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Do's and Don'ts of Being a London Tourist

The first step off the plane, after a seven-hour flight, comes with many unknowns. Aside from the fact that I am still trying to wake up from a two-hour nap, I look to my mom, wondering where to go. Standing in one of the biggest airports in the world, I follow my mom out the doors into an unknown world. The buildings curve around street corners, never perfectly rectangular, like a U-shape. Not knowing how long it will take us to get to our hotel, not knowing how the bus transportation system works, and not knowing where the closest underground transportation stop is, my mom and I walk. Even with doing research on the tourist attractions, my mom and I do not know our way around London. Anyone’s first time in a new country can be scary, especially the country’s metropolitan capital, but here are a few do’s and don’ts for those daring adventurous souls who have an interest in traveling to England.

The first “Do” is to only visit Buckingham Palace during the months of August and September. Those are the only times that Buckingham Palace’s state rooms are open to the public. During those months, Queen Elizabeth II spends some time in her summer home in Northern Scotland. The state rooms are where there are public business functions, such as the formal dining room that can seat more than a hundred people and the ball room. While you are visiting the Buckingham Palace state rooms, I would recommend you take a peek in the Mews. The Mews are the royal horse stables at Buckingham Palace. The horses are used for processions such as The Annual Opening of Parliament Session and the Royal Wedding last April, among many other special events. The royal carriages are simply gorgeous. Each carriage has a story of its own. For example, The Duchess Catherine Middleton of Cambridge requested to use one of the ornate carriages, but that particular carriage was never really used because the carriage was only meant to be used in rainy weather. Luckily, the skies were far from being gray on the day of the royal wedding last April.

Another “Do” is do, please, visit Hampton Court. The Tube (underground railway, think of Metro and Subway) and train ride are a bit longer than necessary, but the ride is worth it. Although some of the history of this castle may be mundane, for those non-history-enthusiasts, the landscaping of the castle is beautiful. The great dining hall is lined with the each knight’s coat of arms. Walking into the courtyard, you immediately will feel as if you stepped into a time-traveling machine bringing you back to the Medieval Ages. The gardens surrounding the castle are quite exquisite.

A “Don’t” is do NOT try to get an audio tour of the House of Parliament on any day but Saturday. Saturdays are the only days that audio tours are open to the public because that is the day that Parliament is not in Session. Unless you are very interested in the ways of the British government and are actively interested in debate, then I would not recommend that you visit Parliament on a weekday.

Another “Don’t” is do NOT walk into Kensington Palace, thinking you will learn a lot about history. I learned more about the princesses that lived in Kensington Palace than the Palace itself. As preparation for hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics, Kensington Palace remodeled its whole palace to be very dark and gloomy. It was as if it was Halloween in September. Each room was so dark that it was hard to distinguish the wallpaper on the wall or even any writings that were displayed in the bedrooms. The only good thing about Kensington Palace was the Orangery café, but you can find one of those at Hampton Court. An Orangery Café is where orange tea is the specialty, and the chocolate cake is delicious. Unless you enjoy learning about the lives of seven princesses who have lived in Kensington Palace and Haunted Houses don’t frighten you, Kensington Palace is not a place to visit when you’re in England.

Other than those main attractions, I would say “do” go to a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The service is a good way to learn about a different denomination, the Episcopal faith, but after the service is the good part. Upon leaving St. Paul’s Cathedral, my mom and I visited Paul’s Café. Paul’s Café has okay French desserts, not fabulous, but the BEST hot chocolate. Paul’s signature hot chocolate is thick, creamy, with extra chocolate. This hot chocolate is something you only can find in Europe. The final “Don’t” is do NOT take the wrong Tube line on weekends. Weekends are the time for the Tube to be under construction and repairs, causing some lines and some stations to be closed.

Traveling to another country is a fun, huge adventure. For those senior students, consider studying abroad in London. Maybe for a graduation present, you will have the opportunity to travel Europe. London is a city filled with endless history that can keep a tourist busy for months. Try being brave and see the world. These are just a few tips that will make your trip a little less hectic and a lot more worry-free.





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nelehjr This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 22, 2013 at 9:42 pm
Interesting stuff! Thanks for the tips!
 
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