Lots of ways to look at London

So we’re off to London. Well, not this minute, but soon – May 6, 2016, to be exact. To say we’re excited would be a fair bit of understatement. With its history, culture and all-around sense of being the place to be to see what’s happening now, London is one of the world’s great cities.

Oxford district of London

Photo credit: peresanz, Shutterstock

Yes, there are so many famous places to see, but the first place we’ll want to visit is definitely The Shard. London’s newest landmark is a stunning realization of the vision of a “vertical city”, with a profile that adds a distinct 21st century character to the historic London skyline. From the outside, its reflective exterior offers an ever-changing look. From floors 68, 69 and 72, the viewing platform offers 360 degree views that can stretch for up to 40 miles. We’re thinking that’s a great vantage point from which to plan a visit, take in all of London’s splendor, enjoy a moment of reflection or just see what a foggy London day looks like from 800 feet up.

 

After the Shard, it might just be time to find a pub – for another moment (or three) of quiet reflection, of course. Several friends have told us the must-see way to look at London is from the right side of a pint glass, and this is one of those of times when we’re willing to defer to the wisdom of more experienced travellers. If the pub can wait, however, London’s National Gallery is a fitting complement to the experience of The Shard. The Gallery showcases eight centuries of the finest work in the Western European tradition in an incomparable setting. The admission is free, and they are open 361 days of the year.

Now, as experienced travellers ourselves, we’ll admit it: occasionally we like to think we’re maybe a bit too hip to be typical tourists. And in this age of pre-packaged, everything-in-an-instant experiences there’s a lot to be said for authentic experiences. However, we do feel there are some cities where you really do want to do some of the “tourist-y” things. London is definitely one of those cities where looking like a tourist will ensure that you see and experience a lot of great stuff. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to see the Tower of London? Buckingham Palace and The Changing of the Guard? Take a selfie in the National Portrait Gallery?

Changing of the guard in London

Changing of the guard. Photo by pradabelladonna on Instagram

It’s possible to take care of a lot of the tourist fare in one day with a guided bus tour like the ones offered by the Original Tour Company. We figure one good day or so of being a total tourist will leave us the rest of our time to get a more leisurely view of the city, find some off-the-beaten-path places to see, do some shopping – or head back to the pub.

Speaking of shopping, London offers world-class “retail therapy”, from high-end and haute couture, to ultra-cool vintage and the very definition of what’s hip and happening. London shopping could be a trip in itself, so a little research ahead of time can definitely pay off here. After a day of shopping, we’re thinking an evening of theatre might be just the thing. Off to London’s West End, then. Just as you could spend an entire vacation shopping, the same could be said for the theatre experience in London. The sheer variety of choices is almost overwhelming – so many shows, plays, musicals – we’re thinking the hot ticket just might be the stage adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax.

So many choices, so many opportunities – we’ve got a feeling our first visit to London won’t be our last.

London Eye

London Eye – photo by burak_cevher on Instagram

Finally, a word about jet lag. Anyone who has traversed multiple time zones knows that sometimes the change in time can combine with the experience of travel to mess with the “body clock”. We’re of two minds on this: traditionally, we’ve just tried to grab some shut-eye on the flight, and make the best of it after we land, knowing that we’ll likely need to get a really good night’s sleep the second night at our destination. The older we get, however, the more we endorse the wisdom of naps – and so, a power nap soon after checking in to our hotel can be the much-needed recharge that the body needs. Your mileage may vary, as the saying goes; everyone experiences the effects of travel in their own way, just as everyone has their own unique way of seeing and enjoying their destination. Be mindful of jet lag and the body’s need to rest and acclimatize, and you’ll be on your way to getting the most out of London.