June 30, 2014: My first full day in London began late in the morning after allowing myself to sleep in (I needed to recharge the batteries after being awake for most of 32 hours). Today was the day I had set aside to do the touristy double-decker bus thing, so I walked ten minutes down the street to a pickup point and hopped on. The company I chose was called The Original Tour. For this leg of the tour there was no live guide so I listened to a recording via headphones. Here are some pics (click on any photo in this post to open up a gallery).
What’s nice about these tours is that they stop at most of the major attractions and you can hop on and off wherever you please. I took advantage of this by jumping off at Picadilly Circus. I needed to transfer to a different bus line and this seemed like as good a place as any. Here are a few shots from my brief walk around Picadilly Circus.
I found the bus route I was looking for and hopped back on. Photos from this stretch include Trafalgar Square and St. Paul’s Cathedral, among others.
I jumped off again near the Tower of London because I had an appointment with a famous serial killer: a guided walking tour through Jack the Ripper’s old haunts in Whitechapel. The walking tour was included with the price of my tour bus ticket. But first, I snapped a few photos while I waited for the tour to begin.
I’ve always been fascinated with Ripper lore; I even featured it in my novel. The tour is pretty cool as long as you know what you’re getting: you’re walking through a modern city in the middle of the afternoon, so don’t go in expecting spooky atmosphere. It’s not the Whitechapel of the Ripper era, though there are some spots that give you an impression of what it must have been like. The main draw of the tour is listening to the stories of the guide, who did a good and enthusiastic job. Another plus of the tour is that it gives you an excuse to walk through a portion of London that you’d be less likely to visit on your own since it is a bit off the beaten path. Here are some photos from my walking tour.
After completing the Ripper Tour I headed toward a dock near the Tower of London and hopped on a boat for a cruise along the Thames. This was also included with the price of my tour bus ticket. By this time it had started raining but I found a spot on the outside deck under a little overhang where I could take some photos.
At the conclusion of the boat ride I headed for a bus stop to rejoin the bus tour. This wasn’t the most pleasant experience. In addition to the aforementioned rain, I couldn’t understand anything the guide was saying. It appeared that he was holding the microphone too close so everything came out sounding muffled—either that or the speakers were shot. Here are a few photos from that stretch.
I stuck with the tour bus for a little while but between the rain and the unintelligible guide I’d finally had enough and decided to jump off near Parliament. From here I walked around, taking photos of Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey.
At this point, after two days in London, I figured it might be a good time to have my first proper meal. I walked around looking for a place where I might have an authentic English dinner but wasn’t having much luck. As it grew later and I grew hungrier, I settled for a Spanish restaurant. That’s right—my first English dinner was Spanish food. 🙂
I then made my way to the Underground and headed back to my apartment, hoping to catch a few winks ahead of my 4am wakeup call. On the morrow I would be heading for Paris!