London in…maybe 7 hours

My leave in the United States seemed to end far quicker than it began and I quickly found myself boarding British Airways for a flight back to my real job – being a helicopter pilot. If I could be paid to just travel and write this blog, and I mean…that would be nice.

Anyways, I had a 10 hour layover in London before my connecting flight back to the Middle East, and there was no way I was going to sit on my hands in the BA terminal (it’s a nice terminal – in case anyone from BA is reading and wants to sponsor the blog); not when there was a beautiful, thriving, vibrant London just a quick shot down the tube waiting to be discovered!

That was meant to be a bit sarcastic given the usual grey, damp, backdrop to London that the rest of the world just assumes is the weather 100% of the time, however while I was there it was blue skies and only a little bit of rain.

So, much like the Mexico blog I just posted, I’m playing catch up with this one, and the photos and the write up. This was done back in November 2015 on the way back to work overseas. I’ll try and recap as best I can recall, but I really should have done this a few months ago.

Here’s the thing, a lot of airports have “tours” from the terminals for those of us traveling few that have long layovers. The thing about London is that, with a bit of confidence and a desire to walk insane distances in a day, you don’t need a tour bus. Not when you have the handy tube! It runs right into the BA terminal. The first thing you need to do though is check your luggage into one of the kiosks so you don’t have to lug it around with you. It’s not too expensive and it frees you up to really enjoy yourself.

A note on that, the bag check is outside of customs in the entry hall to the main terminal. So, just go through your usual arrival procedures and head out into the main hall to check your bags in. If memory serves, when you leave the customs gate hang a hard right and go almost all the way down to the end of the building. The shops and street should be to your left, and the wall and more shops to your right.

Also don’t get trapped in a line at one of the automated ticket dispensers up here for the tube. The lines get ridiculous, and I waited in one because I didn’t know better. Instead head downstairs to board the tube into the city. There are another 3 or 4 machines down there that nobody knows about or uses because they wait upstairs to get their tickets. Seriously I think everyone getting off the escalator saw those machines and let out a defeated sigh.

Your best bet is to go as far away as the Tower Bridge station. Start there and work your way back toward the core of downtown London. Your ticket is gold, buy an all day pass so you can just come and go as you please. Ok – now pictures.

BA 747 flew me from Seattle to London. Nice enough, but a bit dated. The one I flew to the USA was a bit newer with better seats and screens. I’ve spent so long on 747’s that they feel like a second home. Where BA hits the home run is in their cabin crew service. They’re great!

The tube station at the airport. The cars are a bit old, and can get crowded, but the system works and it is an easy, cheap, way to get around the city.

Changing lines so that I can get to the Tower Bridge to start my day.

Made it! Tower Bridge, or as it is often mistaken for by Americans: London Bridge (HA!) Pro-tip, there is a Starbucks here with a bathroom and WiFi. Get it in if you’re doing like I did – because you’ve got some walking ahead of you.

View up river from the middle of Tower Bridge. The Shard on the left is a striking addition to the London skyline – I love it.

These vendors were everywhere selling these glazed nuts. It was cold and blustery so it made sense to buy some. They were delicious. Only 2 Euro.

On the other side of Tower Bridge you find yourself on the narrow, and old, streets of London. Lots of cool shops through here.

My first pub stop in the UK. This place is the length of the block, and has 4 entrances or so it seemed. A couple bars too. So if there is a crowd at one go to another.

I loved the contrast of the gothic old and the ultra-modern new in the city.

A nice cold local draught beer on its chilling plate.

The Globe Theatre – Shakespeare’s theatre of choice.

A very cool new pedestrian foot bridge to cross back over the river. St.Pauls in the background. This, of course, is when the rain came through…when I was outside, on an uncovered bridge.

That old and new theme again

Look kids, Big Ben! Interesting factoid for you, Big Ben is NOT the name of the tower, or the clock, but the name of the BELL in the tower. You learned today.

The grand banner of the British Empire in all her glory a top Parliament

Just checking in with MI6, James Bond was out. On a side note, they’ve done a great job rebuilding it since it blew up in Spectre…

When the Queen heard I was coming to the UK she arranged for me to have access to the grounds of Buckingham Palace. This was the only photo I was allowed to take inside the fence line…

…because security wouldn’t let me beyond the fence line. It would seem my clearance was not passed down to security.

On the recommendation of my friend, and UK native, Ben – I staved off hunger and waited to eat until I got to Harrods. The beer was an authentic Belgian and delicious. The steak was devoured so quickly that I didn’t get any pictures of it. This place, though delicious, was way pricey.

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