The first destination of my solo travel was London. This place, for me, was frantic from the beginning.
Arriving to one of its monstrous airports -where going from terminal 1 to terminal 5 can take you like 20 minutes in the Heathrow Express (specials transfers that run under the airport)- then trying to find the subway and the proper combination to arrive to your hosting destination was like a little odyssey (further more having a jet lag after a transatlantic flight)
First of all, if you are going to stay more than two days in London I strongly recommend you to acquire an Oyster card to save money travelling on “The Tube”, even more if your accommodation is located on the outskirts of downtown (don’t be afraid of the tube and its multiple lines, once you get used it’s really easy to go from one place to another, here you can plan your trip in advance: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/ and also you have some phone apps to download with those same functions). But if you can walk between destinations when going around the city, then walk, using always the tube will make you miss seeing a lot of beautiful places that are not necessarily tourist markers!!!
I was in a budget trip, so hostels were the places I planned to stay. But when I was looking for a place to lodge in London most of the hostels had bad qualifications, or were too expensive; so I looked in airbnb.com that is a place where you can rent a room (or even an entire house or appartment) for really convenient prices, and I could stay in an amazing room of a mansion in one of the the most beautiful areas of London for less than a hostel bed!!!
The view from the house
An introduction to London
I knew it was an amazing and beautiful city, but when I reached it, I couldn’t believe how astounding it was. To put you in perspective, I come from a country with an architectural history of a maximum of 200 years, in this city I was looking at mega modern buildings rubbing shoulders with really antique ones (some of them had survived the Great Fire of 1666) full of history and full of stories. Of course, not only was I amazed by those grand things, I also let myself be surprised by multiple small ones that I discovered every day in this stunning city. In fact the first sight of a double decker was, for me, an event worthy of being recorded photographically.
OMG a red double-decker!!!!!
London is a place that can overwhelm you, this city is big and has a ton of interesting things to do and to see. If you go with little time and want to see all of it you’ll probably won’t enjoy its magic. I went to London without any expectation (the goal of my trip was to see castles and see Scotland) so nothing disappointed me. I had six days to watch as much as I could, but I didn’t make a huge list of places, I had some spots I wanted to visit marked in my personal map (most of them were museums), but I let myself get lost in the city and explore its nooks and crannies.
Although I had barely slept in the 14 hours flight from Buenos Aires I was hungry for exploring my new whereabouts. I left my stuff in the room I rented in Hampstead Heath and headed to the city centre. It was easy to get used to the transport, I had to take a bus to the next tube station (Golders Green – on the northern line) and then go wherever I wanted!
Golders Green Underground station that is on the surface
I had a lot of places I wanted to go, but after being constrained in a flying tube of metal for so many hours I opt to visit one of the beautiful parks that so much define this beautiful city: Regent’s Park. I got off at Camden station and I walked amazed through the wonderful streets of Primrose Hill, one of the most exclusive and expensive residential areas in London and also the name given to the hill of 78.1 meters located on the northern side of Regent’s Park that boast fantastic views over London.
This hill that’s also a park is a great place to wander through and absorb the scenery and after climbing the steep slopes and admiring the panorama you can regain your strength in one of the many cosy cafés, restaurants or pubs nearby.
If you keep walking through the park and cross Prince Albert Road you’ll find yourself in Regent’s Park. Designed by John Nash, it’s the largest grass area for sports in Central London, it houses the famous Queen Mary’s Gardens which features more than 12,000 roses of 400 varieties (It was early spring when I arrived so the roses weren’t yet bloomed), an open air theatre, the London Zoo and some cafés and places to eat.
London Parks are so big that each corner has it own personality, this one wasn’t the exception. When I walked along the outer circle I was able to hear and even watch some of the animals of the zoo and I couldn’t believe some people took that path every day to go to work.
Ready Money Drinking Fountain
I took one of the inner paths and I came across a pond full of swans and some ducks swimming placidly across its surface. The whole park was alive with wildlife; squirrels, small and large birds and even foxes frolicking and scurrying between the paths and benches in the park.
I suddenly found myself in a fairytale, even more when when a pergola walk led me to a large circular garden with a pond with the statue of Hylas and the Nymph in the middle. I was in a secret garden, a place that enclosed the most amazing feeling of cosiness and peace. I was later informed that it was the Garden of St John’s Lodge, the first villa to be built in John Nash’s Regent’s Park. This garden was opened to the public in 1928, and is a wonderful place to go to relax and absorb the beautiful surroundings, you would hardly know that you’re here in the capital of one of the largest cities in Europe.
Pergola walk, entrance to the secret garden
Hylas and the Nymph statue
Another thing you shouldn’t miss in this park is the Regent’s Canal. A peaceful haven, often hidden by the surrounding building, is loved by walkers, boaters and cyclists. Its a quiet and lovely waterway full of longboats (that are houses by the way) that starts at Little Venice and ends in Docklands and passes by the zoo, Camden Market and some of the villas of Regent’s Park.
The canal and the Feng Shang Princess
One of the Villas of Regent’s Park