For some bizarre reason, I have always found visiting London a bit of a chore. I think this is because it usually is a chore. Despite living so close to the big smoke, a train fare from our part of Kent can cost as much as £36 and it takes at least an hour. But over the past month I have found myself visiting London as a tourist.
My first port of call on this tourist adventure was the Natural History Museum. A perfect antidote to the train fare as this wonderful museum is completely free.
I actually visited the museum to see an exhibition by photographer Sabastiao Salgado entitled Genesis. Which was travel related photography of the highest order. The photographs were of spectacular wildlife, landscapes and remote communities.
I have never been a major fan of black and white photography but this guy is clearly talented. If you ever get the chance to see his work I would highly recommend it. Or you could buy his book.
After this I took a stroll through the museum itself. I am a bit of a science geek so I was in my element. I got to see the dinosaur, which I am pleased to report was not missing.
Next I headed off for our second tourist activity of the day at the o2, or as it used to be know, the Millennium Dome.
This upturned wok of a building was constructed for the millennium celebrations. I never visited in the lead up to the year 2000 as I was too busy worrying that all of my gadgets would cease to work. So this was in fact my first ever visit. The dome now contains many restaurants, some shops and a cinema, and is used to stage music concerts.
I was not here to explore the interior of the Dome however. I was going to climb over the Dome.
After completing a disclaimer, the likes of which would never stand up in court, the group was ushered into “base camp”, which was a room with flimsy walls and lots of seats. We watched a “comedy” introductory video before being issued with footwear, jump suits and a harness.
The route over the Dome is in fact on a suspended walkway which is a bit like a very long trampoline. After being shown how to use the harness I was volunteered to be the responsible leader on the ascent. Which doesn’t really say much for the rest of the group as I am not famed for my ability to act responsibly in situations such as this..
Nevertheless, it seems I am good with mildly complicated safety clips and found myself making good progress. The rest of the group got held up by somebody with no ability to carry out simple instructions so I reached the summit and had the viewing area all to myself for a few minutes.
At first the climb is quite steep and it takes some effort to progress. But as one starts to climb higher the the slope shallows. Not really very difficult..
The views were great, and it occurred to me that there can’t be many places in London that afford a 360 degree view such as can be enjoyed from upon the Dome.
Eventually the rest of the group arrived, most clearly fed up with being behind the person that could not operate the clip, and who it also transpired was entirely petrified of heights. Which kind of begs the question, why climb up the Millennium Dome. It isn’t like the Dome creeps up on you and before you realise it you are halfway up. It can be seen from quite a long way off.
Anyway, after enjoying the view for a while we started to descend. This was incredibly easy with gravity on my side so I put the hammer down and bounded like a new born giraffe so that I could capture a photograph of the group as they descended. Some of the group inexplicably got stuck behind the now hysterical fearer of heights again.
Tickets to climb the o2, or “Up at the o2” as it seems to be know, start at £26.
Seven days later I spent two more days in London as part of a family wedding.
I was fortunate enough to be offered the chance to have a tour of The Houses of Parliament. This was somewhere I had never thought of visiting, but it was a thoroughly interesting and at times breathtaking experience.
Sadly no photographs are allowed, but we visited most of the important rooms, including the House of Lords and the House of Commons. We also saw endless photographs, statues and our guide, a jovial scouser with a hit and miss sense of humour had plenty of interesting bits of information to tell us.
The following day I attended a fantastic family wedding at The Swan at the Globe , which is the brilliant restaurant at the Globe Theater. The location of the restaurant is superb, just a short walk from London Bridge railway station, and it enjoys this astounding view.
I have visited a fair few cities over the past 4 years. So it was really interesting to look upon London with the eyes of a tourist. I can now see that it really is deserving of it’s status as one of the greatest cities in the world. It may be expensive, but on the flip side a large number of museums are free to enter. Street food is very big at the moment which makes eating almost reasonable. Transport around London, whilst a little expensive, is incredibly easy. And the sights are actually pretty astonishing.
So I will be back, as it would be rude not to.