As soon as I knew my trip to London was coming to fruition, I immediately thought of the London Eye. I had heard about it so long ago that I had almost forgotten about it. But luckily my mind never ceases to remember a desire when it comes to traveling.
The London Eye is a high flying Ferris wheel that is the world’s largest. It opened in 2000 and consists of individual clear glass pods that are enclosed and temperature controlled.
In the U.S. I have been on a pretty large Ferris wheel in Chicago (http://bit.ly/2v94EDO) and still plan to visit the one in Atlanta on my next trip there
(http://bit.ly/2FedOQx). However, there is nothing that tops the London Eye.
When you arrive at the beautiful location, on the Thames River directly across from Big Ben and the Parliament, the size of the London Eye can be a bit daunting. But the pods go slow intended to give you the best views of the entire city. Once you are on it I promise you won’t even be able to notice that you are moving. The entire rotation takes about an hour.
I could not decide what time of day to purchase my ticket, yes you should do this in advance. I thought nighttime would provide some stunning views as but I didn’t want the lights to taint my pictures. I ultimately decided on six p.m. in the early evening just as the sun was about to set. It was a clear day and we were able to see all the way to Buckingham Palace, which was a rare treat.
Originally the London Eye was to be temporary but as it is now one of the top purchased tourist attractions in the United Kingdom, it appears here to stay.
Black Cab Rides
Taking a cab ride in a major city is usually pretty unremarkable. But not in my beloved London-town. Here you are traveled to and from by the wisest drivers you’ll ever come in contact with. Sure if you hop in an Uber or Lyft you will get a few good tips about food or popular hotspots. But when you take a ride in a black cab in London you are driven by a true professional.
London cabbies are required to take courses until they have earned “the knowledge”. There is a designated school where they are taught the shortest distance from your pickup and drop off. They must memorize every street in London. These cab drivers are great resources for any type of travel advise you are seeking. They are all incredible friendly as well as knowledgeable. The black cabs themselves are very spacious and comfortable.
This whole concept fascinates me. As a New Yorker I am accustom to having to practically throw myself in front of a cab in order to get one to stop. Never mind if I want to go to a location not in a direction of the driver’s preference. And how many times have I had to give them the directions because they had never heard of the address I provided? So to imagine a city where this is never, ever an issue, sounded like a fairyland to me.
I did of course take my share of black cab rides while in London and I enjoyed it every time. The drivers were picture perfect. They were the nicest, wisest, accent approved drivers you could ever hope to come in contact with. Every word I had read about them held true.
You have to take at least one ride just to have the story to tell your friends the next time you are trying to score a cab when Uber’s rates are skyrocketing.
Buckingham Palace and Changing of the Guard
Ah, Buckingham Palace, home of her majesty the Queen and her husband Prince Phillip. While she has been the monarch for over ninety years now, the intrigue into her daily life as well as her family’s has only grown.
I visited in early June and had I been in town a few weeks later I could have toured the Palace from the inside as the Queen spends her summers at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
However since the Royal Standard flag was flying high on the mast outside Buckingham Palace, I was positive the Queen was in residence that day. This is similar to the White House. If you see the sharp shooters walking back and forth on the roof, that is how you know the Commander-in-Chief is at home.
Although I would not get to see the magnificent mansion on this visit, I was here for one very important daily tradition; the Changing of the Guard.
While some might say this is too touristy of an event to take part in, I would have to strongly disagree.
The tradition dates back in 1660. The nearly forty-five minute ceremony takes place between three locations: Buckingham Palace, St. James's Palace, and Wellington Barracks. The pomp and circumstance signals literally the changing of the guards who stand guard in front of and behind the palace.
The best spots are the ones you need to arrive the earliest to achieve. I got the spot I wanted right in front of the Palace, with my hands wrapped tightly around the gate. Although there is no perfect spot to see each part of the procession, any where you land you will get to see plenty.
I was ecstatic to see how the guards acknowledge each other and the roles they are taking, if they are going on duty. Those soldiers become responsible, in that instant, of protecting both Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Palace. There is a musical performance throughout led by the Regimental Band from Wellington Barracks. The guardsmen taking part in this ceremonial roles are also highly trained infantry soldiers. They are more than just a pretty face.
I enjoyed the entire show. I am glad I went but don’t need to see it again. It was a one and done kind of experience but still one I recommend everyone has.
Once this ceremony was over I knew exactly where I was headed: Trafalgar Square.
Similarly to what I watched Samantha Brown do, I too would walk down the mall right through the Admiralty Arch until I reached Trafalgar Square. A walk I had long been dreaming of taking.
Along the way I passed St. James Palace, home to Prince Charles and his wife. Though you wont see much of the home you will see a guard up close where you can take a photo with or of, as they are notoriously trained to be unaffected by anything around them except danger.
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