I’ve been to London, many times. The first visit was shortly after I landed in England on my Junior Year Abroad, when I spent time with all of the other JYA participants from Rutgers before we scattered to our respective cities. It was many years ago, but I remember visiting Royal Albert Hall, the British Museum, the Tower of London, and Westminster Abbey, among other typical sites. I remember two tours as well: One of Parliament and the other, a night Jack the Ripper tour. I went back to London several times after that, with my parents, Doug, my sister Ellie. I even spent one New Year’s Eve celebration there, amid the crowds and the chaos. So, this time around, when I was planning my family’s trip, I “gave” London to Doug. I told him to plan what we should all do, as there was so much to see and we only had two days to do it. I figured we’d take the kids into Westminster Abbey and past Tower Bridge–one of my favorites. Doug’s two big must-visit places were 221B Baker Street and Abbey Road. So we set off from the hotel in Watford that morning, with a very loose plan in place.
We decided to head to the Sherlock Holmes museum first and then Abbey Road, and then swing by Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. James wanted to visit the British Museum solely to see the piece of the Rosetta Stone housed there, since he’d learned about it in school that year. Unfortunately, the front desk clerk gave Doug bad advice, and we ended up on the local train to London, instead of the express, which cost us some precious time.
The queue for the Holmes museum was ridiculously long. Doug and I had visited years earlier and been the only ones there, but the popularity of the series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman had obviously led to a bigger fan base in more recent years. While we got some nice photos, I can’t say that it was worth the wait, or the price. The gift shop–as often happens–proved to be more interesting than the museum.
There’s also a fun all-things-Beatles shop right nearby, so we looked through it in shifts while we waited in line. In keeping with the theme, next up was Abbey Road. Doug had vowed to get a photo there ever since he and I inadvertently took a photo in the wrong place many years before. While hundreds of tourists must take this very same photo on a weekly, if not daily, basis, it’s nowhere near as easy as the photo appears to be. The road is extremely busy and there’s only a blinking light, which means cars must yield to pedestrians. However, they won’t yield forever and it’s obvious that at least the taxi drivers in this neighborhood have figured out how close they can come to you without actually running you over. We relied on the good graces of another tourist to take this photo for us.
Doug also wanted a photo in front of Apple Studios. It’s pretty nondescript. (Notice Doug’s shirt?)
By now we were hot and hungry. Luckily, one of us came up with the smart idea of grabbing a bus instead of walking all the way back. Babies’ first time on a double-decker. 🙂
Unfortunately, the slow morning train into London, plus the hour-long wait at 221B Baker Street, meant we were running behind on the day. After lunch, we went into the middle of tourist hell:
and, unfortunately, missed Westminster Abbey by a matter if minutes (it closed at 3:00 p.m.). We thought we’d head over to the London Eye (hordes of tourists), but balked at the estimated $200 price tag for the four of us to go up. In the end, we walked around and then decided to grab the Metro to the British Museum and then go back to Watford. We arrived at the museum 15 minutes before it closed and, although we begged the security guard to let us in just so James could see the Rosetta Stone, he wouldn’t budge. While I’ve see it and been underawed by its size, my heart broke for James.
Recognizing that we were all too hot and cranky at this point to think rationally, I told him we could come back tomorrow to see it. However, the overwhelming feeling was that we’d all had a little too much of people, and we decided not to go back to London for the second day. After the beauty of Scotland and having so much space to ourselves in the Highlands, I think London was just too much. And the heat of London in July didn’t help, as MacAulays and heat are never a good combination. The great thing is that London is highly accessible, even as a vacation unto itself, so I hope the kids get back some day, even if it’s not with us. Who knows: Maybe one or both of them will decide to also do a Year Abroad somewhere in England!
Next: Highclere, Cheddar and Bristol