Layover In London. ♔
✈︎ Chicago —> LONDON —> Johannesburg —> Durban
Total Flight Time: 20 hours-ish (My, oh, my!)
October of 2017 I embarked on a cross-country adventure, notably the farthest I’ve traveled thus far throughout my 26 years of life! Over cities, barren lands, mountains, rivers & seas ♒︎ we flew ✈︎!; although quite a long time to be confined to a seat with limited space for feet & sleep (that rhymes), what made this journey great (& not seemingly as long) was taking advantage of the 8.5 hour layover at our 1st stop in London Town!
If you find yourself in a similar situation & would rather not sit at the airport all day, check out our itinerary (below) & get inspired to explore!
Airport ➠ Central London
Heathrow is one of the biggest global airports & that’s just where we flew in to! Like most airports in London, Heathrow offers travelers a speedy way into London on what is called the “Heathrow Express.” At $25 one way, $50 for round trip, it’s worth every penny as it transports you within 15-20min into Paddington station. From there we bought a ticket for the "tube” or the "underground,” which are the names for London’s brilliant rail system (I recommend purchasing an Oyster card if staying for more than one day!). Two quick trains later we ended up at the stop “Green Park,” which is a visually enticing walk that leads to a neighboring royal attraction- Buckingham Palace. Overall, the Heathrow Express is the way to go as it’s efficiency is exactly what you need to maximize your time spent in the big city!
*Tip ✍: save $ ➾ purchase in advance online! (links above^)
If you’re a free spirit like me, mapping out your own plan of “what to see” &/or just going with the flow while in London is a cool thing to do, as just simply walking the streets is entertaining; however, from my experiences & this most previous one, being intentional by seeking out a tour is the best thing to do, especially on a time constraint. London offers a variety of tours including the “Big Bus” tour, which allows you to ride in a double-decker bus, where you typically are given the opportunity to hop on & hop off where you desire! This is a quick way to hit a lot of spots, as there is a lot to see, but may be tricky with timing & the freedom of getting familiar with particular areas of interest.
This time around we organized a personal walking tour with a company called “Strawberry Tours.” We were assigned to a local from London, a gentleman in pursuit of an acting career, who you bet brought get character & knowledge to us during our time together. The tour was only $15 per person + tip (if desired) for a 3.5hr time period— cheap as chips! Not only did our guide have a lot of cool stories to share about the history & people of London, but this tour allowed us to get some exercise before we got back on a plane for an 11hr journey. I definitely recommend this route if you are looking for a personal & relaxed experience that gives you insight to the nooks & crannies of the city. Get some fresh air & book your tour now!
*Tip ✍: carry a camera & be ready to snap a lot of photos! London is stunning!
POINTS OF TOURISM
We started our tour walking through the luscious & green fields of “Green Park” where we saw a lot of people, pigeons (& people feeding them!), food huts ☕︎ & spots to rent a lawn chair for some good ol' sunbathing or to simply stop & read a book.
Out through the gates of the park we stumbled upon a rather large estate, a royal estate (as mentioned before), “Buckingham Palace.” I have to say the queen as well & the other members of the royal family have it pretty well ♔! It’s a unique destination where you can see guards outside doing what they do best (standing very, very still), as well as historical statues just outside the gates, which hold great meaning behind London’s foundational values & beliefs.
Through residential streets & other parks we went & came to one end of “Westminster Abbey” & “Parliament Square.” With it’s astounding architecture & rich history, it’s definitely a site to behold, admire & appreciate. Make sure to hear the story about Guy Fawkes!
Attached to the Parliament building, you will see one of London’s most identifiable landmarks, “Big Ben” (^it was under construction). Right away (as I have), you are probably visualizing the giant clock tower (yes, the one in Disney’s Peter Pan!), however this tower is not actually named “Big Ben!” (surprise!). As it goes, there is a very large bell which periodically sounds inside the clock tower. Long ago there was a gentleman, named Ben, who's job was to clean the bell; apparently Ben was a rather big guy…hence the rumored name that was birthed: Big Ben. The proper name for the actual clock tower is, the "Elizabeth Tower."
Side note: I purchased some Cadbury chocolates from a little corner shop to take home with me (how could I not?! #WhileInLondon), & we proceeded to travel in reverse route from how we came, leaving with enough time to grab some grub back at Heathrow. If you’re wondering, of course we chose the most classic english dishes, including the famous >>> fish & chips! Yum yum! ☺︎
OTHER POINT OF INTEREST TO CONSIDER:
Hyde Park ✓
Trafalgar Square ✓
Leister Square ✓
Tower of London ✓
London Bridge ✓
London Eye ✓
*Tip ✍: whenever in eyes sight, utilize “HP” as a sauce paired with most anything & “Malt Vinegar,” which adds some flav-A to plain chips (aka fries). It’s the little things!
I hope you have found insight if you are ever found to be on a quick trip to London, let alone any city ☼! Make the most of your time & make sure to seek out things that you would truly enjoy! & most importantly be safe! Okay…now get to it!!!!!!
♡ + ✌︎