London | Plus Chiswick, Stonehenge, and Bath

The London Underground, also known as 'the Tube', is the oldest underground railway network in the world (1863).

Getting To London

↠ By Plane: There are 2 major airports - LHR (London Heathrow), and Gatwick (LGW). You will be able to find flights serving most major cities. This is also the hub of British Airways. From Heathrow, you can take the Heathrow Express to Paddington, the Piccadilly line underground into the city, or a 50min cab ride. From Gatwick you can take the Gatwick Express, cabs will be much shower as traffic is heavy from that direction. 

↠ By the Eurostar Train: This will take you between London and Paris in just 2hr 15 minutes. Train prices vary, but they hover around the100 mark each way. Sometimes it's half the price if you book early and take a train at an odd time. 

Booking for New Year's Eve

There are many hotels you can book to watch the London New Year's Eve fireworks. The difference is, are you trying to watch it from your room, or get as close to the fireworks within walking distance? 

All tunnels and bridges will be blocked for cars to pass 8pm on New Year's Eve day. It will be blocked until 6am on New Year's day. The only way to get from the South East to the North West side of the river is by the Underground (when it's in service). 

↠ Watch in hotel room: you can stay on the South East side, anywhere near Waterloo station will be idea, especially the Marriott (it is booked out very early on), Park Plaza, and the Marlin Waterloo. 

↠ Watch outdoors: You'd want to get somewhere as close to Embankment/Westminster station or Trafalgar Square. Be mindful though, everyone all over London will be pouring into these areas and foot traffic is highly regulated. Sometimes fights breakout but police enforcement is doubled during New Year's Eve. 

✧✧ Book tickets for a countdown event: Even if you book a nice hotel, sometimes you can't guarantee that your hotel room will have a direct view of the fireworks. It is also uncomfortable to be counting down outdoors. One solution is to use "Design My Night". This website will give you various New Year's Eve countdown options around London, it could be for dinner, for clubbing, boat party, rooftop bar, you name it. We booked really last minute and ended up with some painfully expensive tickets (you're looking at £500 per person) for The Rooftop at St.James hotel in Trafalgar square. Really last minute meaning 1 month in advance. So if you are looking to spend New Year's Eve in London, you better start booking as soon as summer holidays is over. If you are high budget, you can get a cozy private igloo with prime viewing spots for £2,000, available at the Coppa Club.

When to Go?

Spring: 6°C/43°F - 15°C/60°F, the weather varies, and can be warm or cold, sunny or rainy. On average it is still cold, and a jacket is definitely needed. 

Summer: This is the best time to go, with temperatures from 15°C/60°F to 23°C/73°F. The nights will be slightly chilly, but during the day time it's a delight to walk through the park. 
Autumn: Summer usually lasts until September but then the temperature drops in October. This is also the rainiest season. Temperatures range from 10°C/50°F to 20°C/68°F
Winter: Expect temperatures around 5°C/41°F to 10°C/50°F, rain is still common, make sure you bring a hat and some gloves.

What happens on New Year's Eve & New Year's Day
Well known around the world is London's New Year's Eve fireworks which is staged around the London Eye. Popular free viewing spots include Embankment station area (Trafalgar Square), Westminster Bridge area and Waterloo Bridge area. 

On New Year's Day there is the New Year's Day parade which runs from noon - 3pm in the afternoon. There are various marching bands, district representatives (China Town was pretty impressive), and associations and clubs that appear in the parade. 


Away from London: Stonehenge & Bath
Stonehenge is an important monument as it is the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world. It was built roughly 5,000 years ago, and it's largest stones weigh 25 tons on average. 
Getting there: best way is by car, this my case we rented one. It's a 1.5hr drive from west London. 
Entry fee: £16.50 will get you into the museum as well as the Stonehenge itself
↠ Free shuttles run between the welcome center and to the Stonehenge itself, but you can also take a 20min leisurely stroll to it and then shuttle back. 

If you've made it to Stonehenge, it's just another hour to get to the city of Bath. The city itself made it to the UNESCO world heritage list as it is famous for the Romans thermal spa, built in the middle ages. Because of its architecture, it the city is also often used as filming backdrops such as for Les Miserables and Jane Austen's Persuasion. 

What's in Chiswick?
During my time in London, I got to stay in the lovely neighborhood of Chiswick on the West side of London. It is not as busy as central London, and had a lot of charming restaurants, bakeries, and family owned shops along the high street. 



Shop here
↠ Covent Garden 
This is a shopping district is accessible with well-known brands such as Kate Spade, Ted Baker, Fred Perry, and Paul Smith yet it is also discreetly high-end  with independent boutique stores. You never know until you look at the price tag and realize that you are holding a £300 jumper. Around the square of Covent Garden are also many festive displays such as a giant Christmas tree and reindeer statue.

↠ Selfridges
This is a British high end department store founded over 100 years ago. The flagship store on Oxford street is the second largest shop in the UK. They carry  mostly designer brands, and you'd equate this to a Bloomingdales in the states.

      Translation guides, UK to US stores:
      Debenhams : Macys
      House of Fraser : Nord Strom
      Marks & Spencer : JC Penny/Yonkers
      Selfridges : Bloomingdales 
      Primark : Walmart/Target

↠ Harrods
If you have top dollar (or Pounds Sterling) to spend, this is the place to go. Even Sakes Fifth would not compare to Harrods. There is only one Harrods in the world, and it is the largest department store in the UK, with more than one million square feet of retail space and 330 departments. They are also hold the seal of approval from the royal family as a preferred supplier, these are called Royal Warrants. As it carries high end items, there has been several thefts, including the 2012 theft of a £24,000 designer dress.

Even if you don't intend on buying anything at Harrods, it's also a magnificent building to marvel at, especially when it lights up at night. 

Eat this
Cheesy as it is, I love Nando's. It's healthy, you can find it in very many places, and you can count on the quality being good. Nando's is known for their roasted chicken and difference spicy sauces that come with it. I also love the mash potato that comes as a side. I've probably eaten at about 10 different branches by now, it's a great choice for takeaway or a quick bite. I even had it delivered to my hotel room once! 


Looking for a Instagram Spot?
↠ New Bond Street
All the shops were closed on New Year's Day, so I sneaked out there during the early evenings with empty streets as a perfect backdrop for photos. You can find iconic phone booths there, but most importantly there is a gorgeous Cartier shop there. 


Next up, it's Ski season in Niseko, Hokkaido Japan! 

For more places around London with a scenic view, I have another blog series called London in 24hrs:

No comments:

Post a Comment