Monday, February 28, 2011

London: Buses, Big Ben and the Bridge (Part 2)

I'm back in London and this mega-city just gets even more exciting the more I visit! It was my first air trip of the new year, so I figured what better way to kick start it than with a trans-Atlantic flight? Delta was my airline again, and during the flight I had a wonderful glimpse of the islands of Ireland and Great Britain (basically, the British Isles) from high above.

For this visit, I had arranged to meet with my old elementary school classmates who are now living there. I'm so jealous! My hotel, Comfort Inn King's Cross, is only one block from the King's Cross-St Pancras mega-hub. So you know it only took me one ride on the Piccadilly Line from airport to hotel.

Westminster Abbey is just a short walk behind the Parliament.

Anyway, let me cover the attractions and photo-ops I didn't get to cover on Part 1. As I had mentioned there, you can use the Westminster Station to go to three top attractions: Big Ben-Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye. Obviously, to get the best photos of the riverside monuments, you'll have to cross the River Thames; the Houses of the Parliament-Big Ben is on one side while the London Eye is on the other. So go to the London Eye to shoot Big Ben, and vice versa.

Behind the Parliament, walk leisurely through the green and you'll be right next to Westminster Abbey, traditional place of coronations and royal burials. But just before you leave the Westminster station area, make sure you check out the row of phone booths along Great George St, look back toward Big Ben and snap that ultimate London souvenir photo. Bonus if a passing red bus and black cab get in there, too!

Take that ultimate London photo just a block behind Big Ben, another benefit of Westminster stop.

On the eastside, another multi-attraction station is London Bridge. From there, you can take across-the-river photos of the Tower of London, the Bridge and the financial district skyline. To get really close, the Tower of London has its own stop, Tower Hill, on the Circle and District lines.

The Tower of London has its own stop on the District and Circle Lines called Tower Hill.

Contrary to popular belief, that world-famous bridge isn't called London Bridge, and it's not falling down...falling down. It's really called the Tower Bridge, named after the Tower of London next door.

The other London landmark, Tower Bridge, is next to the Tower of London. Duh!

Now let's talk about the Piccadilly Line, in west to east order of important stations. Heathrow Airport is on this line. Buckingham Palace is on this line (use Green Park). Piccadilly Circus is on this line. The West End theatre district is on this line (use Leicester Square). The free-admission British Museum is on this line (use Holburn). The Eurostar terminal, King's Cross-St Pancras, is on this line. Enough said!

The Piccadilly Line takes you to bustling Piccadilly Circus and several other top attractions.

Another 3-in-1 station is St Paul's, obviously referring to St Paul's Cathedral. After admiring the grandeur of its architecture, walk south from the cathedral to the River Thames, where you can use the sleek new Millenium Bridge to cross it. Upon reaching the other side, you will be at the entrance of the most talked about new museum in London, the Tate Modern.

Double-decker bus 17 goes between St Paul's Cathedral (above) and King's Cross-St Pancras.

If, like this trip, your onward flight leaves out of Gatwick, there are two ways to get there by rail. These rail lines are part of the National Rail system, not Underground. The easiest, fastest, and therefore more expensive, method is the Gatwick Express and it operates into and out of Victoria Station only and has its own ticketing. The less expensive, possibly free, train is the Southern Line, which has more stops but it serves either Victoria or London Bridge. A valid tube ticket within the Gatwick zone is acceptable for boarding, making it free.

From my hotel, I took a short cab ride to Victoria Station and hopped on the Gatwick Express to catch my early morning British Airways flight to Amsterdam.

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

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

Circle Line:
Victoria <>Westminster <> Tower Hill

Jubilee Line:
Green Park <> Westminster <> London Bridge

Gatwick Express:
Victoria (end) <> Gatwick Airport (end)

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