The traveling continues…
For this trip I decided to go with a group of about 40 people to London on a charter bus. We all met at two a.m. beginning in the Netherlands, we traveled through the Netherlands, Belgium and France until we got to Calais, France.Where we pulled up to customs and waited over three hours to get through passport control. After all of the waiting we got through and then had to wait roughly an hour to get on the ferry (waiting, waiting, waiting). The ferry does have a cafeteria and a little arcade so during the hour and a half ferry ride there are things to do. As we pulled up to Dover, England, I could see clearly the White Cliffs of Dover. They were stunning. Then we kept riding until we got to London at 12:40 p.m. (so roughly a 10 hour bus ride, London is a hour behind then the Netherlands). We were dropped off on Oxford St. where the Marble Arch is located. I ended up exploring with four other people who were traveling alone. As we got off the bus I got the surreal feeling of where I actually was, with all the history and everything that London means to a lot of society.
The first venture was to Hyde Park (right next to Oxford St.) which is turned into “Winter Wonderland” during the Christmas season. I was expecting a typical Christmas market like I have seen throughout Europe, but I was wrong. It is set up more like a carnival or fair with roller coasters, a ferris wheel, games, shops, food vendors and more. It was Huge! I went to a little food vendor called ‘Burger Claus’ (if you don’t know I love cheeseburgers, don’t judge) and I had a cheese and bacon burger which comes with liquid cheese and a large piece of bacon as well as the typical lettuce, tomatoes, and onions- it was not the best burger I have had here but it was still pretty good.
After I left the beautiful wonderland, I strolled through this outstanding stone archway that I can not remember the name of for the life of me, but I digress. I came up to an area with two different memorials in it: one of the WWI memorial and a memorial dedicated to the Australia- United Kingdom partnership during WWI and WWII. Also, in the same area is the Wellington arch. If you, the traveler, decide to venture out to this part of London just take a minute and appreciate the memorials for what they stand for. They are all amazing.
Continuing the walk, I ended up at Buckingham Palace. Let me just say that pictures do not do this place justice. It is just so big and I know everyone says that but really until I was standing in front of this large house, I do not think I quite realized just how big it was. Quick fact: during the rain or cold the guards do not wear their typical red coats, but instead they wear grey. I am assuming they are warmer than the red coats. Also, if you time it right during your travels you can watch the changing of the guards (I however did not get to see it this trip). In the same area is the Victoria Memorial which is also very stunning.
Not to far away, just through a little park, is the Palace of Westminster, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. This is one of the places that I had that very surreal feeling of where I was and the importance and power of these beautiful buildings. I did have the time to really tour this places but I am sure that next time I will! In this same area is Winston Churchill’s War room and a statue of him as well as Ghandi and other important men that made a impact to the country of England.
At this point the group I was with decided that they wanted to go to the Tower of London and it is not open that late so we had a very short timeline to get over there for a tour. So, we caught one of the well-known black taxi’s (these are large enough for five people) to get from the Westminster area to the Tower of London. Unfortunately, we did not get there in time to get a tour but we still got to walk around the outside and see the Tower Bridge. During this time of the year the city has a lovely ice rink set up in front of the Tower of London. After about 5 p.m. most of the attractions close up. So we decided to move on to dinner.
As a group, someone suggested to go to one of the largest department stores for dinner, Harrod’s, because they have a very large food hall. However, because of the crowds there, we ended up going to a smaller place called Gran Caffe (it was about a seven minute walk from Harrod’s). Now, I will say about this restaurant that the food was delicious but we just happened to have that one waiter who was either new or not usually a waiter. That is all I am going to say about that. I am going to say that there is no point to complain about things you can not change. Moving on.
Since most everything was closed we went back to Harrod’s to look around. Let me just say that this department store has seven floors and everything from one floor designated to cosmetics and jewelry to another floor for clothing and so on and so forth. Most things are really expensive throughout the entire city, especially here. I ended up in the food hall again and bought some gingerbread cookies and small mince pies (all which were/are delicious). Even though I have never seen Macy’s in New York City I feel like this compares to that.
At this point the entire group decided to go back to Hyde Park and walk around the wonderland again. Our bus was going to meet us outside of the park, where we were dropped off at. Also, most places are closed at 10 p.m. and the rest of the time I just waited for the bus to get there at 11.
Now, after waiting for the bus, all of the exhausted tourists began their journey home. Everyone fell asleep on the bus within the first 30 minutes or so. Of course, we were all awake once we got to border control (it was a lot quicker this time). Only about a 30 min wait to get on the ferry, I feel asleep within this time frame because well I was exhausted. Oh, the ferry ride, was well interesting to say the least. I got on, went upstairs and realized someone had collapsed or something at one of the little cafe’s on board. Thankfully, there was a doctor on board who was able to assist the man. After about 20 or 30 minutes on the ferry the captain came over the intercom and said we were going to go back to Dover so that a fellow passenger could receive medical attention. So a usual hour and a half turned into a little over two hours. Most people were sleeping where ever they could find space. I, however, did not sleep on the ferry. Once we finally got back to Calais we were almost home with just enough time for me to sleep the rest of the way.
After this lovely adventure, I have decided not to ever take a charter bus to London ever again. However, in the city there is a lot to see and do. There is also something for everyone, any traveler from the States will love the fact that it is one place that speaks English all the time and everything is in English- it is so convenient.
For every person who reads about my travels, I hope that one day you get the opportunity to see London. It is a magnificent place for beauty, history and shopping. I will be going back eventually.
Last point of reference for future travelers to London, for public restrooms you will have to pay roughly 20 pence to use the restroom. Also, most of the wildlife in the parks are incredibly friendly to humans, so do not be frightened.
If you have any places that I need to see on my next adventure to London. please let me know! Hope you enjoyed my newest travels.
Until the next adventure!
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