International travel helps to give you a greater understanding of cultures and of the world in general. I have been fortunate enough to make many international trips in the last ten years. Each year we have gone out on a trip or two to Canada, Columbia, France, Germany, or England. This year we will stay home and hope that next year we will have the chance to travel again. Until then, we can dream of the great adventures we have already had, and share them with you.

We Will “Mind The Gap” Again, by Rich Paschall

If you get the chance for international travel, you might discover there are a lot of great walking cities in Europe.  London is certainly among them.  Wherever you are in central London, you will be walking distance from many interesting and historic sites.  If the weather is fine, which is often in doubt, it is good to have some comfortable shoes and take to the streets.

The day we arrived in London a few years ago, we walked all around the Paddington area.  I always find it fascinating to see shops, restaurants, and various local businesses. Although I have been slowed by a chronic foot problem that had resulted in two corrective surgeries, which did not seem to correct anything, we still logged a great distance on foot.  We made it down to Hyde Park, saw the Marble Arch, and crossed over to Kensington Gardens before heading back to the hotel.  It was a lot for a couple of weary travelers.

The Underground

The Underground

At night we purchased an Oyster Card which is the equivalent of a debit card for the Underground train.  You purchase one and then add money as you need it to get onto the train.  By the way, you need it to get out also, but it takes no additional value from the card.  We have something similar in Chicago called Ventra cards.  You can also buy single-ride tickets, but if you are going to make a few trips around town, the Oyster Card is the way to go. It is more economical and it saves time from buying tickets.  You can get your card deposit back and any value left on the card when your trip is over, so do not be afraid to load up the card.

Since I had been to London before, I was aware of some places my travel companion should see.  We left from the Paddington Tube stop (see arrow on the map above, a little left of center).  The train system is vast and has many intersecting train lines.  It is one of the best in the world and you can take it almost anywhere in the capital city.  Buses can get you to some spots more quickly, except in rush hour perhaps.

We took the tube to Piccadilly Circus, London’s equivalent to New York’s Times Square.  It may be a bit grander.  I can say that as I have been to both.  From there we walked to Leicester Square and found a Pub for dinner.  Then it was off to Trafalgar Square and down to the Thames River.  We crossed a pedestrian bridge to the London Eye. We came back across the Thames River on the Westminster Bridge toward Parliament and watched Big Ben strike midnight.  This was all done in a few hours time. Of course, if you stay at the pub too long, there is a tube stop at Leicester Square for your trip home.

On our next great excursion around town, I followed the lead of my companion who wanted to see certain structures for their architectural significance and others for the historic value.  He picked the tube stop that would be closest to some building he wished to see and we wondered just how close that would be to St. Paul’s Cathedral.  If we could not find the church, we were willing to look for it another time.

Approaching St. Paul's Cathedral

Approaching St. Paul’s Cathedral

As we continued our walk toward the Thames from whatever building we checked out (one of us has an architecture degree), the church loomed in distance, and I do mean loomed.  Built at the highest point in London, it was mostly constructed in the late 17th and early 18th century, opening in 1708.

Hard building to miss

Hard building to miss

We walked around the entire structure and even peeked inside.  We avoided the high entrance fee that tourists must pay when there are no church services, so we could move on to find other architectural wonders.  I am not a fast walker and my friend was seemingly content with my pace of sightseeing.

Pedestrian Bridge

Pedestrian Bridge

A new pedestrian bridge is very popular and a good spot for pictures.  It is not a far walk from the Cathedral, which stands magnificently in the background.  Yes, there are many places to get a good picture of the church so no need to start purchasing them.  By the way, it is not as close as it looks from the bridge.

Formerly London Bridge Tower

Formerly London Bridge Tower

From the pedestrian bridge, we could easily spot another stop on our architectural tour.  The Shard is the tallest building in the United Kingdom at 95 stories and by far taller than anything on the London skyline.  You can find a tube stop by the river or by St. Paul’s and ride to the London Bridge stop, but we walked our way over to the Shard.  Unless you have a lot of time for sightseeing along the river, you will want to take the tube.

HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge

HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge

Along the river, we saw the HMS Belfast, a British Naval cruiser that was originally launched on March 17, 1938.  It was put on “reserve” in 1963 and serves more as a museum now.  Behind it is the Tower Bridge, not the London Bridge which is actually in Arizona (look it up!).  You can look back and see the new London Bridge, but it is really a rather ordinary-looking structure.

When we finally reached The Shard we discovered a long line at the bottom to take a trip inside and up to the top.  It was not important to me as we have been to the observation deck of the Willis (Sears) and my friend was more interested in getting outside pictures anyway. I chose to grab the train near there and my friend went on to see City Hall and Buckingham Palace on his own.  I think he ran into James Bond before saying hello to the Queen, but I am not sure I trust him on these points.

By the way, when you get on and off the train, please “mind the gap,” the space between the platform and the train.

Related: Heathrow Express
London Calling,” Sunday Night Blog

Categories: Architecture, Rich Paschall, Travel, Vacation

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

28 replies

  1. I agree with you Rich, to see the world helps you to understand it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good posting. Brings back many memories of my younger years of growing up in London. I knew the underground like the back of my hand. Bethnal Green on the red central line in the East was my local station. In the later years I would visit my dad in London and his station was on the green district line at Dagenham Heathway, further east.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I feel like a foreigner in New York these days. I used to know it perfectly. I knew which subways ran from where to where and the layout of the avenues and streets in Manhattan. For that matter, we both really knew Boston, but since we lived there, they’ve changed it so much it not only is hard to navigate (for us), but unrecognizable. We watched a movie last night which was probably made 25 years ago and it was a trip into nostalgia. THAT was the Boston we loved. I don’t know what it’s like now, but all the fun places along the water are gone, replace by hyper expensive hotels and fancy restaurants and bar flanked by parking lots that cost more for a few hours of parking than we earn — together — in a couple of weeks.

      Gone are all those quaint (and really GOOD) little old fish joints where you could get fresh clams and lobster, fried fish and chips and eat at benches outside (they didn’t have indoor dining). They all vanished. They were intentionally inexpensive and EVERYONE went there. Best fish we ever ate.

      Even the old upscale restaurants we went to are gone. When they renovated the harbor, those places had no where to go. A few have the same name and are not on the water anymore, but the food is entirely different as is the clientele. Good they made some movies. At least there are visual memories!

      Liked by 2 people

    • We learned the tube quickly and I remembered it pretty week since my previous stop in 2012. We went for the Olympics.


  3. This brought back memories for me. It’s 30 years since I last visited London. It is very different now of course. No Shard or London Eye when I was there but I enjoyed taking the Tube and walking about. David had never been before so it was fun to see him experiencing it all. I have in the past been inside St Paul’s, too commercial for me even in 1977, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. David didn’t want to see the Tower and as the lines were long and I’d seen it before we bypassed it to visit the very interesting Tower Bridge Museum which was not busy at all. I do wish that pedestrian bridge had been there in 1990 though.

    Liked by 2 people


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