I just returned from a 2 week adventure to the UK, France, Belgium, Germany. It's been 20 years since I've been to Europe and it was nice to return to some familiar sights, sounds and places that brought back a bunch of good memories of living in there.
I took my cousin with me who had never been to Europe before. I know she is a spoiled American and sure enough this experience proved that point. Since it was her first trip abroad, I decided that we would start in London since at least there she would be able to speak the language. I told her to pack light because there would be lots of walking not to mention getting around on public transportation. Well you know spoiled American females, she thought she packed light, but in the end realized after the very 1st day, that she hadn't packed light enough. We arrived in London Heathrow and purchased our Oyster Cards "Wow, what a bargin and must have if you are going to do a lot of sight seeing in London." After our purchase we took the Picadilly Line over to Baker Street where we caught the Juliblee line. Getting off Fenchly Rd station we had a block walk to our hotel "Holiday Inn Express." I choose this hotel for a couple of reasons, one it was very inexpensive 59pounds and second because it was an American Chain, which I thought would better suit my cousins expectation of what hotel rooms are like. It is brand new and needless to say spotless and very nice. Of course it's not large like American hotel rooms, but I expected that. It was a great spot to have as a base, as you got the feel of being in a neighborhood, but at the same time have easy access to downtown and all the sights. Of course this was the first time that I experience when you had to use your room key to also turn on your electricity in the room. They did have internet service in the lobby and in your room for 7.50 pounds respectivily. In other words you could use it in your room or the lobby for that price, if you used it in both places then you had to pay twice. Also across the street was a shopping mall which had quite a few restaraunts and a few shops. Down stairs was like a Wal Mart/Kmart experience but it was open 24 hrs/7 so that made it nice when you needed a quick something or another that you forgot.
The next day we went on the subway to Baker Street where we caught the "Big Bus" which was a great overview of all the main attractions in London. It was a one day pass with hop on and hop off abilities, the only thing negative I can say about the experience is that one day really doesn't give you enough time to hop on and hop off for very long periods of times, especially if you want to see everything. I recommend if you speak English to take the bus with the tour guide, they make it so much more fun and exciting or at least the guide we had was funny, young and cute.
I spent probably a little too much time at the Tower of London simply because I have 16 realitives buried in the little church there. And while the Henry VIII exhibit was a bit boring, I did enjoy the interactive exhibits they had. To really enjoy the place you really need to know your English history to reallly enjoy it. Since bling isn't in my vocabulary, I skipped seeing the crown jewels. Entrance to that exhibit was an additonal fee, not that I didn't mind paying, it was something I just wasn't interested in.
Talafaygra Square, I had heard lots about this place, especially the live Air Art, where each 1/2 hour the podium is given to someone to dispaly, act or whatever they wanted to do in public. Okay let me just say it was interesting for a few moments. The colored lights in the fountains was pretty at night and it was a great view to look at Big Ben, only trying to capture a picture without getting a bus or van that blocks the view is almost next to impossible.
Picadilly Circus was only a few block up the street while Big Ben and river front were a few blocks down from Talafaygra Square. Walking up to Picadilly Square the fountain of Mercury is pretty but at nice the huge neon signs is what makes the square stand out. Of course you have to take pictures. Between Talafaygra and Picadillly is Ripley Believe it or Not.
Okay that's what I got to see the first night. Stay tuned for day 2.