Tuesday, June 21, 2011

10 Places You'll See on a Bus Tour of London



When I organized a Europe Trip with my junior high students two years ago, I had a huge, long list of the places and things I wanted to see in London, which was one of our stops. The travel company that was responsible for taking care of my lovely students and I did their best to accommodate my demands, and I ended up seeing or visiting virtually all of the places on my list.

The majority of the stops were quick ones that consisted of us standing in front of the building, snapping a few shots, hearing some history, and then moving on. I would love to go back and explore more fully some of the places we visited - go inside the buildings, explore the nooks and crannies, and talk to the people who work and live around each location.

Hmm, who shall I call from this AWESOME British telephone booth?

However, I did truly enjoy my walking / bus tours - over the course of two days, my students, chaperons, and I managed to see and enjoy the following places:

1. St. Paul's Cathedral

We actually had time to go inside the Cathedral and walk around the 'free parts' - part of the cathedral is roped off and you need to pay admission to walk inside. As well, photography was not allowed inside the building. We did go downstairs to use the free washrooms, and purchase some touristy items inside the souvenir shop. We loved the massive grandeur of the entire building, from the swooping ceiling arches to the giant front doors.

St. Paul's Cathedral has survived a lot during its lifetime, and is still standing strong!

Knock, knock.  Please open these GIGANTIC doors!

2. Westminster Abbey

We only stopped outside the Abbey for about five minutes, as our bus was practically parked in traffic. So really all we had time for was to snap a few photos, and run back to the vehicle. I desperately wanted to go inside, but alas, it wasn't to be - at least not this time around!

Westminster Abbey - oh how I wanted to go inside!!  Image via.

3. Big Ben

We passed by the amazing clock tower several times during our bus / walking tour, but never did get close enough to stand under it. We took pictures of it from street corners and from the London Eye, but that was about it.

Big Ben stands out against the London twilight.

4. Covent Garden

Ah, the fun we had at Covent Garden! From watching street performers to eating sparkly cupcakes to wandering the quaint cobblestone streets, my students and I had a ton of fun exploring this exciting and interesting shopping center.

To be honest, the fancy cupcakes were my favorite part about Covent Garden.

5. Trafalgar Square

Just outside the National Gallery lies Trafalgar Square, with its impressive fountains and the Nelson Column (replete with giant lions great for climbing). My students were like ants, crawling all over the place, posing in front of the fountains, and lounging atop the lions. We even got a fantastic picture posing with a true-blue British bobby! (And no, I was not traveling with headless ghosts - I have to blur the faces of my students for privacy purposes...)

Trafalgar Square - a great 'hang-out' place in London.

Some students and I pose with one of the enormous lions in Trafalgar Square.

6. Buckingham Palace

My lucky group arrived just in time to Buckingham Palace to catch the "changing of the guard" ceremony. We only had about 15 minutes to walk around the palace, so it was sheer timing that we were there for this interesting and historical tradition. My students, being country kids, loved the horses!

Buckingham Palace in London - packed with tourists!

The "Changing of the Guard" ceremony was fun to watch.

7. British Parliament

I love this building (or it is buildings?) Whatever the term, this architectural marvel is beautiful to behold. I love all the towers and spires. The British are lucky to have such a lovely Parliament building!

The British Parliament has so many peaks and spires - I love it!

8. Harry Potter's "Diagon Alley"

Sadly, all we could on our bus tour was drive past the entrance to this quaint street, which was used as the inspiration for "Diagon Alley" in the hugely famous book and movie series. Because my students were dying to see more of it, our bus driver obligingly drove past it a couple of times, and slowed down as much as humanly possible in London traffic so that we could frantically snap photos of it while hanging dangerously out of the bus windows. I have heard rumor that they do walking tours through the street - as an avid Harry Potter fan, I'm hoping to do that tour if I find myself in London ever again.

The inspiration for "Diagon Alley" in Harry Potter.  Image via because mine was just so blurry!

9. The London Eye

Although considered one of London's biggest 'tourist traps', I find the London Eye to be 'eye-catching' (ah, see what I did there?) and a great way to see the city from above.  Everyone, and this includes locals, should try riding the London Eye at least once.  I have written a separate post about it here, so you can get all the details you need to do a loop on the giant, GIANT Ferris wheel.  When we visited it during our Europe Trip, I had to organize a side journey to the London Eye, as it was NOT covered on our bus / walking tour.

The London Eye - try it at least once in your life! 

10. The Tower of London

One other place that I have visited in London, although not specifically during this trip, was the Tower of London.  At the time, the only part of the Tower we explored was the creepy wax museum.  However, the castle offers a lot more: a view of the precious crown jewels, a chance to feed the castle ravens, tours, and more.  This is one attraction that I'd really like a chance to visit again!

The historical Tower of London offers a lot for the everyday visitor

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