This May, we were in London for 2 days and 2 nights. Now, 2 days and 2 nights is abysmally less for a city like London about which one has read so much; the city that has been so eulogised in books and poems, the city that has one of the most compelling history behind it. But restricted as we were by our itinerary, the mandate was to make the most of the time that we were there – and therefore, we tried to squeeze in the must-visits and the must-dos in those 48 hours. Thankfully, we stayed in Blackfriars (@Ibis Hotel, Backfriars), which is almost walking distance to some of the most iconic places in London – Westminster, St. Pauls, South Bank…
Aha South Bank!! How I wish I could have spent the entire afternoon there. #WhatAPlace!!! Eclectic, pulsating, throbbing. We entered South Bank from the Blackfriars station end close to lunch hour. The sun was struggling to beat the clouds, and you could feel the chill of the River Thames blowing on your face. We were hungry. Jayant wanted to go to Nicholsons/Doggetts right at the corner, but I had warned him against gourmet meals during lunch hour. Knowing London’s quirky weather, I didn’t want to spend 2 hours holed up in a restaurant having wine and a 3-course meal!! No, we will have lunch on the go and make the most of the ‘dry’ weather. Poor guy didn’t have much of a choice, followed me although reluctantly and of course, grudgingly. Bother!! (9 years of marriage does that to you, ignore each other when you decide to :P)
And so, lunch was a beef burger from a mobile van for the hubby, while I chose the veg ones for my daughter and myself. We relished them – just the right size for our appetite and that too for 4-5 pound each. Most importantly, we had them on the go. And so could absorb the lively London world around us. By now, the sun (and our prayers) had ousted the clouds. And so everything was rendered bright in South Bank….:-)
Our first stop was the Book Market under the Waterloo Bridge. With a whole lot of second hand books, paintings, posters on sale, this seemed to me like a treasure trove. Dig deep, flip through every hard bound, and who knows what you might unearth? This is the land of Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Milton, Arnold, Byron and Browning after all. If you are a book-lover, you are sure to lose track of time here. Mind you, the sellers wrap up by 7 pm. But Thank God they are open every day!!!
And then comes the London Eye, one of the biggest attractions in London. Get on this famous ferris wheels if you want to see all of London at one glance. On a clear day, they say you can see as far as the Windsor Castle from here. Buy your tickets online
in order to save yourself the trouble of the ticketing queue at the County Hall opposite the London Eye. Starting from about 18 pounds a person, this much-talked about aerial view can be quite expensive. Like in most other public place in UK, a ride in the London Eye is free for children up to 4 years only.
Love things that are spooky? The London Dungeon is for you. Housed right next to the County Hall, come here if you want to ‘live’ some of the famous horror tales such as Jack the Ripper, Sweeney Todd etc. Not for the chicken-hearted (like me) and children. So we skipped it, but not before clicking the picture of a dead man lying on the table!!!
You will love the Undercroft, haunt of skateboarders with varying skills. We stood watching the young boys try master their stunts for a long time. Scary (not the dungeon type of scare though), but must say, full of gusto. And if you are a skateboard enthusiast yourself, how about showing off your skills here? They won’t go unnoticed or unappreciated, I assure you.
And then there’s:
• The Bubble Man, blowing giant bubbles that thrilled every child in South Bank. They followed him like the Pied-Piper!!
• The Man who sat Gods knows where!!
• The restaurant that screamed “Global Food..World Music”.Wow!!
• The Sea-Life London Aquarium. Once again, suggest you buy the tickets online to save time in the serpentine queue
• The aspiring singing star strumming her guitar and confidently crooning some of her best numbers
• The BFI for a movie, just in case you have loads of time and know it beforehand. That, of course, if you have a taste in world cinema and are willing to watch the ones which are off the regular track.
• Finally, there’s the sunset beyond the WestMinster.
Really, if you have the time to spare while in London, go to South Bank and simply loiter around there. Believe, me, there won’t be enough time to do all, see all or experience all when there. Nonetheless, you’d have tried and received something in return. That will stay with you until your next visit