Travel

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Whether you’re hopping across the pond for a much-anticipated excursion, or you’re stopping for an extended layover, here’s a bit of advice on where to go, what to see, and what to skip.

Almost everything is a “must-see”, but not everything is a “must-spend money to gain entry.” Below are my recommendations for places that should really be taken in, and are therefore worth spending some money on, if necessary.

First time to London:

  • First thing’s first. You’ll be needing a map.
  • BUS TOUR!!! An absolute MUST for first time travelers – especially to London. Find a tour company with an open-top, double-decker fleet and take the tour as early into your visit as possible to get the lay of the land. Most tours (in most cities – US, as well) offer 24-hour, “on/off” privileges. Stay on the bus until you get a feel for the city, then chose a monument of two and hop off. You’ll pass all of the major and minor attractions so you will get an idea as to how long the lines are, if it’s something you can skip – perhaps a photo was all you needed and paying admission doesn’t seem so appealing now… Once you’ve gotten your money’s worth winding through the city until exhaustion, you will likely feel less like a tourist for the rest of your trip. Added bonus: there probably aren’t many things more stressful on vacation than getting lost. So, take my advice. This is also a near unrivaled way to take great pictures. You’re oftentimes higher than other traffic, sometimes even the buildings, and not having to drive means you can go to greater lengths to get the perfect snap.
  • Westminster Abbey  http://www.westminster-abbey.org
  • Tower of London  http://www.hrp.org.uk/toweroflondon
  • West End play or musical  http://www.londontheatre.co.uk  *Be sure to spend some time gazing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Haymarket.
  • Punch & Judy’s Pub in Covent Garden
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • The Mall and St. James Park
  • Portobello Rd.  http://www.portobelloroad.co.uk/

Repeat trip:

  • Depending on how frequent a visitor you are, another go with a bus tour may not be a bad idea.
  • Tower of London – Yes, again. This time you’ll know exactly which towers you want to spend more time in, whether or not to skip the Crown Jewels, etc. You’ll be able to take your time a bit and I promise you’ll be surprised at how much you missed (or simply didn’t remember) from your first visit.
  • West End, Shaftesbury Avenue *Preferably to take in a show different from that of your previous trip.
  • Harrods. I’m recommending this here and not to first-time travelers because being a tourist in a department store can be even more painfully obvious than it is elsewhere. I’m really preserving the tempers of Harrods employees, and your everyday shopper, here. I will say, if you are able to visit this magnificent place, take your time. Take. Your. Time. There’s a lot to see, especially in the Food Halls, and I highly recommend leaving with a few choice purchases. (Skip the Adidas kicks, perhaps.)
  • Oxford – Cambridge boat race at Putney Bridge…bring a triangle sandwich and milk pint picnic.
  • Football match  *Definitely don’t want to be too much of a tourist here. It’s also a good idea to learn a few of the home side’s chants.
  • Hampstead Heath *Again, a triangle sandwich picnic sounds pretty good here, doesn’t it?
  • Primrose Hill
  • For book enthusiasts, check out Primrose Hill Books.

Farther afield:

Here’s where I get a bit preach-y… 


No matter how new or experienced you and your accompanying party may be at traveling to this fair nation, please, under no circumstances:

  • Spend precious time shopping at establishments that exist in your home territory. Unacceptable. It’s a fair bet that The Gap is absolutely out of the question.
  • 
Be disrespectful [really, anywhere] in museums, landmarks, and monuments. [Do] think about what is in front of you, what went on there, how that person/object/event may have impacted history and culture.
  • If you’re a “talker”, shut up.
  • If you’re a “texter”, I wish you many roaming charges and that you may run into a marble column whilst attempting to walk and text at the same time.
  • If you perhaps travel often and are not usually phased by historic events or cultural preservation, etc., then I ask, “Why on earth are you in a museum or at a landmark in the first place? Why would you waste your valuable time (and mine, if you’re standing in front of the thing I’m trying to observe, read, or get a clear picture of)?” Just don’t bother.

If you know any of the above people-types, I hope you never have to travel with them. (They are closely related those who talk during a movie, and people who refuse to dress-up for the theatre.) You will undoubtedly encounter such people-types no matter where you visit, but I’ve found that a jutting elbow can help ease the frustration. It also helps to just keep your distance. Finally, parents, teach your children well – travel with them early and often, but also, teach them proper decorum.

Happy trails to you all!

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