind, since we wanted to explore the interiors of this majestic church.
Trafalgar Square is a public square in Central London, famous for community gatherings and demonstrations, including the infamous Bloody Sunday. Even today the tradition continues. On this famous city square Londoners gathered for a moving vigil to the victims of the recent terror attacks in Paris.
Stonehenge is a ring of standing stones forming a prehistoric monument located in Wiltshire, England. Mystery continues to surround its existence. Many travelers from near and far come to ponder its origins and construction, including us. It’s worthy of a trip out into the English countryside.
Built in 1869, the Cutty Sark became one of the world’s fastest trading ships, sailing tea from China. In 1923, London entrepreneurs named a new blended Scotch whisky after the ship, since it had just returned from many years of trading and was much in the news at the time.
Recently renovated, you can board the Cutty Sark to experience what life was like on this famous ship. Its docked in Greenwich – just 10 minutes from central London by train.
We will be back someday, but I’m betting it will happen when it’s a warmer time of year to see a different side of this European city.