“You’ll find us all, doing the Lambeth Walk”. That song from the musical “Me and My Girl” just keeps ringing around in my head ever since our recent 2 day visit to London. They were playing it on the TV this morning which hasn’t helped the situation.
I blame the walking route we took on the way to the “Shrek’s Adventure” attraction. We stumbled across the Lambeth Walk pub at the end of Lambeth Walk. A gratuitous tourist photo opportunity ensued and that was that.
We carried on through the Archbishop’s Park where F enjoyed a brief play stop before hitting the South Bank and entering tourist London proper. Normally I wouldn’t appreciate the mass of people swarming around the former County Hall and the London Eye, but looking across Westminster Bridge towards the Houses of Parliament and thinking of the terrorist attack that had recently happened there, I was actually glad to see all the tourists were still there, showing that life carries on.
We had a good time with Shrek – I’ll write more on that in a later post. After a delicious dinner in nearby Brasserie Blanc (get there early for the good value pre theatre menu), we called it an evening.
The following morning we felt we were right in the middle of a London cliché. We were on a London bus when the cockney geezer in front of us got on his mobile phone and said “Del, I’ve got a bit of business for ya mate!” I suppose we should have been on the bus to Peckham behind a yellow Robin Reliant, but that would have been just too surreal! We were actually on our way to South Kensington and the Natural History Museum. The dinosaurs are the big attraction there and we should have seen them straight away. Instead, we looked around the mammal gallery and left them till after lunch, when the museum was far more crowded. We were hurried along past the moving t-rex as there were many others waiting to view. Other than the dinosaurs, we were impressed with the massive blue whale. We could really appreciate the huge scale of the animal in the display hall. A good way to feel better about yourself if you think you’re a little overweight is to step on the weighing scales which inform you what tiny fraction of the mass of this majestic sea creature you are!
Later in the afternoon, we headed off to Covent Garden, after a bit of trouble at South Kensington tube station, which leads me on to an important tip for those unfamiliar with London’s public transport system. If you have a contactless debit/credit card, on no account should you buy a ticket. Just scan your card at the barrier on entry and exit and you will be charged less than half the price of a standard ticket. If you have a child (who should travel free), take them with you through the wide ticket barrier, usually at the side. Needless to say, we got all this wrong leading to a massive fare display on the ticket machine and when we were told how to use our contactless cards (you must have one per adult), I took our daughter F through the wrong barrier setting off the alarm! The same fare system applies on buses, which do not accept cash at all.
Covent Garden proved to be a great place to keep F entertained for free. There were numerous street acts including human statues, magicians, comedians and acrobats. Her favourite was an acrobat who enjoyed juggling with kitchen knives while dangling upside down from a great height. It was a struggle to tear her away.
On our last morning, we visited the Imperial War Museum which provided a sombre reflection on the sacrifices made in conflict. We spent most of our time in the First World War Gallery, which ably told the story of the conflict from beginning to end. It was less crowded than the Natural History Museum, but we did leave before lunch to catch our train home.
I should point out that apart from Shrek’s Adventure, all other activities mentioned were free of charge. Many of London’s best museums are designated as national museums, subsidised by the government and free to enter for visitors. This is different to many international cities, where you may expect free attractions to be of lower quality than those that charge. In London, the opposite is often the case.
We left the city having enjoyed our 2 night break. If only that song would get out of my head.
London is in the south east of England, UK
The city is well served by airports including Heathrow, City, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted. Rail links are very good from the rest of the UK, as well as having direct Eurostar services from Paris and Brussels. The underground rail network and buses are the best way to get around the city, for which contactless debit/credit cards provide the cheapest fares, equivalent to having an Oyster card