London – Day One: Kensington, The Tube, Jack the Ripper, and Haunted London

Today was designated for developing our London navigation skills. A small town girl at heart, growing up in a rural village of 2,500, I can easily become overwhelmed in large cities. The sounds, the smells, the traffic, the hustle and bustle, all make me quite nervous. Then again, this destination wasn’t chosen with my travel dreams in mind. Sydney LOVES the big city; that’s the reason I brought her here. That, and Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes. So, I’m putting on a brave face and embracing it. These picturesque gates with flowers help to calm my anxiety, so I’m stopping to smell the roses whenever I can.

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London’s public rapid transit system, The London Underground or “the Tube” is one of the most popular ways to get around London along with the buses. The Tube has 11 lines serving 270 stations throughout the city. Our sole mission after breakfast was to figure out how to get from point A to point B without looking and feeling like idiots. We did our research last night (there are a few Youtube videos on how to use the Tube) and found some good maps. One of the videos we watched referenced a handy Tube Map app that we downloaded and it helped us plan our practice route for today. It’s been a lifesaver ever since. With our first guided tour being tonight and indicating a designated meeting spot at one of the Tube stations, we needed to ensure we knew how to get there and how long to plan for.

 

The closest Tube station to our hotel is Bayswater and was just a short walk to our first stop to buy our Oystercards, a smartcard that holds pay-as-you-go credit for the London Underground. With several on and off points to give us enough practice, it didn’t take us long to get the hang of it. We only got on the wrong line once! Syd had it figured out before I did, proving that she’s much better suited for the big city than I am. Five years ago, I treated myself to ice cream and a glass of wine once I mastered the “T” in Boston. London is a much larger accomplishment so I just may have to splurge on a handbag.

We had a lovely walk through Kensington Gardens this morning as all the joggers ran past us. There were several swans swimming alongside the ducks and geese, and it was difficult to lure Sydney away. I think she would have stayed there all day watching the swans if I let her.

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Pond at Kensington Gardens, London

Our walk through Kensington took us past Kensington Palace, Royal Albert Hall, and the Natural History Museum. We attempted to see Buckingham Palace today, but as we approached we realized there was a bit more than the changing of the guard happening. Today was the Queen’s birthday and we landed smack-dab in the middle of her birthday celebration parade. There were so many people there, including Harry and Meghan, the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex, that we’ll need to swing back by during the week to get a better look.

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Kensington Palace, London

As we were walking through the city today, we walked through the middle of a delightfully brilliant farmer’s market with fresh cut flowers, fish, cheese, vegetables, meats…everything. I loved it and was in my element. It’s one of the very things I love about traveling; coincidentally running into a local experience. I almost bought a fresh loaf of bread, just to carry it around in my backpack so I could eat it later. Now I wish I had. Take a look at all these lovely goodies in my slideshow below.

 

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Tonight was filled with all the grisly details and dark stories of the notorious Jack the Ripper as we walked through Old London and toured the sites where his victims fell prey to his madness. Our tour guide also took us past several points of interest on the way atop a vintage double decker bus under a misty mysterious sky.

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