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24 Hours In London

It's the city of Alfred Hitchcock, Jude Law and the Queen and it's a roller coaster of lights and movement. It's not a city to visit in 24 hours but since that's all I've got, it will have to do. Since my new adventure started, 24 hours layovers is a constant reality so I'm learning to concentrate each day in a specific circuit that allows me to discover something different at each time. That's what I'll be sharing with you in the "24 Hours In..." section, showing you what I have done with my 24 hours in the places I visit. Enjoy!

9:00H - Wake up, have a nice English Breakfast and get on the move.

Get a good dose of protein and calories (you will need them along the day) and then head to nearer subway stop. Destination:Paddington Station.

10:00H - Walk around Little Venice

It is the junction of Grand Union and Regent's Canals and its quietness suggests you are anywhere else rather than London. London's canals network has been built mainly during the XIX century, following the industrial revolution, for transportation of goods to all the country, having London as central meeting point. Walking along the canals is a relaxing experience and is a good choice for a sunny morning before you dive into the wildness of the city. Surrounded by pretty Regency style houses, with their front and back gardens, this is a place where locals come for jogging and for a walk with their children and pets. Along the canals you will find dozens of picturesque colorful boats, many of them real apartments, with awesome improvised gardens on their roofs and funny inscriptions to compete with their neighbors and amuse the visitors. There are boats-caffe where you can take a nice coffee onboard a typical boat after a walk along the quiet canals. After that, you can take a boat trip into the London's secret roads - the canals network - that can take you through the dark tunnels that go underneath the city up to the incredible market of Camden Lock, where you can find the most unexpected objects, or going straight to the London Zoo, through its very own canal gate. 

11:30H - Visit Kensington Palace & Gardens

Walking back south and crossing Paddington Station again I kept going down to Kensington Gardens. This park is the continuation of Hyde Park and is a fine example of british garden design, with exquisite pavilions, fountains and lakes increasing its charm. By the time I get the first sight of the palace, across the big lake, the weather goes colder and the sun rays are replaced by white and thin snow flakes. London's weather is really capricious!

Being a big fan of movies I couldn't help thinking immediately on the film Young Victoria,  as I got sight of the palace. It was here that the Queen Victoria grew up as a young princess on the XIX century and the first scene of the movie was passing in my head as I approached her statue in the front, as Handel's Zadok the Priest filled my imagination. As we enter we can see the shop and cafeteria, decorated in a, let's say, princess style, possibly to attract new and younger audiences. But in general the most relevant information is there. Walking up the staircase that Victoria couldn't walk down without holding the hand of an adult, we get into the first exhibition: Victoria Revealed, starting by the red saloon where Queen Victoria ran her first Privy Council, on the day she ascended to the throne, following the death of her uncle, King William IV. Through quotes from the Queen's private journal printed on the walls all over the place we come to know a bit more of Victoria's personality and ideas, such as her love for the private and family life but also of her initial inner conflict about sharing the power with her husband. Also, in this exhibition we can find some exclusive pieces, such as Victoria's tiny wedding dress and other personal objects and pictures. After Victoria Revealed we can visit the Queen's State Apartments, on one wing, and the King's State Apartments, on the other. It is a set of richly decorated rooms from the XVII and XVIII centuries, inhabited by Queen Mary II and by King George I of England, respectively.

13:00H - Cross Hyde Park, Green Park and take yourself on picture at Buckingham Palace

Leaving Kensington under a snowy sunshine, I crossed the gardens to find the lake that separates Kensington Gardens from Hyde Park, not without passing by the Peter Pan's statue first! It is a pretty statue of a young Peter Pan playing the flute on a rock where other characters from the story have been also sculpted. Hyde Park is one of the eight Royal Parks and is known for its leisure activities. Jogging, horse-riding and boating are just some of the things you can do here, specially on spring and summer when nature is at its splendor and weather welcomes everyone outside. But it was winter and I crossed the park, hands inside the pockets, just stopping here and there to play with the friendly squirrels that come down the trees to ask you for food. And, at the end of the park, across the road, we come to Green Park, the smallest of the Royal Parks, neighbor to Buckingham Palace, the Queen's residence. Buckingham Palace is certainly one of the most famous buildings in the UK. Its first royal resident was again Queen Victoria that inaugurated it in 1837. Here tourists gather everyday to take pictures and look at the windows, hoping to get a glimpse of the Queen. The Royal Standard, flying above, signals the presence of the monarch in the palace.

14:00H - Have late lunch at Cha Cha Moon in Soho

It is not the fanciest restaurant in London but first, it came on my Time Out guide; second, it serves all day long; and third, it's cheap! The speciality: noodles. London is very well known for its multicultural environment and asians play an important role on the city's cultural and social life. It is no longer all about Chinatown, you can find nice and smart asian restaurants all over the place, being some of them real hits for which you need to book a table days in advance. And forget about sushi! We're speaking about exceptional Thai restaurants with their sweet and sour soup, Vietnamese restaurants with their divine Pho and Chinese restaurants serving exclusively all sorts and kinds of their orgasmic Dim Sun. This restaurant, in the heart of Soho, has a cool and relaxed atmosphere, sort of a smart cafeteria in darkened concrete, with large tables, long bars and open kitchen. From the menu you can choose from a big variety of noodle and other asian dishes. I went for the nem as starter and the beef noodle soup for main. 

15:00H - Visit the British Museum

Well reestablished after a good meal I went to Regent Street, very famous for its shops and curved shape, and headed to the British Museum. It is a classic that I had never visited before but rumor had it that it was unmissable. When I finally found it, the first impression I got through the facade was the one of a grey classical style temple, full of young art students, elders, parents with their children and tourists going in and out the doors. On the other hand, as you come in you get the impression to enter a white and bright classical city covered with a cupola built of thousands of triangular glass pieces. It was just when I started exploring that I came to realize again how amateur I had been for thinking I could visit the entire museum. It happens all the time but then again big museums should always be visited by parts and not entirely at each time because at a certain point we loose the ability to process all that aesthetic information. So I've decided for the Enlightenment wing, an old wing with exotic stuffed animals and objects that revolutionized science on the XVII and XVIII century exhibited in old wood and glass boxes; and for the asian art with different collections from Chinese to Japanese art. It is a collection of magnificent porcelains and astounding Budas, as well as wonderfully sculpted wood figures and other objects. The time was passing like a flash and, at five thirty all doors started to close and I was literally kicked out of the place, just to find out that it was snowing like I hadn't seen it yet that day. The snow falling in front of all those gray and brick buildings was a lovely scenario to look at.

18:00H - Take a picture of the Big Ben 

And because it wouldn't be London without it, I couldn't leave without passing by the one that is probably the most iconic  clock in the world. The Big Ben is not actually the name of the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster, home to the UK's parliament, it's rather the name of the great bell installed in its interior that has originated the nickname of the set. The clock tower has actually just been baptized Elizabeth Tower in 2012 after the name of the sovereign, as part of the celebrations of the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. After taking my own cliché picture that ended up resulting not that bad, it was time to start thinking about leaving. The next morning my room telephone would sound for a very early wake up call and thus there would be no time for dinner out. So I walked in the direction of Green Park station but still had the time to pass by one of my favorite bookshops in London, the Hatchards at Picadilly, to buy a couple of new travel guides to help planning my next visits and to check up on the novelties of british literature.

It is always hard to fall asleep after a day in such an intense city as London. The next morning, as the plane took off and we got farther and farther from the ground I could still hear the sounds of the city and feel its vibrating atmosphere. I looked through the small round window by my seat and said: 'see you soon.'

More info & online booking click "Read More."

British Museum
Entrance: free
Contact: Great Russell St  London WC1B 3DG, United Kingdom  
+44 20 7323 8299

Cha Cha Moon - Restaurant
Contact: 15-21 Ganton Street, London W1F 9BN
+44 (0)20 7297 9800

Hatchards - Bookshop
Contact: 187 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9LE
+44 (0)20 7439 9921

Kensington Palace
Entrance: 15£ / 14£ - normal fare/online; 12,40£ / 11,40£ - reduced fare/online
Contact: Kensington Palace Gardens  London, W8 4PX, United Kingdom
+44 844 482 7777

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1 comment:

  1. Great one! I will definitively give it a try next time I am in London...thanks!


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