A Layover In London

All the Brexit talk in the news has got me thinking about the last time I was in the UK. It was July of 2009 and I had a layover in London while going to India.  I made full use of those few hours by getting out of the airport and exploring the city.  I was on my own with a giant back pack but I made the best of it! So for your reading pleasure, here is my post of exploring London circa 2009.  

My layover while flying to India was at London’s Heathrow International Airport. I had many hours to kill before catching the next flight to New Delhi. So, instead of just hanging out at the airport, I decided to head out to the city and see what the Brits are up to these days.

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The last time I was in London was over 4 years ago. Dev and I kickstarted our 15 day backpacking trip here. We had a lot of fun visiting the palace, the gardens, and the Tate Museum among other things. But that was in early December; the city was cold and covered in rain. Thankfully, the weather was near perfect this time around.

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The London Underground (aka the Tube) is a labyrinth of over 10 different lines. The blue Piccadilly Line leaves from the airport and gets you to center city in about 35-45 minutes depending on which stop you choose to get off at. I spent about £7.50 on a day pass which allows unlimited access to the tube and the buses. For a day tripper like me, this was the best (and the cheapest) form of transportation from the airport.

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I couldn’t decide where exactly to disembark. Closer inspection of the city map revealed a street named Grosvenor Place near Hyde Park. Since I live on Grosvenor Place in Maryland, I thought why not see what it looks like in London. I got off at South Kensignton stop and admired the street which sort of wraps around the park. Much like Central Park in New York, Hyde Park is a sanctuary for the London city dwellers. I saw a bazillion runners and had an itch to unpack my own running shoes. But I was carrying a giant back pack and was in no mood to run with that thing on my back. Instead I just kept walking. Grosvenor Place in London is not a bad place to live either.

08e0d-london2009019I continued my tour through Marble Arch and on to the fashion capital of the world, Oxford Street. Feeling extremely out of style with my backpack and Keens, I decided to leave behind the bravura and take a side street to experience the less flamboyant side of London. I passed more cute cafes, bakeries, and pubs which were already seeing some happy hour action (it was Friday). The side streets took me to Grosvenor Square. Per Wikipedia, Grosvenor Square has been the traditional home of the official American presence in London since President John Adams established the first American mission to the Court of St. James’s in 1785. During the Second World War, Dwight D. Eisenhower established a military headquarters at 20 Grosvenor Square, and during this time the square was nicknamed “Eisenhower Platz”. The United States Navy continues to use this same building as its headquarters for Europe and West Africa. A statue of Franklin D. Roosevelt, sculpted by Sir William Reid Dick, stands in the square, as does a later statue of Eisenhower, sculpted by Robert Lee Dean.

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I left the peace and quiet of Grosvenor Square to see Piccadilly Circus. After snapping a few pictures I continued on to Trafalgar Square which was bursting with life and pigeons. Back in 2004, Dev and I had spent a lot of time sitting on the fountain here and watching the pigeons pester the tourists. Good Times. The National Gallery is also located here and offers free admission. I seldom say no to free things, so I went inside and saw a few beautiful paintings from 1250-1500. Honestly though, the weather was too nice for me to stay in.

So I headed towards Covent Garden in the hope of exploring their open market and finding some good food. I hadn’t been to this area before and was pleasantly surprised at the festive streets lined with performers, cafes, restaurants, and street vendors. I bought myself a caprese sandwich, a strawberry waffle and ate in peace while people watching. I was counting down on the last hour so reluctantly I left this beautiful place to see the Thames. I couldn’t really leave London without walking the embankment.
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Soon, it was time to get back on the Tube and head to the airport. My legs and back were sore from walking around all day. I saw more places then originally anticipated but I realized that I didn’t eat any fish and chips and forget to grab a cool beer. Some things just have to be saved for next time I guess.

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Chika Gujarathi is a freelance writer and a mother of three from Raleigh, NC. She writes for national and local publications about lifestyle, travel, books, and of course, motherhood! Her most current project involves illustrating and publishing a children’s Hindi book. When not adventuring with her family in the minivan, you can find her riding the streets of Raleigh on her beloved bike Linus.

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