Yesterday, to conclude the first semester of 2021, I decided to go to one of my fave places in the world: central London. I used to go to the city every couple of months but I reduced the frequency due to covid restrictions. To read about my last trip to London last year, please check here. I literally haven’t left Kent in the last year and I did feel like I needed a change of scene. I waited until my second dose of vaccine to start traveling again and decided to start the adventure from London.
I traveled by train. Return tickets from here cost only 28£ and the train gets to central London, either to Charing Cross or Saint Pancras International. It’s considerably cheaper than driving and no fuss about parking which I assume it’s a nightmare in that area.
Aspley House and Wellington Arch
I started my visit at the Aspley House (tube station Hyde Park Corner) which was the residence of the first Duke of Wellington. Besides being famous for naming the Wellington boots, the Duke also led the army which defeated Napoleon at Waterloo and became prime minister of England at the age of 28. The residence was donated to the English Heritage in 1947 and converted into a museum. I can’t even put into words how it felt like to visit a museum and being able to appreciate history and arts again after what it felt like 100 million years. A magnificent statue of Napoleon created by Canova is located at the entrance and the rooms display the Duke’s personal collection of paintings (featured picture) including a portray from Goya.
Aspley House is the only private aristocratic house in London open to the public and entrance is free with the English Heritage membership. The visit lasted about 1 hour and a free audio guide was included in the ticket. Next to the museum, you can visit the Wellington arch which was built to honor the duke and his impressive military and political career. Entrance is free with the Heritage membership.
At that point, because I hadn’t had enough of seeing beauty and arts and was going to rain soon, I headed to Trafalgar Square to visit the National Gallery. On my way, I crossed St James Parks. In honesty, it didn’t look as beautiful as I remember it to be and in comparison to the stunning Walmer Castle and Westgate Gardens in Canterbury. Sorry not sorry for the unpopular opinion.
The National Gallery, on the other hand, was a million times better than I recalled. The art collection is absolutely fantastic and you can fit the visit in a 1-1.5h tour if you travel on a schedule. The museum boasts a vast collection of paintings from well-known world artists such as Van Gogh and Rubens. Some of the most famous Van Gogh masterpieces like the sunflowers and the chair are displayed at the gallery, for example. The museum also offers a vast collection of artists from the Impressionism period such as Monet, Manet, Cezanne, and Gaugin. I had the time of my life looking at paintings that I had studied in school and knew all about from textbooks.
The final stop of my London tour was the Chanel shop in Covent Garden. I waited an entire life to be able to buy red Chanel, the lipstick in case anyone is confused, and the day finally arrived. At 31 on the 31st of July, I could afford to buy expensive makeup with MY OWN MONEY. No mum and dad, no boyfriend, just straight from my pocket. The whole experience needed an entry on my blog but I decided to cut it short and say that it was the most exciting thing I have done in a long while. The shopkeeper was lovely and gave me a bunch of testers to try on (for many more future purchases) when I told her it was the first time I bought Chanel. She also made me notice that the lipstick is called independence, the most appropriate name for this very special occasion. Literally, a dream came true!
I had an amazing day in London because I planned it carefully. I know the city very well so there was no waste of time fuffing around. London is a big metropolis, bigger and more chaotic than you can ever imagine. Of course, you can take the tube to move around but bear in mind that it’s expensive. The day pass costs 12£. If you want to move around by bus, don’t. The traffic is crazy and you would need to purchase the Oyster card. You won’t be able to pay on the bus or buy tickets at the corner shop. There are options for cycling and hiring a bike, Santander bikes are popular in London. Just make sure you are an experienced cyclist, traffic in London is no joke.
Because I am crazy, I only walk on vacation. I easily did 20 km yesterday and decided not to use the tube at all. Needless to say, I was dead at the end of the day. Getting lost in central Lonon is basically impossible because there are maps of the city at every corner and they indicate what you can reach within 5 and 15 min walking distance. Absolutely, do not get into the trap of going on an open-top tour bus, it’s an absolute waste of time and money.
I am sure you can appreciate how a megalopolis like London is full of chains like McDonald’s and KFC. The best way to experience London is to get fish and chips at the pub and a nice and cold beer. There is a traditional English pub at literally every corner and most of them offer a meal deal (food + drink) for only 10/12£.
To conclude, if you plan to visit museums and other attractions, make sure to have an early morning because this is the UK and the last entrance to many touristic attractions is 4pm. After 5 pm everyone is at the pub drinking beer. Also, don’t forget the umbrella! Bye