London is most definitely one of my favourite cities in the world. There are several reasons for this love. It is clean and it is green. London is packed with history and truly a heritage city, with every building in almost every nook and corner having a story to tell. The weather may be unpredictable, but for me being an Indian, I love the English summer as it is still pleasantly cold for me as opposed to a 40 degree centigrade temperature or above in my home town in peak summers. The food and the shopping are simply irresistible! The fact that it is fairly easy to commute also deserves a mention. London boasts of one of the world’s best underground railway or ‘tube’ network. Once you have gone through the tube map and understand the working nothing can hold you back from exploring the city.
Being fortunate to be able to visit London ( and several other beautiful places in the UK) quite often, especially during the summers, I suppose I’m in a position to be able to share my thoughts on what one must carry along and must do in London this summer! So here’s my list-
- Comfortable walking shoes : If you really wish to explore London you must have a great pair of walking shoes. Most of the famous tourist places , especially in central London are within stone’s throw of each other. But that’s figuratively speaking. You actually have to walk to move from one tourist attraction to another. For instance if you reach Oxford Street by car or tube, you may park the car and easily walk to either the British Museum or Buckingham Palace. (I may assure you that its much better to go by tube or cab rather than your own car because parking is difficult to find and will be quite expensive. At times one may have to pay congestion charges as well.) All the famed regular tourist places like Trafalgar square, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus may easily be covered by foot, provided you’re wearing great comfortable shoes, period.
- Selfie Stick/ Camera and Sunscreen: Ah! The london summer is beautiful! With roses in full bloom , the boxes of freshly picked deep crimson strawberries in street kiosks ready to be devoured; and with the sun casting an inviting golden glow all around, who wants to remain indoors? So pick up that DSLR or selfie stick to use along with your smart phone and click away to glory! After all you are creating and preserving memories that you shall cherish even long after the holiday is over. In fact I really understood the importance of the selfie stick on my recent trip. Along with my family, I was in front of the Buckingham palace gates at sharp 11 o’clock to catch the Change of Guard ceremony. But there was this huge rush at the palace and practically nothing was visible because of this big ‘human’ wall obstructing the view. Then I noticed that some people were really smart, waving their smart phones up in the air atop the selfie sticks higher above that human wall and recording the whole event! Soon there were almost as many selfie sticks as people around.
- Go off-Beat: If it is your first visit to London, then you may tread the usual route, that is visiting the usual tourist attraction places like museums, Big Ben, Tower hill. London Eye, Madame Tussauds, etc. Fair enough! But if this is perhaps your second or third visit to this capital city or even if you have sufficient time on your first visit why not go a bit off beat? Some suggestions would be to visit the beautiful gardens that London has to offer. Regent Park is breathtakingly fabulous with the most beautiful hyacinths, roses, and other seasonal flowers in full bloom. This time I just can’t stop going gaga over the most amazing St. James park ( one of the Royal Gardens) . a true nature lovers park, it is a sight for sore nerves, with a variety of pelicans, ducks and other water birds making it a very lively place. Another garden which i highly recommend is Kew Garden. Its sprawling, and to cover it I would need to write a separate piece. Other suggestions include going in for a tea-tasting experience , watching a play or if you are a foodie head straight to the Borough market.
- Shopping: London is a fashion capital, and by jove, Londoners are indeed quite fashionable. In london you are really spoilt for choice in terms of the variety available in clothes,shoes, handbags and cosmetics. You can also shop for world class home decor pieces and artifacts. Regent Street, Oxford Street, Bond Street and Harrods are some of the popular places which tourists often throng to shop to your hearts content. You may go offbeat here too – London has some amazing shopping outlets which offer real value for your money, like the London Designer Outlet at Wembley and McArthurGlen which is tax free. There are some more places too, but I do like to keep some secrets with me. So this summer in London, do some homework before you go!
- Travel Insurance and Basic Medicines: Well this point is valid wherever in the world you may travel. Its for your own security and safety. Although some basic medicines like throat lozenges, painkillers, eye drops may be bought over the counter at times from stores like Boots. Sunscreen is a must. when you are are enjoying the summer sun, remember to be kind to your skin.
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All pictures are clicked by the author and her family , and may not be used without prior permission.