There are probably a ka-trillion lists of all the things you *must* do on your first visit to London. That’s a legit number…I know, because I skimmed over about four of them before I decided they all said the same thing. London Bridge. Tower Bridge. Buckingham Palace. Big Ben. London Eye. River Thames. Westminster Abbey.
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You know, all the main attractions of London. Of course, there are also a whole handful of museums + galleries to visit to. It really just depends upon what interests you…it’s a huge city + the options are endless. This is exactly why I had exactly nothing planned for my time in London when I arrived at Heathrow airport on Friday morning.
I stared at the Underground map for a bit, very confused…then asked a living human + got it all worked out. I’m now the proud owner of an “Oyster Card” which is a re-loadable card that’ll get you on/off the Underground wherever you so choose. Nifty…but never would have figured that out without asking a human. At least not on 2 hours of sleep. A ridiculously long ride + one transfer later I popped back up onto the streets of London, just a block away from my hostel [from hell, mind you…my London hostel sucked].
I had no plans for my time in London…
After a quick nap — by golly, I needed that nap! — I was begrudgingly back outside in the misty fog of London. I was hungry + groggy + my RBF was out in full force. I ventured from my hostel toward the River Thames, stopping by a grocery store along the way to grab a very boring pre-made sandwich to tide me over.
Once I arrived at the River Thames I just followed the crowds along the river walk. I started at the London Bridge, walked down to the Tower Bridge [the prettier one, btw] then hopped over to the other side to create a loop. It was too early to head back to the hostel…that was not a place worth hanging out in…so I went in search of a coffee shop. I found Fuckoffee [yup, the actual name] tucked away on a side street. It was perfect — quirky, comfy + caffeinated! I told myself that a plain ol’ chai latte wouldn’t pack too much of a punch + settled into a big cozy leather chair to read while my phone charged. Seriously…I am so exciting I can’t even believe it.
The next morning I had plans to meet up with an ‘internet stranger’ who I had connected with via a FB group focused on travelers. We grabbed a cup of coffee [for real tho, I have a problem with caffeine!] + wandered on through London. It was really reassuring to meet someone who had a similar ‘travel because you can’ outlook on life while still maintaining a professional career. We made our way from London Bridge to the London Eye to Westminster Abbey + onto the Horse Guards just in time for the changing of the guards. At that point she needed to head off to work while I ventured on through St James Park to check out Buckingham Palace.
The closer I got to the palace the bigger the crowds got. I was in no hurry so I meandered through the garden, looped around the palace + eventually made my way back toward Piccadilly then Trafalgar Square. My entire day was about wandering + roaming. I took alleys when they looked appealing, popped into book stores that caught my eye + eventually grabbed another boring sandwich to munch on while walking back across the city to settle into my big ol’ chair at Fuckoffee. Yup, I am so original I returned to the same coffee shop I had visited the day before. Sorry, not sorry…the chai latte was tasty + I really liked the odd, homey vibe of the place.
When coffee shops feel like home…
Oh + they had great WiFi so I could spend my afternoon getting work done…because yup, still working while I’m traveling! It’s only part-time hours, but I still have deadlines + such to coordinate with my epic sightseeing to-do list [ha, I don’t have one of those!].
In reality, if you only have 48 hours in London, like I did…skip the lists + just roam. If you deck yourself out with some comfy walking shoes [or boots, in my case] + a rain jacket you can see all of the iconic sights on foot. I did cover 5-10+ miles each day, but I also roamed without an agenda. If you give yourself some time to look at a map you’ll be able to make a much more logical plan of attack for your day.
If I could do anything different I would have gotten myself up early for a run along the River Thames path — being out early, even at 8:30am, allows you to see the city before it’s attacked by tourists. There’s something refreshing about watching a bustling city wake up. In the perfect world [ie: without jet lag + with a lot of motivation] I would have linked the River Thames path + the trails through St James Park together for a morning run. Next time…maybe.
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