London greeted me with a blue sky and sunshine as I left the Underground at Fenchurch street. The fresh summer air was a welcome relief after being crumpled up on the tube with too many overheating bodies in too few clothes.
The City is somewhere I visit a couple of times a year but usually I’m rushing around purposefully, hardly with time to spare to take in the sights. This time was different, the purpose was to view London as a tourist, to take in the beauty, the creativity, the architecture and the vibrancy like I’d never laid eyes on it before.
It was a real pleasure.
The first stop was the Tower of London. The fortress was stunning in its design and the memorial gardens outside Fenchurch Street station are a great place to sit and admire it without the hoards of tourists that had gathered around the entrance gate.
After stopping to take in Tower Bridge and the boats streaming through The Thames, I headed towards Embankment and across the bridge to Southbank where the Neighbourhood Festival was in full swing with street entertainment showcasing community cohesion. Steel drum bands, beat-boxing, cabaret and comedy came together in a hive of creative vibrancy.
From here I walked to Westminster to photograph Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. It’s a short walk back across the bridge but with so many people jostling for space amongst camera-wielding tourists, children covered in ice cream, people stopping in the middle of the path without warning or reason and street performing tricksters vying for attention, it can get a little frustrating in the quest for a smooth A-B.
One of the great things about London is that even in the midst of overcrowded streets and traffic chaos, tranquillity is never far away with so many beautiful parks to enjoy. St James’s has always been my favourite with the tame squirrels, elegant pelicans, fountains and verdant banks to enjoy while you stroll to Buckingham Palace with an ice cream.
Maybe it would seem odd that I chose to shoot the park in monochrome but I love the way the detail strikes you without the distraction of colour.
I left the park to take a look at Buckingham Palace in the sunshine and watch the changing of the guards for a while. It’s hard to capture the real majesty of the building and its sheer size without standing far back at the top of The Mall.
Saturday 29th June was London Pride and a great day to visit as many of the roads had been closed to traffic for the parade. The City was a blur of rainbow colours, flags, pink wigs, red heels and sequinned dresses, all dancing their way down to Trafalgar Square for music and celebrations.
Trafalgar Square is a short stroll from Leicester Square and Picadilly Circus which were both full of people making the most of the late afternoon sun and the freedom to stroll across streets that were, for once, free of congestion.
Despite the day offering one of the bluest skies of the year, I also chose to shoot the landmarks in monochrome for my photography blog – YouMeAndMap. I think that real beauty is often captured with as few competing variables as possible and this is beat achieved in black and white.
Please take a look at the images here, I’d love to know which you think shows London in the best ‘light’ ~ YouMeAndMap.com
I enjoy spontaneity far too much to book in advance which means train prices are close to £100 for a return journey for me. I found the best way was to drive to a station at the end of a tube line and then park all day for £2.50.
The travel card was around £9 and gave me as many trips as I wanted on the Underground for Zones 1 & 2, so this was by far the cheapest way to enjoy the city.
Food and drink
Prices can be higher in the tourist areas but the main issue was the sheer volume of people who naturally all wanted to eat and drink at the same time. Escape the crowds and endless queues with a picnic in the park or by getting off the beaten track and hunting out places in the back streets – it’ll save a lot of stress and standing around.
Attractions are certainly on the expensive side if you have a family. The Tower of London was £21.75 for an adult and £10.75 per child. The London Eye will set you back £19.20 and £12.30. You’re looking at £23.70 and £18 for the Aquarium and you’ll need to re-mortgage for London Zoo!
There are plenty of things to enjoy for free so take a walk around the parks, see the street entertainment in Covent Garden, watch the changing of the royal guards. Listen to soap box rants at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park or seach out the free museums.
- Next UK city to view as a tourist: Manchester