When my Mum mentioned that she was headed to London to get her Russian visa application processed I jumped at the chance to tag along. We’ve only been back a little over a week, but I have to be honest and admit that the post travel blues I was trying so hard to avoid have started to rear their head. The idea of an afternoon in London sounded like the perfect remedy.
Whilst I was working on the assumption that mother would be stuck in the visa office while I enjoyed a lovely solo afternoon in London, it turned out that wasn’t quite the case. Honestly, even after all our travels I have never witnessed such efficiency as I did in the Russian visa application centre. We were in and out within half an hour, and despite Mum being £200 down, she was determined to make the most of the day and it was great to have a good catch up together after being away for so long.
(My original plan, and another recommended itinerary if you have an afternoon in London to mooch around at any point, was to pop into the Museum of London, before walking down via St Paul’s Cathedral to the riverside. I’d then intended to spend a couple of hours wandering and checking in at a couple of my favourite spots south of the river.)
In reality, the day worked out completely differently, and was all the better for it. We did head to St Paul’s Cathedral, only to discover that not only did it cost £18 each (!!) for admission, but also that the Oculus viewpoint (the main point of going) was closed for the day. Standing outside and considering some vague ideas like the Foundling Museum and a travel photography exhibition I quite fancied, we weren’t feeling too inspired as to what to do next.
That is, until a big red open top bus drove past and Mum confessed that a trip round London on one of these was on her bucket list. Again, the backpacker in me gasped at the price (£35pp), but the best part about day tripping with your parents is that if you’re lucky you don’t get landed with the bill. We jumped on, plugged in our headphones and to the rousing tones of Land of Hope & Glory got on our way. Sitting at the top, shivering only slightly under the ominous bank of clouds that had descended, it all felt very surreal.
It wasn’t long though before my skepticism vanished, the sun came out, and I realised that exploring the city by open top bus is a bloody fantastic way to spend an afternoon in London. It is so much fun, especially if you have decent weather.
London always has been and probably always will be one of my favourite cities – together with Florence, Paris, Bangkok, New York and Buenos Aires, it’s just one of those places where I feel energised as soon as I arrive.
One of my favourite things is the amount of incredible architecture, and how every other building makes you want to stop and get your camera out. Getting to sit on the top deck and snap away to my heart’s content was perfect. From the magnolia mansions and mews houses in Chelsea, to the red brick of Knightsbridge we spent hours admiring just how pretty so many of the homes in central London are. It’s serious property porn at every turn, even just seeing the exteriors and having to imagine life inside.
Obviously you get to see the big sights as well – the Tower of London, the Shard, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace to name but a few – getting to drive across Tower Bridge for what I think might have been the first time was pretty cool. Most of the buses have a couple of different looped routes, sadly we only had time for one, but even just spending a few hours taking in the city by bus rather than trooping about via the tube felt like great value for money in spite of my misgivings.
We finished up at Madame Tussauds… why people come to London and queue for hours to look at famous people made out of wax is one of life’s great mysteries to me… but that’s besides the point.
At this point we were starving and only had an hour or so left of our afternoon in London, but I remembered that we were just a couple of minutes from Marylebone High Street (another favourite), full of nice shops, cafes and delis it’s a brilliant spot for lunch. We settled on Natural Kitchen because I like to force my Mum to eat healthily every now and again, and had a delicious meal before discovering that our train was due in 5 minutes and we were a 6 minute drive away.
So that was fun. I’ll spare you the details as this is supposed to be about how to have a pleasant afternoon in London, but we didn’t make it on time despite living out the movie dream of getting to say ‘step on it’ to our cockney cab driver. A big thank you though to Peter at Virgin Trains for saving the day and getting us on the next train home without us having to pay the £94 we thought it would cost for a new ticket – our hero!