Friday, September 21, 2012

London - Day 1

Wednesday, April 11

We were more than thrilled to get into London.  Since we stayed in Reading, at my sister's apartment, we took the National Rail train into London. Depending the train, on average the ride is about 45 minutes; so very similar to my coworkers commutes from the suburbs to downtown Chicago. The cheapest roundtrip tickets were to travel at "off-peak" times.  A r/t, off peak travel card (so we weren't assigned to any certain departure times), cost 21.70 GBP (or ~$32 USD). One benefit of the travel card is that not only did it work to get us to/from London; but it also gave us unlimited rides on London's tube (trains) AND bus system.  Thus, the cost didn't seem all that bad to include our travel while in London.

The train from Reading gets off at Paddington Station in London.  From there, we got on the Bakerloo line towards Elephant and Castle (just like one of the pubs we like here in Chicago) to get off at Waterloo for London Eye.

This was our first view of London. The London Eye.


 Gorgeous? Yes.

By the time we'd arrive here, it was about 11:30am on a Wednesday morning.  I went inside to buy tickets and waited about 20 minutes.  When I got up to the counter, it was a little bit before noon and I was told the next boarding time for tickets at 1:30pm.  I bought two.

I want to note that  you can pre-buy London Eye tickets online (here and get a small discount); but we intentionally waited to buy in person.  National Rail has a coupon booklet that offers buy one, get one free tickets for several of London's sites, simply by showing your travel ticket for that day.  Thus, even though it cost us some extra time, we saved ~$25 USD by using our coupon (we bought standard tickets).

Since we had time to kill, we figured what better way to start a day in London than hitting up a pub for some lunch.  We walked along the Thames River, which was jam packed with tourists like us.  We stopped for some pictures as well:

Big Ben and Parliament

My Big Ben trying to be dirty/funny

(My rule of thumb in asking someone else to take a picture of us is that if
they have a DSLR camera too; then they must be trustworthy to use ours...)
Right before the bridge to cross over to Parliament, we found a pub called County Hall Arms.  It had a few tables outside full of patrons; so we stopped in for lunch and a beer.  One common thing in pubs is that you typically order food and drink from the bar tender.  I opted for the sandwich and Ben had his first fish and chips (wish were disappointing).
After a few beverages, we were back in line to board the London Eye. Here's a few shots from line and the view:

Big Ben and Parliament

Inside our "Pod"

Despite it being quite the tourist attraction, I was glad we decided to go on it.  It turns about 30 minutes to do a full rotation (and you only do one). From there, we walked along the Thames and started to follow Rick Steve's Westminster Walk (there's a podcast and it's also in his Pocket London book).
Looking east at Parliament
We opted not to pay to go in Westminster.  This is something I regret.
Classic London; all in one?
Downing Street; where the Prime Minister lives
Trafalgar Square
(Thank goodness the 1990's Rick Steves movie lied; there were no pigeon food vendors)
Olympic Countdown
Another Trafalgar Square shot
One of the great things about London is that the majority of the museums are FREE. The National Gallery is right at Trafalgar Square; so we stopped in and followed a portion of Rick Steve's tour in our book. We hit some of the highlights; pieces by Michangelo and Da Vinci, but because art isn't really our thing; we spent about an hour or so here.
Statue of Abe Lincoln; this statue was
placed to mimmick the original here in Chicago
at Lincoln Park

We grabbed a pint at a bar near Trafalgar,  The Lord of the Moon (it was okay; almost like a large family style restaurant mixed with a pub). and then headed back towards Westminster.  We had pre-purchased Premier League soccer (football) tickets.  Originally we were going to see Chelsea vs. New Castle, but we waited for tickets to become available.  It turned out that because of that FA Cup going on at the same time, the game we'd wanted to see was moved.  We debated on getting FA Cup Semi-final tickets but those would have been approximately $300 each ticket.  Don't get me wrong, I love my husband, but I do not love soccer enough to spend $600 for it. 
Thus, we ended up getting tickets for lesser known teams, QPR (Queens Park Rangers) vs Swansea at QPR's Stadium.  To get there we utilized our unlimited railcards and navigated a bus from Westminster to Shepherd's Bush.  All of the bus routes are posted at the stops, which makes it very easy to navigate.  On the bus we rode through Kensington, Hyde park and Notting Hill. Such a better view than sitting underground on the tube!
We found a nearby bar for dinner; which apparently was the pre-party spot for QPR fans. 
Pre-game/dinner bar

From there we walked to Loftus Road Stadium.  For about $60 total, we had some great 3rd row corner spot seats. 

The game itself was really fun (the only weird part is that no booze is allowed in the seats but you can drink behind them where the concessions are).  The adjacent (net-line) section was for Swansea visitors; so there was a lot of interesting banter back and forth.  In the end, QPR won.  I'm really glad that we were able to go to a Premier League game.  Even if it wasn't the best know teams, it was a great experience.
After the game, we took to Paddington and then the train back to Reading for the end of Day #1 in London.

1 comment:

  1. Soooo jealous! I keep telling H that I want to go to London sooo bad! Great pics!


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