The hop on hop off tour bus is a great way to see London because famous sites are spread out across the city. The bus allows you to get a taste of everything and a chance to get familiar with the area. You can stay on the bus the entire time or hop off and go exploring and catch another bus later. Riding the tour bus also limits the decision making needed to be made when deciding what to see if you’re traveling with others. One drawback of staying on the bus the entire time you may not get to experience everything intimately, but you get a really nice overview of the city.
My friend Tracey and I did the tour on our last full day of London rather than the first day. We went well informed of our many sightseeing options but without too much of a preset agenda.
We met the bus near St. Paul’s Cathedral which was two blocks and a short walk across the Millenium Bridge away from our fabulous hotel the Hilton Southbank which is in the neighborhood called Southwark (pronounced Suth-uck).
Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, London Tower, and Buckingham Palace were some of the famous sites we experienced from the top of our double-decker bus. We hopped off at Picadilly Circus for some souvenir shopping.
The tour bus has multiple routes so you can get off at a site and hop on another bus covering a different area. After studying the map (which seems to be Tracey’s official job on trips she takes with friends), she figured out we could switch lines and go to Knottingham which was something she had really wanted to see. That route took us in the vicinity of Hyde Park and Harrod’s which were things I wanted to see but since they were so far out of where we were staying I hadn’t set my mind on it for this trip. But taking the tour allowed us to squeeze these places in.
We got off in Victoria and had a late lunch then reconnected to the bus line heading back to Southwark. We hopped off about a mile away which was not too far from a good view of the London Eye. It wasn’t dark yet though, those would have been beautiful pictures that I hope to get another time.
On the walk back we saw dragon statues and I almost got killed naively stepping into the bike lanes. Though the only thing we experienced intimately that day was Hyde Park, we got a lay of the land and would have an idea of where things are and how to get around. We were both pleased with the day. Since there is so much more to see, I would like to go back someday.
I visited Boston for the first time this weekend. It’s part of my plan to see more of the United States. It was a short trip, just for the day. I like short trips because it’s exciting packing the experience into a short amount of time and get a sense of the place. My friend Tracey came with me because she was also seeking an adventure. I had done some internet research and decided to visit the Freedom Trail and dine at Faneul Hall Marketplace. The Freedom Trail has sixteen historic sites like Paul Revere’s House, The USS Constitution, and various historic burial grounds.
Fortunately, Boston has a train, which makes it easy for a visitor to explore a new place. I was enchanted with the destination of the train headed in the other destination.
As we emerged from the subway onto State Street, there was a tour taking place and the guide was pointing out the unicorn statue on the top of this building.
Since we were hungry and anxious to be on our way we didn’t stick around listen to the guide. We let Google direct us to Faneul Hall Marketplace which was said to have restaurants and shops. We stumbled upon a small crowd gathered in front of the hall listening to a street performer preparing to hang upside down from a contraption. Neither of us were concerned about this, nor could I get a picture of the contraption from out vantage point, so we continued on. I did find a picture this online.
We pressed on hoping to find sustenance but there were more shops than restaurants an Faneul Hall. We continued on to State Street and admired the architecture as we searched for a place to dine.
After comparing a few restaurants we settled on the Granary Tavern (which Tracey quickly decided Granary would be pronounced like canary). The rustic restaurant had a nice view of State Street a warm inviting atmosphere with red brick walls and cozy brown wooden beams.
It was noon and the restaurant was still serving brunch. I thought it would be nice to have something breakfasty and then later dinner would be a contrast. I ordered French Toast, which I don’t normally eat, so I’d be trying something new. The meal tasted good, but I realized that ordering breakfast doesn’t excite me like it used to and I would have been happier ordering a lunch meal. It’s interesting how when you get out of your regular environment you can learn things about yourself. Tracey ordered clam chowder and experienced some of the local culinary cuisine.
As we waited for our food to arrive we decided on our next activity. We would go to the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum since we like to learn about the area we are visiting on our travels.
The Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum was a delightful ten minute walk. It began with very Gilmore Girls like town meeting where the town was gathering to decide what to do with the shipload of tea sitting in Boston Harbor waiting to be unloaded. We were all given characters names and cards with information about our professions and how the differences of opinions were dividing the Patriots (the early Americans seeking Independence) and the Tory’s (the early Americans loyal to England).
I was Samuel Gore a house painter, whose father was a Tory.
The Patriots did not want to accept the tea because they felt they were being taxed without representation and wanted to handle their own business dealings instead of being under British control.
After a rousing meeting where we were encouraged to shout “Huzzah” when we agreed or “Fie” when we were angry, it was decided we would meet at the ships during the night disguised as Indians and dump the tea overboard. We had to be careful because if caught we would be guilty of treason and the consequence was death.
Note: They never actually used the word “Indian” they gave us feathers and said this is how we would recognize other Patriots.
Here is one of our guides explaining the dumping of 342 chests of tea that night. There were other goods on the ship but the Patriots promised they wouldn’t touch anything other than the tea.
We dumped the (styrofoam coolers of) tea and headed below deck to see the storage area and living quarters of the crew members. Eight people had to bunk in this tiny area of the ship with no shelter from the cold winds or water.
Next, we were taken through the museum which displayed the only remaining tea crate from that time. It also showed portraits of the King of England and Samuel Adams having a conversation in a Harry Potter like fashion, the perspective of a Patriot Woman and a Tory Woman having a conversation, and a short movie depicting Paul Revere’s famous ride and a battle between the Patriots and the British. (Now that think of this, it was also a very Stars Hollow Experience. I guess that was based on reality :). )
I am told by Tracey the battle was significant because it showed the British the early Americans were going to stand their ground and would not be subdued. Tracey had to explain the movie to me because…ummm… I fell asleep. (In my defense I hadn’t slept much the night before, it was dark, and I guess the sounds of cannons firing is quite soothing.) Despite my nap, the tour was entertaining and I recommend it if you’re in the area.
After the tour we walked around exploring the city which is what I really enjoy doing. We found Downtown Crossing which is similar to Lincoln Road on Miami Beach. The very lively Winter and Summer Streets were filled with people hanging out, stores, and restaurants. We decided to go to the Corner Bookstore which was one of the sites on the Freedom Trail. We couldn’t find that bookstore, but very close to same spot Google said it would be was the Commonwealth Bookstore filled with certified pre-owned books and rare prints which we explored that for a few minutes. I asked the owner about the Corner Bookstore and he said they moved a few years ago and then closed and the site that referred to is now a Chipotle.
So there’s history for you and this is one of the things I have a hard time digesting about Boston. It’s one of the oldest historic sites in the United States, yet it’s a modern city with new businesses springing up replacing the old ones.
We realized we were close to Boston Common which we had wanted to visit and were pleasantly surprised to realize we were close by.
Boston Common is oldest park in the United States. It was quite lively on this Saturday afternoon which I imagine was glorious for Bostonians as Winter turns into Spring. Some people were even lightly clad in tank ropes and shorts but most wore winter coats still.
Tracey and I sat on a park bench chatting, observing the people and dogs pass by us, and occasionally getting lost in our thoughts. We were shocked when we realized we had been there a few hours. That’s one of the things about vacations people usually try to cram a lot of things in, but it was nice just to take it easy and absorb a new place.
This is a great website to use for planning trips. It’s especially helpful because you can share it with others, save websites, create an itinerary, and make comments.
My cousin and I used it to plan our trip to Toronto. This way you and your traveling party can all be on the same page about the places your going to visit. You can keep track of the hours that an attraction is open or what day a museum is closed. It can also keep track of budgeting.
My favorite thing about it is it’s like a bulletin board where we could lay out all of the possibilities and narrow things down when planning what to do in a city we’d never been to seemed overwhelming.
There is an audio tour for Casa Loma. If you like history I recommend visiting this landmark. At first I was hoping that there would be a docent but there is so much information about each room/area the audio tour turned out to be better.