Days 2 and 3 of my trip to London were action-packed from the get go. With only 48 hours to hurry through the city and see as much as I could, I woke up early on Thursday morning and got things underway at about 6 a.m.
My last post described in short detail how bad the hotel I stayed at on the first night was. If the Russ Hill Hotel pops up on any of your recommendations, disregard it and move along. That place is awful. The building was in serious need of upgrades, plane noise was constant (I’m a light sleeper) Wi-Fi was spotty and the worst part of all was that it was about 8 kilometres from Gatwick — if you didn’t have a car you had to rely on an Uber. It was only 9 pounds one way instead of 16, but still for the information on their website to say they had a 5-pound shuttle and then to be told it was discontinued…maddening.
But things got better in a hurry as soon as I left.
I had to go BACK to Gatwick and board the train to East Croydon, the closest stop to my next hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Croydon. At major rail terminals such as Gatwick, they have information boards above the turnstiles that display what platform you need to be on, all stops that train will serve, and what time the next train is due. It’s a bit of sensory overload, but I was able to buy a visitor Oyster card that is good for various forms of transport in and around London. It came with 33 pounds pre-applied and cost around $50 or so. Once I bought my card, off I was — touch the card to the RFID reader on the turnstile, it displays how much you have left and lets you through.
The train was nifty and got me to East Croydon in about 25 minutes. Croydon itself is about 15 miles south of the London city center, so the location was ideal. It was a 1 km walk from the train station to the hotel, and I got there about 4 hours prior to check-in, so I grabbed my camera and checked my backpack in with reception. Off to London I went via the Southern train to London Victoria station, one of the bigger terminals in the city.
From London Victoria I decided to walk to Hyde Park, where there were some beautiful autumn colors on display. I really wanted to see nature first before walking around to try to find the awesome architecture of town, so Hyde Park was the best place to find it. It reminded me of a giant Lake Sacajawea but a bit more regal for obvious reasons.
Once I was done at Hyde Park, I went on to Buckingham Palace.
Way too crowded so I stayed only a second, put my hand over my heart while reciting a famous line from Cool Runnings, grabbed a photo and aimlessly wandered on to St James Park and all the way over to Westminster Abbey.
Now the Abbey was pretty cool, but like a cheap chump I decided not to pay 20 GBP to go inside. (That’s the only stupid thing I did during my visit, but I think I made up for it the next day. More on that soon.) The place is absolutely stunning, and to think it’s been around for years and years and years is mind-blowing.
I went around the Westminster area a bit more and snapped some photos of Elizabeth Tower (wrongly known by many as Big Ben) and many other sites before I became fatigued at 4 p.m. as serious jet lag hit me. But I had to get a photo!
I made my way back to Victoria Station and rode the train back to Croydon before slipping in and out of consciousness and various states of sleep all evening and night. Day 2 was a bit more adventurous, but you’ll have to wait to hear about it.
Full-quality photos from Day 1 are here on my Smugmug site. Please buy a couple and support the Brewer Mission Trip Fund, you know, the trip I’m currently on.