Springtime is a special and exciting time anywhere, but as I discovered in April 2012, in London it has a unmatched quality that makes one happy to be alive. Before the beginning of tourist season, my dad, brother, and I took a wonderful trip to London where we enjoyed ourselves immensely; finding the spring rain just as refreshing and beautiful as the fresh April sunshine.
Our first hotel (we split the trip between two of them) was the DoubleTree by Hilton across from Victoria Station. I really enjoyed this hotel because of its remarkable proximity to transportation, a pasty shop, and attractions like Buckingham Palace and the London Eye. Another plus for this hotel was the complimentary chocolate cookie that we were each given upon arrival!
Covered shopping area near Victoria Station, across from Westminster Cathedral (not Abbey!)
After changing out of our posh travelling attire (we always have to make an extra effort to look respectable when flying, since my father is an employee and therefore ambassador of the airline- no comfy lounge pants and sandals for us!), we made for Regent’s Canal where we took a waterbus to Camden Locks. The Canal area is so charming and was simply gorgeous and awash with spring foliage and flowers for our voyage.
The April flora in a City of Westminster planter near Regent’s Canal and Warwick Avenue
Barge of the London Waterbus Co. on the canal
Taking a waterbus is a very good idea and I would recommend it to any tourists to London. It enables one to see some of London’s most interesting yet lesser known areas- like Camden Lock Market- in a relaxed and calming way. As well, the waterbus can dock at the London Zoo if necessary, which is another appealing attraction for many visitors to the capital.
The canal offers many intriguing sights, from nearly submarine trees…
…to sinking dinghies
Once we arrived in Camden Lock Market, we walked about and got some food. This market has a fabulous array of food stalls, offering fare from all over the globe. It’s painful to decide what one is going to eat, because one can buy crepes, kebabs, Chinese dumplings, and cuisine from places like Turkey and Ethiopia. In addition to all this food, there are outdoor stalls selling handmade jewellery, art, and cheap tourist-y clothing and accessories. A little farther along, there is The Stables Market, which (evidently) used to be stables- amidst the cobbled streets and old brick walls of this area, there are many antique shops, and even more food. I love Camden Lock Market. It’s always bustling and dynamic, and there are so many interesting things to see and buy!
Some of the Market’s culinary offerings- not as busy as usual, due to it being a rainy morning
That afternoon I was pleased when we travelled to Chelsea to visit the National Army Museum. I don’t remember ever being in the affluent and exclusive area that is Chelsea before this, and it was rather fun to walk through the rain beneath my Union flag umbrella, perusing the windows of antique shops as Rolls Royces and Aston Martins drove by. We also passed the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which is home to the famous Chelsea Pensioners. Several of the Pensioners were out and about, and I found it delightful that the one we passed on the sidewalk greeted us politely. Common courtesy and friendliness are, unfortunately, hard to find; and so this incident was both memorable and heartwarming.
Evidence of Chelsea’s bountiful wealth- an Aston Martin, parked on left ahead of the green Mini
Sign for the Royal Hospital Chelsea
The National Army Museum itself was enjoyable- not too extensive, but that was alright for us since we were quite tired, having not really slept since arriving in the UK. (Except for my brother, who took full advantage of our earlier relaxed waterbus ride by falling asleep until we reached Camden!) The Museum had lots of displays of WWII rifles and artillery, which was fascinating for me. It also dealt with the earlier history of the British Army, back to the days of muskets and the famous red coats.
British Lee Enfield rifle, used in WWII. My granddad used one of these rifles during his time as a British Army captain in India
Mock-up of a Tube tunnel, where thousands of Londoners sheltered during WWII air raids
The lower gun is a PPSh-41, a Soviet submachine gun used widely in WWII
As far as I can remember, after the Army Museum, we went back to Victoria area and got some supper before turning in for the night. Marks and Spencer or Tesco sandwiches, crisps, and Cadbury drinks are favourites whenever we’re in London, and we enjoyed these staples while watching Britain’s Got Talent auditions. We had lots planned for the next day, so this was the perfect relaxing way to end a first day that had been just as busy!