3 hour London visit
We only had a few hours in London by the time we checked in to our centrally-located City Inn in Westminster so the challenge was to do things quintessentially British. I'd been here many times before, but it was my friend Nancy's first visit so the search was on for icons, which I hoped hadn't disappeared in the time since my last visit a few years ago.
The Pimblico station for the Underground was the closest to our hotel so after changing into good footwear we headed there to buy a day pass. The helpful agent sold us two day passes for about 11 pounds, good for transport within the central part of the city. We took the Victoria line to Green Park, walked underground corridors following signs up down and around to the Picadilly Line where we headed toward Heathrow, exiting at the Knightsbridge station for a visit to Harrod's. We passed Rolls-Royces and other chauffeur driven luxury cars discharging Muslim women clad head-to-toe in black burkas. Some had just a slit for their eyes, while others showed only their faces. Their handbags, shoes and jeweled fingers indicated their obvious wealth as did their enthusiastic reception by shop clerks, who fawned over them. Owned by the Fayed family, whose son, Dody, died with Princess Diana, Harrod's is obviously a favorite shopping spot for Muslims in London. Locals, however, are increasingly calling it Horrids.
Nancy and I headed for the amazing lower level food halls, grabbed a bite at the newish tapas bar here and ogled and gaped at goods we couldn't afford. As we left we saw the Harrod's doorman politely trying to get the chauffeurs to move their double-parked luxury cars which were blocking the entrance for everyone else. We headed back on the tube, which by then was crowded with rush hour commuters.
We needed to find rest rooms so stopped at a pub where we quenched our thirsts with others we had met on the cruise. Using our map, we aimed our walk toward Big Ben and the London Eye on foot, passing the Houses of Parliament and loads of other tourists.
When crossing streets, visitors from the States have a tendency to first look left and then step off the curb as they look right — a surefire way to get hit in traffic that moves opposite our own on the right side of the street. So intersections often have "Look Right" emblazoned on the pavement just to remind us not to step in front of oncoming cars.
Dusk was beginning to gather as Nancy stood in line to buy a London Eye ticket. That's the huge ferris wheel built for the Millennium, but still going strong on the south bank of the Thames. I'd been on it when it was new and recommend it highly, but didn't want to pay the approximately $20 to ride again. Each car holds 20 passengers who stand in an egg-like plexiglas compartment. It moves so slowly that from the ground it's hard to tell it's moving at all. One circuit takes a half hour and gives riders fabulous views of central London. Nancy said she enjoyed it although her camera battery went dead at a critical time, so she didn't get the photos she wanted.
I'd hoped to have time to take a Thames cruise from Tate Britain near our hotel to Tate Modern, downriver. Both are extraordinary museums and it's a little known and inexpensive way to travel between them, giving passengers a relaxing way to see the city. But darkness had fallen by then and we needed to get back to pack for our early morning departures for the airport and our flights back home.
We weren't really hungry, but Nancy wanted to try fish and chips before leaving London, and after nonstop food aboard the ship we figured we could probably manage it. So we popped into a pub just a few blocks from our hotel and ordered a platter of fish and chips. Here's Nancy ordering at the bar.