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There are probably a ka-trillion lists of all the things you *must* do on your first visit to London. That’s a legit number…I know, because I skimmed over about four of them before I decided they all said the same thing. London Bridge. Tower Bridge. Buckingham Palace. Big Ben. London Eye. River Thames. Westminster Abbey.
Ya know, all the main attractions of London. Of course, there are also a whole handful of museums + galleries to visit to. It really just depends upon what interests you…it’s a huge city + the options are endless. This is exactly why I had exactly nothing planned for my time in London when I arrived at Heathrow airport on Friday morning.
I stared at the Underground map for a bit, very confused…then asked a living human + got it all worked out. I’m now the proud owner of an “Oyster Card” which is a re-loadable card that’ll get you on/off the Underground wherever you so choose. Nifty…but never would have figured that out without asking a human. At least not on 2 hours of sleep. A ridiculously long ride + one transfer later I popped back up onto the streets of London, just a block away from my hostel [from hell, mind you…my London hostel sucked].
After a quick nap — by golly, I needed that nap! — I was begrudgingly back outside in the misty fog of London. I was hungry + groggy + my RBF was out in full force. I ventured from my hostel toward the River Thames, stopping by a grocery store along the way to grab a very boring pre-made sandwich to tide me over.
I just followed the crowds along the river walk. I started at the London Bridge, walked down to the Tower Bridge [the prettier one, btw] then hopped over to the other side to create a loop. It was too early to head back to the hostel…that was not a place worth hanging out in…so I went in search of a coffee shop. I found Fuckoffee [yup, the actual name] tucked away on a side street. It was perfect — quirky, comfy + caffeinated! I told myself that a plain ol’ chai latte wouldn’t pack too much of a punch + settled into a big cozy leather chair to read while my phone charged. Seriously…I am so exciting I can’t even believe it.
The next morning I had plans to meet up with an ‘internet stranger’ who I had connected with via a FB group focused on travelers. We grabbed a cup of coffee [for real tho, I have a problem with caffeine!] + wandered on through London. It was really reassuring to meet someone who had a similar ‘travel because you can’ outlook on life while still maintaining a professional career. We made our way from London Bridge to the London Eye to Westminster Abbey + onto the Horse Guards just in time for the changing of the guards. At that point she needed to head off to work while I ventured on through St James Park to check out Buckingham Palace.
The closer I got to the palace the bigger the crowds got. I was in no hurry so I meandered through the garden, looped around the palace + eventually made my way back toward Piccadilly then Trafalgar Square. My entire day was about wandering + roaming. I took alleys when they looked appealing, popped into book stores that caught my eye + eventually grabbed another boring sandwich to munch on while walking back across the city to settle into my big ol’ chair at Fuckoffee. Yup, I am so original I returned to the same coffee shop I had visited the day before. Sorry, not sorry…the chai latte was tasty + I really liked the odd, homey vibe of the place.
Oh + they had great WiFi so I could spend my afternoon getting work done…because yup, still working while I’m traveling! It’s only part-time hours, but I still have deadlines + such to coordinate with my epic sightseeing to-do list [ha, I don’t have one of those!].
In reality, if you only have 48 hours in London, like I did…skip the lists + just roam. If you deck yourself out with some comfy walking shoes [or boots, in my case] + a rain jacket you can see all of the iconic sights on foot. I did cover 5-10+ miles each day, but I also roamed without an agenda. If you give yourself some time to look at a map you’ll be able to make a much more logical plan of attack for your day.
If I could do anything different I would have gotten myself up early for a run along the River Thames path — being out early, even at 8:30am, allows you to see the city before it’s attacked by tourists. There’s something refreshing about watching a bustling city wake up. In the perfect world [ie: without jet lag + with a lot of motivation] I would have linked the River Thames path + the trails through St James Park together for a morning run. Next time…maybe.
This article is part of the ongoing Stories From The Road series. This series is excerpts from Heidi’s personal travel journal as a way to share a little insight on the various way Heidi has chosen to explore the world over the years. This particular Stories From The Road article references an adventure from May 2018.