This time I had only two days to discover London. I followed the most important rule for any tourist:-"Plan everything in advance".
London is gorgeous but the public transport is very expensive. If you do not plan your trip in advance you may end up with unexpected expenses. I was confused about the reviews on trip advisor this time. Some of the tourists recommended buying an Oyster card for public transport, some a Travel card. We decided that we would take a Travel card to get unlimited access to all public transport in London with one ticket. It was the best and the cheapest option for our family.
Let me start my story beginning from Heathrow Airport!
The Heathrow Airport is not that big as I was expecting for. On our arrival, I have noticed that almost all airport employees were from different countries. London is really one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world. It is interesting how people of different nationalities and religions tolerate each other, work and laugh together in the third country but not in their own:)
To get to the city center one has two options:- to take an Express Train or the Tube. I excluded a taxi from my list because it takes a lot of time (2 hours). So, we decided to take the Express Train. The tickets were available online in advince and cost us approximately £23.10 for a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 kids). The trip to the city center took us 15 minutes.
One has also an option to take a tube (underground), which is a smarter decision but it will take time (one hour) and it will cost approximately £6 per person. Remember, London is divided into zones 1 to 6 and fares for public transport varies accordingly. This is a one-way ticket which is valid for 2 hours. We rented a place in fare zone 4. All information is listed here https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/find-fares/tube-and-rail-fares
Accommodation in London:
London is magnificent. People we have met were very polite and nice to us.
We stayed at Rafik's place in Ilford, fare zone 4. Rafic was a wonderful host and the house was beautiful and always clean. It was a great location, and the neighborhood was very quiet and safe. Rafic is a Muslim and his wife Vera is Christian. The mixture of different nationalities, cultures, and religion made our stay in this place even better. It reminded me of my parents. My father was a Muslim and my mother is Christian. As children, we loved to celebrate both Muslim and Christian holidays. Rafic and his Wife always asked us if we needed anything else, and we had great conversations when we were in the common spaces together.
We did not want to waste our time and started our tour right after breakfast.
Every time I go somewhere I am looking for a free tour. The free tour guides are the most reliable people and your short-term best friends. If you are in London take a tour with JJ.
Travel Tips London:
This is by far one of my favorite walking tours! JJ was so detailed and so knowledgeable on everything, We got to learn so many things about London, Royall life and work of Parliament, in general, things we would have never known. He is an artist and full of humor. We appreciated his sarcastic comments that made our tour so funny. JJ was very engaged and super friendly, he answered all of our questions and didn’t rush anything. He was talking a lot about insight and gave us recommendations of restaurants, sightseeing, shopping stores, and many more things! He even made sure we all knew how to get back after the tour was done. I recommend you to take Strawberry free walking tour with JJ! The tour took us 4 hours including an excellent lunch at a local pub for 10 Pounds. Fish and Chips were delicious!
The only things that disappointed us were that Queen Elizabeth was not at home and the Big Ben was closed for the renovation. I am sure the Queen would be happy to see us!:)
Our free tour included short (5 hours:).) history walks:
to the Tower of London
Bank of England
Royal courts of Justice
National Gallery, 10 Downing Street, Leicester Square,
Big Ben and House of Parliament,
Westminster Abbey and walks to Buckingham Palace trough gorgeous park.
The one thing which I got in London is the absolute contrast in environment and experience. While parts of the city were full of the skyscraper,
beautiful old buildings one after another, amazing public parks and green islands.
Whereas some parts were full of people. I was confused and at the same time surprised. The streets looked like a bazaar in the Middle East, chaotic with its own charisma. (independant.co.uk).
Our next destination was Ireland......