In May 2014, precisely three years ago, we traveled abroad for the first time as a couple. We had made plans to Paris, France, but in the end we purchased flight tickets to London, United Kingdom. We spent three incredible days in London and we managed to visit many of the best attractions and hidden city treasures.
Three years have passed and it becomes very difficult to write about this trip, memory’s no longer fresh but luckily I have many photos that help me remembering all the places we visited.
Our flight from Lisbon departed on the 15th of May at night and we arrived to Stansted Airport at around one in the morning. The airport is not particularly close to the city center, so we slept on the cold floor and we waited for the sunrise. As soon as we woke up, after a warm coffee at Costa, we took a Terravision bus to London’s city center.
We went directly to Finsbury Park to meet with a friend who offered us his place for the time we would spend in the city. Throughout the next days we visited many of the most important parks, squares and monuments. It was our first trip as a couple and our budget was very low, yet, we still managed to have a lot of fun.
Discovering Emirates Stadium, home to Arsenal Football Club was just the beginning of our well-deserved vacation. As we hadn’t made any plans prior to the trip, we decided to go with the flow and enjoy the best of Europe’s third largest city.
I had seen videos of London Underground and I was aware that there were more than ten underground lines. We were afraid of getting lost, but it never happened, easy peasy lemon squeezy, we made it safe and sound to the city center. South of the Tower Bridge there were thousands of people… everywhere! Up to this point, I had never been to such a crowded city in my whole life. We stopped at Starbucks for a coffee and very close to it there was the Shard, United Kingdom’s tallest building, and the forth tallest in Europe. We tried to go up, thinking we could have an incredible view over the city, but the security guard didn’t allow us…
The bankside is the name given to the district south of the River Thames. The first place we visited was the Southwark Cathedral, the oldest cathedral church in London. Crowded pedestrian streets, shops, restaurants and museums. The first and the only museum we got to visit in London was the Clink Prison Museum, located on the site of the Clink Prison built in the 12th century, which is believed to be England’s first prison. Entrance fee: 7.50GBP per person.
The Clink Prison Museum is just one of the many places to visit in this area. By the river street art, live shows, restaurants, art galleries and theaters such as the Shakespeare’s Globe can be found. Sitting by the river and enjoying the view of St. Paul’s Cathedral on the other side of the river is an incredible experience. London bridges make this city even more interesting and if I could go back I would definitely walk the Millennium Bridge.
The London Eye is also located on the Southbank, next to the London Dungeon and the Sea Life London Aquarium, three of the many attractions that we didn’t get to visit. Yeah, low budget is the one to blame. Nevertheless, the weather was great, there were street shows and it was kind of enough to make our day.
We went back home for dinner and then we got ready to explore London at night. Nightlife in London is extreme! So many people outside, loud music and voices, car horns, red double-decker buses. I had never thought it would be that easy to get from one point of the city to the other during the night without having to pay for a cab. In a few hours we had been all over the place, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Chinatown. All of those places are within a walking distance of less than an hour, what makes it extremely easy to get to know downtown.
On our last day in London we went directly to the Green Park. Crowded just like most of the places in London, easy to understand why London has almost as many people as Portugal. South of the park we could see the Victoria Memorial, a monument built in honor of Queen Victoria who had reigned for over 63 years. On the background, the worldwide famous Buckingham Palace, home to the Queen, secured by the Queen’s Guard.
Unfortunately we couldn’t make it to the changing of the guards, but of course it wouldn’t ruin our day. After a lunch next to the palace, we headed to Piccadilly Circus. We visited the market, several shops and most important, the M&M World, it’s a shame we didn’t purchase anything, but well, we were traveling on a budget and surviving London with less than 300 British pounds for a couple is kind of difficult.
We kept strolling across the streets of downtown, all the way to the Apple Market, this one was actually pretty cool. There was a man singing Opera on the stairs leading to the bottom level of the market and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Live acts in London are still very real, a culture we cannot let perish. From here we walked down to the Somerset House, a neoclassical building located within the city center, which had been built in the last part of the 18th Century. It is also a popular filming location for several Hollywood movies.
Knowing that we would not return to the city center, we said our last goodbye to the Clock Tower. From here we headed to Green Wood to meet with my sister’s dad who had just invited us for dinner at his place. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay very long. Getting home was taking quite long, that’s when we realized that we were not going the right way. Luckily mobile phones nowadays have maps! We managed to get back home for a few hours of sleep before heading back to Stansted Airport. At 8:20a.m we took off back to Lisbon.
London had just become the first of many travel experiences as a couple.