After failed attempts to meet in Paris and Barcelona, Leslie and I finally got to meet in London after three years! Well, that's where she is based now so it would really be a shame if we still didn't manage to meet each other there. Haha. Stayed with her for the first couple of nights but I find her place quite far from London's central districts so I moved to an apartment in Soho/West End area where all the action is just right at my doorstep.
Though London is one of the cities I've been dying to go to, I wasn't really expecting much from it. From the pictures and movies that I've seen, I had the impression that it isn't really more interesting than any other European cities that I've been to. But I was, of course, proven wrong. London is one hell of a fun city! It may not have a lot of those grandiose landmarks nor stunningly beautiful architecture but it is indeed very enjoyable as it has plenty to offer. And for someone like me who likes going out for a drink and a do bit of dancing, London is definitely a paradise. Pubs never seem to get empty during the day and people start partying as early as 6pm every single day of the week! And yes, that even includes Sundays.
So I get to visit pretty much all the main attractions such as Big Ben, London Eye, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral, Kensington Gardens, Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, and even Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. Gone cultured for a bit and watched the award-winning musical Avenue Q. Then did a bit of shopping and really made sure not to miss to pay homage to Abercrombie & Fitch. Har har. And interestingly enough, I bumped into my most favorite blogger in the whole wide world! :-)
Great food, huge culture and arts scene, awesome night life, trendy people. London has it all. Except maybe good weather. Haha.
Definitely one of my best vacations ever!!!
Don't know how and I don't know when but I WILL BE BACK!
01-Jul-2009 to 06-Jul-2009
It took me several stations from the airport to realize that I'm already in an English-speaking country. The announcements in the train just didn't make sense! The accent takes a little getting used to. Hehe.
The outer curtain walls of the Tower of London. We decided not to go inside as we didn't want to spend the rest of the day waiting in line for something deemed to be a boring tourist trap. I'd rather spend my day and £17.00 elsewhere.
The mighty River Thames and the Tower Bridge in the background.
Walked across the beautiful and historical Tower Bridge (which many mistake for the London Bridge).
The London City Hall with its ultra modern design.
Now time to cross the real London Bridge. It's quite plain and nothing out of the ordinary. I also didn't see the fair lady. Hehe.
Exhausted from walking by this time so it's the perfect opportunity to try the quintessential double decker bus. If you're a tourist, you definitely must take a seat at the upper deck.
St. Paul's Cathedral--where Princess Diana and Prince Charles got married.
And yet another bridge to cross. It's the Millennium Bridge, a cutting-edge engineering marvel. It's so astonishing I had to do more than just stepping on it.
Shakespeare's Globe Theater on the other end of the Millennium Bridge. This is, of course, just a replica and not the original structure.
Amazing how the red phone booth is still prevalent in London amid the prevalence of cellphones. They even accept credit cards!
From Charing Cross station, we made our way to the London Eye. And guess what? We crossed yet another bridge. This time it's the Golden Jubilee Bridge. You're probably thinking now that perhaps I should change title of this post to The Bridges of London. :-)
The queue for the London Eye was quite long as expected but waiting wasn't actually that bad. It only took us 30 minutes to wait for our turn which was a delightful break from all the walking we've been doing.
Had really amazing views up there and the weather was just perfect with sunny clear skies.
From here, we walked down to the last bridge we're crossing this day. Westminster Bridge! The one that leads to the Westminster Palace otherwise known as the Houses of Parliament. And that's Big Ben right there!
Finally, there it was. The iconic symbol of London right before my eyes.
The world's most famous clock and the most popular transportation sign.
Just nearby is Westminster Abbey. It is actually more a historical site than a religious one. It is where every coronation has taken place since 1066!
Headed to Soho area for dinner and drinks before calling it a day. A fantastic day at that! Take note that this was taken at 9pm. Summer time in London. ;-)
The following day was a day of parks and palaces. First stop was the Palace of Whitehall.
A trip to the Whitehall will not be complete without that must-do photo op with the Royal Horse Guards.
Down the road is Trafalgar Square--a central meeting place since the Middle Ages. This area has the National Gallery, St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church, Nelson's Column, and the Landseer Lions.
Close by is the Admiralty Arch which is the gateway to The Mall. No, it's not where you go shopping, but it's the name of the road that leads to Buckingham Palace.
Took a break lounging around St. James Park.
After getting some rest with a lot of people watching and some ogling, we walked to the Buckingham Palace, still people watching and ogling. Haha.
Unfortunately, the official residence of the Royal Family was closed for public viewing that day. The queen was probably inside.
Took a bus to Harrod's, the most famous department store in the whole of UK. We initially thought of having lunch here but it was too touristy for my taste we decided to find a more quiet place elsewhere.
After a very fulfilling lunch at Kensington High Street, we started our conquest of the humongous Royal Parks of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. These parks are adjacent to each other and form 253 hectares of greenery in the middle of London.
We entered the park on the side near Kensington Palace. It's the official residence of Princess Diana from her marriage to Prince Charles until her untimely death in 1997.
The Serpentine in Hyde Park. It's an enormous artificial lake created in 1730. I so wanted to take a swim.
Peter Pan statue in the Kensington Gardens. This is where the story of the boy who would not grow up all began.
The Italian Gardens.
The Long Water. This is actually connected to The Serpentine. Not sure why they have to call this part of the lake differently.
We ended that very long walk in the park by exiting at the Albert Memorial Hall. This is one of the UK's most treasured and distinctive buildings. This historical entertainment hall was built in 1871 in honor of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's huband and consort.
We then headed to the shopping area of Oxford and Regent Street. I actually prefer Regent over Oxford Street. It's more orderly and the shops are nicer there.
As if the endless walks in the parks were not enough, we still took a stroll from Oxford to Regent Street all the way down to Picadilly Circus!
And the stroll still continued until Leicester Square.
Finally we rested our feet in Leicester Square Gardens. Later on met up with Adrian, a friend in Germany, for some drinks in the Soho area.
Got up pretty late the next day. Went straight to Regent street to pay homage to Abercrombie&Fitch.
Then I got to meet Queen Elizabeth.
While Leslie got to meet the Beatles.
And Beyonce and Britney. This was at the Madame Tussaud's, of course. :-)
Went to the West End and watched Avenue Q. I thought the first half was quite funny. Met up with my mom's cousin who used to be my playmate when we were kids and had a dinner feast in the nearby China Town.
London Pride was happening the following day and we decided to join in this massive street merriment. The whole day we were out partying and drinking in the streets!
Then the most surreal thing happened. I bumped into London Preppy, my most favorite blogger in the entire world! Needless to say that I was so starstruck, my knees were shaking and words barely came out of my mouth.
Was too hungover from partying all day and all night. I didn't manage to get into Lady Gaga's free concert so I went to the SuperMartXé party instead and couldn't remember much of what transpired. Haha. Took a leisurely walk around the area late in the afternoon.
Dropped by Covent Garden and was lucky to chance upon a very entertaining street performer. He did draw a huge crowd.
It was the Wimbledon's Men's Singles Championship and everybody in town was glued to the TV screen. It's the epic battle where Roger Federer beat Andy Roddick and broke the Grand Slam record of Pete Sampras.
Had a very early morning flight the next day so I decided to not spend my last hours in London sleeping and went out to party and planned on going straight to the airport. As usual, I almost missed my flight. I didn't realize it takes that long to take the bus to Heathrow airport!
So that was my London experience which I wouldn't mind doing all over again.