Now that I have been in London for quite a while, it will not be a bad idea I guess to try and share some of my explorations of this interesting city with you.
One of the obvious things that any tourist does on coming to London is to reach Westminster to have a dekko at the Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and of course, the London eye. I have done it on numerous occasions now, as the first time tourist initially and the companion to other first time tourists thereafter.
Although generally I would not be excited writing about the most touristy place in the city for the sheer lack of any mystery, London’s top tourist area on the Thames is actually not BAD.
There are two recommended times to go: the Busy sunday day-time (or the busy any day-time) when its your lucky day and the sun is out; and then there is the evening time, about a half-hour / one hour before dusk, when the place is doubly more beautiful and ten times quieter.
The average tourist takes the tube to most destinations…………………..
in London, and the tube station to get down for our set of attractions is Westminster. On coming out of the tube stations on a Sunday around noon, be prepared to see hordes and hordes of people, the first sight that greets you.
Of course, the second sight that greets you is far more appealing, the London eye which stands tall on the other side of Thames, and gleams a pretty white silver in sunshine. The London eye is the tallest Ferris Wheel and rotating observation point in the World. It was erected as a part of the Millenium celebrations in London, amidst numerous debates and criticism that it would be an eyesore in the largely traditional architecture of the area. But it has fast become the most popular tourist attraction in London. The eye is operated by British Airways and that is why the journeys to the top and back are termed as “flights”. It takes about half an hour to take a full rotation, and there are long queues for tickets. In fact, tickets are better booked online on http://www.londoneye.com/VisitorInformation_hb.aspx?sec=vi&productid=414. They give a 10% discount, and you can easily collect the ticket from collection machines at the eye, and save time.
The ride itself is quite good too. London has a lot of skyline you may notice and appreciate, the Thames is a very lively river and so the half hour goes by pretty quickly. The best views are had closer to dusk when the river shines a golden yellow, and the city lights start to glow and the half hour turns nice and romantic, of course provided you are with a companion to share it with.
As you admire the London eye on emerging from the station, if you just turn around and watch behind your back, the sight is more awe-inspiring, at least to me. I have always found the Big Ben quite simply enchanting, and I do not know why. The structure is beautiful and magnificient. It is one of the two towers of the Houses of Parliament, the other being the Jewels tower on the other side.
The best views of Big Ben can be had if one crosses the Westminster bridge to reach just opposite to the Houses of Parliament on the other side of Thames. Together, the complete structure looks majestic, and the occasional pretty boat cruising on the Thames makes for a nice picture.
If you are here in the daytime, the area is just filled with activity. The south bank next to the eye, is filled with sundry performers, displaying their talent to the tourist crowd, some dressed up as vicorian ladies, stewards, goblins, angels and what not. Music fills the air with a bagpipe, or a guitar, or the samba drums playing to entertain the tourist, and its all good fun. There is an exhibition of the great and eccentric Spanish artist Dali, all this summer in front of the eye, for those who may be interested in the master’s work.
If you are here in the evening, the performers would have dwindled along with the music. But I would definitely recommend coming here to see all the picturesque beauty of the Big Ben and the London eye lit up in floodlights, its a treat in itself! The Big Ben is visible from Trafalgar square as well, and looks remarkable lit up from a distance.
There are numerous bars if you walk further down the south bank from the Eye, where a drink can be enjoyed, standing next to the river and chatting and looking at all various river cruises go past. Eateries can be found just crossing a pedestrian bridge from here to the north bank, where numerous restaurants exist next to Embankment tube station. One can just walk down in the direction of Charing Cross, and onto Trafalgar Square from there. Alternatively, one can get on to a river cruises that usually start from here and take you through a thoroughly enjoyable and recommended ride on the Thames passing St Pauls, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf and onto Greenwich.
I missed describing the Westminster Abbey, which again lies behind the Houses of Parliament on the other side than the river. It is a huge abbey, the highlight of which is the musical choirs and classical hymns that one can appreciate, apart from beautiful architecture and art that forms its decor.
All in all, if you are in London even for just a day, don’t miss this, howsoever touristy and avoidable it may sound.