A Summer in London, Solo!

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View of the City from the Millennium Bridge. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of A Summer in London, Solo! by Priya Saxena

Having read dozens of blogs talking gorgeously about solo traveling and also having made dozens of failed attempts of trying it out, this time I was determined to do it, to do all of it. With a traveling spree of a photography enthusiast, I got into the planning process of a trip that I always dreamt of. Now I can fill hundreds of pages about how I planned it all but will spare the intricate details. Mercy! I’ll tell you where and how I went!

I started planning my first international solo trip to London roughly a month before (well for future references, don’t go with your whims and plan well in advance). Usually, the visa application takes about 10-15 days. Mine stressed me out till the 15th day, but it did come in the end. I planned everything in my head, but couldn’t risk booking everything in case the worst of circumstances of not having a visa happened. I received my visa few days before I had to fly, so I availed the option of crashing at my cousin’s place. Accommodation for solo travelers in London, however, is not a problem as one can easily find well affordable hostels in the city.

To see London, I had the usual option at my disposal. The first being the ‘London Pass’, the itinerary of which depends on the number of days you wish to spend in London. I chose not to buy the London Pass. There are over 100 attractions that can be covered using a London Pass but it pays well to chalk down the ones that one really wishes to see. Many of the places covered in the Pass had a free entry so I covered them without buying the Pass. Regardless of the choices above, I found one thing really useful- the Oyster card for traveling in the city. An Oyster card gives you access to Tube, buses as well as most of the stations for National Rail, allowing you to save plenty of money on commuting to different places. It was really a blessing as taxis are really not affordable, especially when you are a solo budget traveler. Another important thing that helped me travel easily was buying a local cell phone number, just to keep sufficient data when you’re on the roads. GPS and London Tube & Rail map can help you move around in London smoothly.

I landed in the afternoon and reached my cousin’s place using the Tube (Underground) and also had my only black taxi experience. Within an hour of landing, I learned how to use the Tube, got accustomed to stand on the right-hand side of the escalators and leave the left-hand side for the passers- by (we don’t follow such thing back home). I would have spent the day at leisure, but since my cousin lived close to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, I got to see the Prime Meridian line at the Observatory, along with other nearby attractions like Greenwich Park, Cutty Sark, All Saints Church (the church where a scene from Jab Tak Hai Jaan was shot). I counted it as day zero since all these were additional places on my itinerary.

Day 1

Greenwich Park, London. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Greenwich Park, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Standing in two time zones courtesy Prime Meridian at Greenwich Royal Observatory

Photo of Greenwich Park, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena
Day 2

I started my actual trip with something that I promised myself to visit years back when I fell in love with Harry Potter. It was the time to visit Warner Bros Studio. I booked my ticket in advance from home as usually they get sold out by the time one decides to visit it after reaching London. The availability and prices of the ticket can be checked on their official website. Usually, it takes three-hour minimum inside the Studio but for Harry Potter fans, one may need an additional hour and a half just at the souvenir shop. It is tempting as it could be but a real expensive one. So, I bought a lot of Harry Potter clothing from Primark instead, at a much lesser price. I kept an entire day just for the Studio Tour. I wasn’t disappointed, trust me!

In the studio, I literally clicked over 500 pictures, thank God for an extra camera memory card for the rest of the trip. I even got myself a video riding the broomstick around the Hogwarts and a mandatory picture at Platform 9 ¾. Oh, what fun it was! The Studio is so real in that it served Butterbeer. There was so much to explore and enjoy. Every corner kindled some or the other memory from the books. After the tour, I just explored the city near my place and had an authentic English Pub experience.

Tickets for the Warner Bros Studio Tour. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Leavesden, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

4, Privet Drive

Photo of Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Leavesden, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Professor Dumbledore's Office. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Leavesden, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Ford Anglia

Photo of Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Leavesden, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Warner Bros Studio. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Leavesden, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Off to Hogwarts.

Photo of Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Leavesden, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Gryffindor Common Room. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Leavesden, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Vernon and Petunia's House in Privet Drive. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Leavesden, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Hogwarts Express. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Leavesden, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Hogwarts Express. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Leavesden, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Hogwarts. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Leavesden, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Harry and Ron, in Hogwarts Express. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Leavesden, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena
Day 3

I started my next day with Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, another major attraction in London that one just can’t miss. Since I wanted to visit London Eye as well, I bought a combo deal for these two at Madame Tussauds’ official website. I saved a quite some money while maintaining flexibility to visit London Eye I started my day as early as 8:30 am with some coffee as there was so much that I wanted to see.

The nearest Tube station to the Museum was Baker Street (sounds familiar?). Now I’ve been forever Sherlock-ed and chose to spare some extra time before visiting the Museum detouring to 221B, Baker Street, the location of the Sherlock Holmes Investigation Agency. I have a habit or rather a hobby of collecting souvenirs from every place I visit, so picked up some from the adjacent museum shop. I had to literally pull myself out to head towards Madame Tussauds.

Sherlock Holmes Investigation Agency. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Sherlock Holmes Museum, Baker Street, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

221 B, Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes Investigating Agency

Photo of Sherlock Holmes Museum, Baker Street, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Madame Tussauds Museum was an absolute delight to my eyes. I loved my time spent with Tom Hanks, the Beatles, the Star Wars cast, the Hulk, King Kong, Einstein, Shrek among many many others.

Posing with the lovely Shrek

Photo of Madame Tussauds London, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

The Beatles

Photo of Madame Tussauds London, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

With Rey and BB-8

Photo of Madame Tussauds London, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

After the Museum, I headed back to Baker Street station and boarded the Waterloo line for the Waterloo Underground station. A quick walk of 6-7 minutes from there took me to the Coca-Cola London Eye. Navigating places never bothered me in London as the city is brilliantly signposted and organized.

Experiencing London Eye took me through stages, or rather two long queues. One to book time slot/entry ticket from the online booking and another one for the main entry. I had some time in between the two queues, so I used it to check out the nearby places., took a stroll on the Queens Walk and just soaked in the sun (I was lucky to find one) in the Jubilee Gardens. The full round of the London Eye took roughly 45-50 minutes. The view was exhilarating. You could see everything the city had to show in just one 360 degrees movement.

View from London Eye. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of London Eye, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

One should definitely see London Dungeon if one doesn’t get caught up mesmerizing the Thames harbor. I missed out the entry time for it. London Dungeon shows the macabre historical events in London in a humorous style. The latest entry time in London Dungeon is between 4:45 pm and 5:00 pm, for future records.

Day 4

Having seen the top attractions on my list, it was time for some more of them. I started the day with exquisitely built the famous St. Paul’s Cathedral located near the St. Paul’s Tube station.

St. Paul’s Cathedral. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

St. Paul’s Cathedral. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Since I had nothing else planned for the rest of the day, I checked the map and decided to walk towards the Millennium Bridge (remember the bridge destroyed by Death Eaters in Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince!).

Millennium Bridge. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Millennium Bridge, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Millennium Bridge. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Millennium Bridge, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Asked a stranger to click my picture at the Bridge

Photo of Millennium Bridge, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Had I kept a keen interest in art galleries, I would have visited visit Tate Modern. It's on the right when you’ll step down from the Millennium Bridge. I walked towards the left. First stop, Shakespeare's Globe Theater. I didn’t want to just see the museum, so I checked out their theater schedule and bought the cheapest ticket (yard-standing) for the next best show available. I was lucky to find Romeo and Juliet on my schedule. It worked out pretty well.

Romeo & Juliet cast at Shakespeare's Globe Theater. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Shakespeare's Globe, New Globe Walk, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

The city is all about exploring. The more you walk, the more places you’ll find to see. After the Globe theater, I started further left to find the London Bridge and the Tower Bridge. Now London Bridge is not the actual bridge that one would recall falling down. It’s the Tower Bridge instead.

Tower Bridge. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Tower Bridge, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Hay's Galleria. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Hay's Galleria, Battle Bridge Lane, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

HMS Belfast. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of HMS Belfast, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

People enjoying Sunday at Potters Fields Park. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Potters Fields Park, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Tate Modern. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

With the Tower Bridge in the background

Photo of Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

The days in the summers are quite long which worked pretty well in my favor. After soaking in the Tower Bridge, I took the Tower Hill underground nearby to Covent Garden. Now I had read about Covent Garden in one of the plays in school. Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw to be precise. I had to see it. The market area was totally worth seeing and worth window-shopping. There were all the top-notch brands to shop from, Royal Opera House to see theater and dozens of places to eat and just relax.

Covent Garden Underground. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Covent Garden, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena
Day 5

Having to calm my over the enthusiastic soul, I started the day in a relaxed fashion. There were a few more places to see and things to experience. I visited all the remaining places on my list through the day, ranging from Changing of the Guards ceremony at Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey to Harrods, from Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square to Romeo & Juliet show at the Globe Theater.

Buckingham Palace. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Buckingham Palace, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Buckingham Palace. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Buckingham Palace, London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Buckingham Palace Guards. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of A Summer in London, Solo! by Priya Saxena

Trafalgar Square

Photo of Trafalgar Square (Stop B), London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Near Trafalgar Square. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Trafalgar Square (Stop B), London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Trafalgar Square. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Trafalgar Square (Stop B), London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

Trafalgar Square. Picture Credit-Priya Saxena

Photo of Trafalgar Square (Stop B), London, United Kingdom by Priya Saxena

I had to do one last thing before wrapping up my trip. Shop at Primark. The stores are so huge that one can easily get lost in there. You just can’t resist buying things at Primark with great deals on clothing, cosmetics, accessories, basically a paradise for shoppers.

London has so much to offer that a few days trip will not do justice to it. You can keep falling in love with it every second. There’s something about London. I’m definitely going back.

As they say, travel memories are not just memories; it is an entirely new world we create for ourselves. You create something which never blurs.

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