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London Overview

Posted on October 26, 2012 by Holly Hayes
Part of: Solo UK and France by Train

Tonight is my last night in London, and tomorrow afternoon I board the Eurostar for Paris! This has been my longest stay in London ever - almost two weeks - and it has been wonderful. London is one of my favorite cities, and I always leave wishing I had been able to stay a little longer and see a few more things. Even after two very productive weeks, this time is no exception. But what I did manage was pretty great.

It would take me a very long time to tell you about everything, and especially to post photos, and unfortunately I have very little time tonight. And it's not just today - there has been so much to photograph here that I have barely had a chance to look at my photos, let alone edit and upload very many! I really am sorry about the comparative lameness of my blogging lately.

But, in the hope that something is better than nothing, I'll quickly summarize some of what I did in London, and the photos will have to trickle in later, hopefully as blog posts at some point, but at the very least as part of the articles and photo galleries on Go Historic.

Historic House Museums

One thing that was different about this trip was my increased interest (both personally and for this website) in historic house museums, and London has no shortage of these! While here visited the houses of:

- Benjamin Franklin (for 16 years, right up until the Revolution)
- Sigmund Freud (for the last year of his life, after fleeing Nazi-occupied Austria - his study is perfectly preserved, complete with the famous original couch)
- Dr. Samuel Johnson (who wrote the first English dictionary and was quite a character)
- Jane Austen (not in London, but on a most excellent day tour)
- Charles Dickens (sort of - it was under renovations but I got a peek inside!)

Keats' house and Darwin's house were also on my list, and actually pretty high on the list, but sadly I just didn't get to them. They are both outside of central London and not near any other major sights, so they require about a half a day's time and a bit more effort to get to. I was also holding off a bit on them "until a sunny day" since both have gardens that are significant, but that never came! Oh well. Next time!

Other Highlights

In no particular order:

- an excellent guided tour of the Houses of Parliament, during which I not only saw some beautiful and very historic rooms, but learned more about how the British government works
- a visit to the Cabinet War Rooms, the underground offices from which Churchill and his cabinet directed World War II - also excellent
- a beautiful walk through St. James Park, back in the early days of my visit when the sun still made appearances - swans and squirrels and soft grass made a nice change from stone and brick
- a three-hour James Bond walking tour! (covering filming locations including Skyfall, and sites related to the author Ian Fleming)
- the Old Operating Theatre dating from the 1800s, which was very interesting historically but a little creepy!
- several sights related to Charles Dickens in the area of Fleet Street
- a lovely day out in the Hampshire countryside on a guided Jane Austen tour
- an afternoon trip by train to Hampton Court Palace, home of King Henry VIII
- star-spotting at the Skyfall premiere, as mentioned in my previous post
- multiple night-photography sessions at the Millennium Bridge, Westminster Bridge, and Tower Bridge, which were also so beautiful and atmospheric in person
- several long, self-guided architecture walks all over the city, covering buildings from the Middle Ages to 2012
- a brief visit to the National Gallery, which is excellent except that photography is prohibited
- a more thorough visit to the Museum of London than before, which was very interesting
- a quick stop at the Victoria & Albert Museum, one of my favorites but covered pretty well on my last trip so I couldn't justify staying too long
- a fairly quick re-visit to the Natural History Museum, focusing almost entirely on the beautiful architecture (wish I had more time to explore all the excellent exhibits too)
- walking down Kings Road in Chelsea, which is very posh and one of my favorite places in London - I always daydream about living somewhere in that area someday when I'm super rich!
- countless trips on the Tube (London Underground), which I love for its good design, impressive engineering, incredible efficiency, and cool retro vibe
- becoming a regular for Italian takeout at Vapiano across the street from my hotel (they make fresh pizza and pasta to order, in front of you while you wait)
- testing out two different branches of Chipotle, which has only recently arrived in London (verdict: pretty good, but not as good as back home)
- a relaxing dinner at the first Wagamama restaurant David and I discovered many years ago (in Leicester Square)
- the longest stay in a citizenM ever - an excellent temporary home!

And tomorrow I hope to squeeze in a visit to the Tower of London before I leave. I've been around it a couple of times, but I need to bite the bullet and pay the steep admission to go inside. It's been many years since I've done so, and never with a good camera!

Overall, I am sad to leave London, but I had a good long visit and got thousands of photos I think will be useful, so I'm ready to move on as well. And I'm certainly looking forward to Paris! I'll be doing lots of day trips from there as well, to visit the lovely Gothic cathedrals in the vicinity.