I surprised a friend in London recently and, because I knew she would not have time off work, I had no plan to explore the area, only to spend time with her. When I arrived she kindly asked her boss for a few days off from work – suddenly I was on google frantically searching for the best places to visit on a short UK visit. I decided to leave it up to my friend to show me her favourite places. Here’s what we did in 5 days spending a very small amount on tourist locations:
Day 1 : Putney High Street, The Thames River and Oxford Street.
I loved how almost all of the site seeing we did was absolutely free. The only cost was a tube ticket and maybe a new pair of comfy shoes (LOL). We timed our visits so that we could view Oxford Street at night when the lights came on. Oxford Street was a great vibe but also overwhelming with the crowds of people buzzing in and out of shops. It is a beautiful area to take night photos and feel the christmas spirit!
Day 2: Westminster, Big Ben, London Eye, South Bank, St. Pauls Cathedral.
My friend knew that we had to have the perfect lighting for this area’s photos so we left around 2pm (sunset was around 4pm). The took the tube to Westminster and walked around the area. We saw the Houses of Parliament (my absolute favourite building so far) as well as the church that Kate and William got married in. We walked across the Thames to see the London eye and South Bank which as filled with food stalls and art installations- there is so much to do and see there that I would need to visit London a few more times to fit in all the activities. We made it to St paul’s Cathedral just in time as the skyline turned orange and the city lights came on. I absolutely love lights so I was more than happy to view the Cathedral lit up at night – on my next visit I will go in the day time and have a look inside…
Day 3: St James’ Park, Buckingham Palace.
As we walked SO much the previous day, we decided to visit one place on this day. Buckingham Palace has the “change of guards” on certain week days at about 11am so we made sure we visited during that time. I couldn’t see too much through the gates (being short in a crowd of people is a huge disadvantage) so I decided to wait along the sidelines for the guards to walk past as they changed locations.
Maternity shoot: I surprised my friend for her baby shower (the reason why I visited London) so I offered to snap a few photos of her as part of her gift. We visited Richmond Park for the shoot which is well known for it’s deer and pretty oak trees. This was the highlight of my trip – seeing hundreds of deer at sunset AND being able to capture some special photos for my friend…
Day 4: My final day. Sky Garden.
We went to Sky Garden instead of The Shard as Sky Garden has free entry and also has an amazing view of London. One can also SEE the Shard from Sky Garden rather than be IN the Shard and have the same view. We booked our tickets (time slots) online before going. I was disappointed upon arrival as even though you book a time slot (we arrived 10 minutes early in case) we still had to stand in a long queue and ended up going to Sky Garden about 45 minutes later. I am not sure what the point of booking a time slot is but you can do so here. The view is amazing and at the top of the building one can have a drink/snack and enjoy the view. I loved how the windows had sticker labels on them so that when one looks straight past the label on the window, you can see the attraction that is pointed out.
My final day was spent shopping at Primark with my left over spending money and enjoying my last Costa chai latte on the Thames. I thoroughly enjoyed London. It was a place that was never on my list to visit but since experiencing it, I can’t wait to go back! I was also sure to have a high tea and Sunday roast while visiting (unfortunately i didn’t take any pics but I would highly recommend it!)
Although the exchange rate to the rand is high, I found that prices of things were very similar to Cape Town – cappucino’s being R25 – R30 , high tea only 25 pounds for two people (special at Valerie Patisserie) – same as Cape Town. There are lots of specials at the pubs and restaurants and tonnes of ways to save money but still enjoy the visit without feeling like you are counting your pennies. You just have to do a bit of research and be prepared to walk (while enjoying the sites too 😉 )
Next time I hope to visit:
- the inside of St Paul’s Cathedral
- Peggy Porschen (the perfect bakery for blogger outfit photos)
- Boat cruise on the Thames
- Notting Hill
- Zip Lining through the city