London: Day 1
After spending a few days exploring the English countryside, it was time to go into London. It was my first time going since 2004, when I went for a week for a Make A Wish trip for my brother. I had seen all the attractions before, but to be honest my memory was vague after thirteen years.
The ride into London was about 40 minutes from the station in the village I was staying in, Ashtead station. The station was about a 15 minute walk away from me. The British train system in general is rather confusing, with various companies all around and dynamic pricing schemes, similar to how airline tickets are sold. From Ashtead, there were two options, Southern Rail and Southwestern Rail. One went into London Waterloo station and one went to London Victoria station. I chose to just take whatever train came first, which ended up being London Victoria. This was bound to happen, as there were more trains running to London Victoria due to construction works taking place at London Waterloo. I made sure to take the train after 9 AM, because then the prices were cut; another benefit is that the trains are less crowded at this time. I purchased a day pass for about 13 pounds; this covered the commuter trains into and out of London, as well as unlimited riding on the London Subway, otherwise known as the “Tube.”
After arriving into London, I made sure to check out the top two attractions, the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. To get there, I took the subway from London Victoria station to the Tower Hill station on the District Line. This takes about 15 minutes for 9 stops.
After arriving, the Tower of London is obvious fairly quickly after exiting the station at ground level.
There were long lines to purchase tickets, and I had a funny feeling that seeing the Tower from the outside was good enough.
It turns out that I was proven right, at the expense of about 30 British pounds.
Inside the premises were more of exhibits than anything. I was able to spend a couple of hours there, but much of the time was spent waiting in lines, particularly in staircases.
Personally, I don’t think this place is worth the expense.
After this, it was off to get something to eat. I had to go to the Borough market based on everything I had read about it. This was a fascinating place, there were stalls of foods from all around the world. I chose to have something I’d never had, basically a spinach and cheese filled filo pie, a food that is popular in the Balkans. I also had a cumin spiced lamb sandwich, this seemed to be local stall.
After this, it was off to the nearby Tower Bridge. The admission here was much more reasonable, about 9 pounds.
The most popular part was the glass floors, one could see the ground through the glass.
However, to me the most interesting was a spread of pictures of bridges all over the world that were being displayed for the current exhibit. My father is an engineer so I always had an interest in such structures. There were nice views of London as well from the elevated area.
Finally, there was a separate engine room which shows the steam engines that were historically used to power the bridge.
After this, it was back to the outskirts of London, as I had plans to catch a proper English soccer match in the evening!