Last year it came to my attention that I had never visited London as a tourist. As an Accountant working for KPMG Audit in Manchester, I had worked and trained in London for weeks on end. Although I had seen a a fair bit of London, it was usually when I was en-route to a hotel, the client’s offices or the restaurant of choice for the evening.
I decided to go and spend a Saturday seeing the sights, tourist style and give my own take on it.
Here’s how the day panned out, what I saw and what I thought about it. All opinions are my own and are not intended to offend!
We left the house at around 6am, walked to the station (Warrington Bank Quay) and hopped on the Virgin Pendalino which delivered us to Euston in 1 hour 45 mins. It was a welcome change to take that train without feeling like I had to work on-route. Instead I slept most of the way apart from when I woke up needing a cup of tea and a breakfast sandwich!
Our hotel was only a short walk from the station. Really short – like 250m or something. We dropped our overnight bag and set off on the tube to Camden.
Only few of the larger shops were open as it was before 10am (apparently thing kick off a bit later in the south – not sure why… Seems unreasonable) so we walked along the river with a green tea latte and then made our way back to the tube stop. Even if you’re only there for a couple of days, sort yourself out with an Oyster card – much easier than faffing about with tickets, and probably cheaper but if I’m honest I didn’t bother to work it out. I don’t like doing finance-y things when I’m out of work!
2/10 – pretty but I’m not impressed with people having a lie in when I want my second breakfast!
If you like street food – you’ll like borough market. Think artisan bread, baklava, macarons and cheese. Need I say more?
Score? 10/10 – not to be missed!
st. Paul’s Cathedral
We walked from Borough market to st. Pauls. The weather was glorious so it would have been criminal to hide away on the tube (I also wanted a record-breaking day on my Fitbit so I could beat my dad).
We took a couple of photos and sat on the grass for a little while admiring the view, before wandering over the bridge to the Tate Modern.
Score? 6/10 – quote pretty but really it was more of a time filler whilst we waited for the city to wake up.
Some alright art. Free entry, but donations encouraged.
To be honest after walking around in an empty space on the ground floor searching for some artwork I decided it was no surprise that entry was free.
The atmosphere was highly pretentious and a little infuriating.
Time to move on… Places to see and all that Jazz!
Score? 1/10, and only a 1 (as opposed to a zero) because of the entertainment value of some of the more obscure exhibits like the crayon bondage mask which was actually pretty cool and deserves applaud.
Busy and bustling as you might expect on a sunny saturday, the square on this particular day was home to a series of street performers. A lively atmosphere and lots to see made this the perfect spot to stop and people watch for 20 minutes, given there was a high proportion of people in the area behaving in a somewhat excitable and unusual manner.
Oh jeez. Good look taking a selfie here without someone photo bombing – intentionally or not! I know this is a ‘must see’ on the London tourist list but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite a busy as it was!
Crowds aside, the sun was beaming down and the view was rather pretty.
The queen was home, so the atmosphere around the palace was pretty cool. I often wonder what the perception of the Royal Family is outside of the UK. The adoration of the visitors clinging to the railings around the palace suggest that the general feeling is good!
Score? 5/10 – worth a visit but not much to see unless you see changing of the guard, which we missed!
As a student of politics, I used to muse about what it would be like to take residence in downing street. I thought it would feel stifling and oppressive – like you were a contestant in a terrible reality TV programme like Big Brother.
When we arrived at downing street gates my musing opinions were confirmed. It looked much smaller and darker than on the TV and access seems so much more limited. Security was so tight that there was an unseen barrier between the street and the tourists on the other side.
The whole scene was intimidating and I most definitely wouldn’t want to live on that street. It’s a good job I’m an accountant instead of PM. What a relief.
Score? 8/10 – go and see it for yourself!
Camden Market 2.0 – around 4pm
Hurrah. The hipsters finally dragged themselves out of bed! The shops were open and the stalls in the market bustling with trade. The sun was out and everyone was merrily eating and drinking.
I bought a burger and sat eating it on a ‘communal picnic bench’ type thing (probably re-purposed out of something else, like a lot of hipster stuff is). The middle-aged guy sat next to me started photographing the arse of a woman stood in front of us and making strange noises. I don’t think the woman knew, but she moved away before I could even think about alerting her to the behaviour. We swiftly finished the burger and moved on ourselves.
We had a wander round the stall. There’s a lot of random stuff, including old board games (like you’d find at a car boot but for one-hundred-zillion times the price) and mouse-based humane taxidermy.
Camden is quirky, but try-hard quirky. It’s like everyone is trying so hard to be different that they’re all in fact the same!
Score? 8/10 once open! plenty to do and see, and good food.
After rushing around most of the day it was time for a rest! We wandered to Hyde Park and decided to hire a Pedalo on The Serpentine lake.
As it happens, being on a pedalo against a gentle breeze is far from a rest, but lots of fun!
Score? 10/10 – fab park and hire was good value!
Piccadilly Circus Area & Leicester Square
We changed at the hotel before heading back out for food. Leicester Square is full of people at night and although not on the same scale, has a similar vibe to Times Square, New York.
We sat and took it all in for a few moments then headed to Jamie’s Diner for a good feed.
Score? 7/10 – a good area to visit for lazy evening food and drinks, but highly commercialised and touristy
Oxford Street Shopping
It wouldn’t be a city break without a spot of shopping! We were up relatively early the next morning, so checked out and left our bags at the hotel before heading into town for retail therapy. By early afternoon it was nearly as busy as the Trafford Centre is on a Sunday so we decided to head back up North!
Shopping Score? 7/10
Home Sweet Home!
As much as I enjoyed my brief flirtation with being a tourist in London, it made me more grateful for what we have on our doorstep in Manchester, Liverpool and Chester.
Score? 10/10 – after all, it’s always nice to be home! 🙂