Wednesday, December 1, 2010

London: Buses, Big Ben and the Bridge (Part 1)

London is the center of the English-speaking world. Unlike the US, Canadian or Australian cities, everything in and around London is in hard-core English! I followed my mom's tour group up to here from Paris via the Eurostar. The Eurostar's terminus in London is the combined Kings Cross-St Pancras Station. This is a major hub, so try to get a hotel here when visiting this city.

Posing with an iconic red bus near the Hammersmith station. London is a major transport mecca.

However, my mom's tour group hotel was way out west in the Hammersmith area, the Novotel London West. Still, coming from King's Cross-St Pancras it was just one easy ride on the Underground Piccadilly Line. This line also goes to Heathrow Airport. The Underground is "the tube."

Hit a 3-in-1: the Westminster Station accesses Big Ben, the London Eye and Westminster Abbey.

After saying goodbye to my folks, it was time to see the sights on my own. I was thinking since I was in London, I just had to see Big Ben and the Tower Bridge. Well, from Hammersmith it was also just one easy ride on the underground District Line and exit at Westminster Station. The world-famous landmark clock tower appears instantly as you go upstairs from the subway. It's on the banks of the River Thames; across the river is the newer landmark, the London Eye. And what's a couple of blocks behind Big Ben? None other than Westminster Abbey.

To go to the Tower Bridge, choose from either London Bridge or Tower Hill underground stations.

But the bridge! I had to see the bridge, too! There are a three lines, and in turn a couple of station options, from Westminster to the Tower Bridge. One way is to take either the District Line or Circle Line east and exit Tower Hill. The other way is to take the Jubilee line east and exit London Bridge, which is also used by commuter rail lines, including Southern (to Gatwick Airport).

Originally, I was to fly out of Gatwick that night into Madrid on Ryanair, check into a new hotel there, and then depart late morning to fly back to the US on Delta via Atlanta. But alas, I missed my Ryanair flight. So I had to cut my losses and purchase the only flight from the London area that can reasonably connect me with my 11:00 a.m. Delta departure, and that was from Heathrow on Iberia at 6:20 a.m. So off I went to Heathrow on the Piccadilly Line. Since I was due to fly out in the very early morning, the concierge at Heathrow booked me at the Ramada Hotel on Bath Rd in Cranford. After taking an inexpensive black-cab ride to there, I settled in. I even watched Miss Universe 2010 from my laptop! The next morning, the Heathrow Hoppa shuttle service picked me up from this hotel to the airport for just a few pounds.

London was such a blast, I decided my first flying trip of the following year had to be to there!

Piccadilly Line:
Heathrow Airport (end) <> Hammersmith <> Piccadilly Circus <> King's Cross-St Pancras

District Line:
Hammersmith <> Victoria <> Westminster <> Tower Hill

Circle Line:
Victoria <>Westminster <> Tower Hill

Jubilee Line:
Green Park (Buckingham Palace) <> Westminster <> London Bridge

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