I have been to London many times and still not discovered every corner of it. What I love the most about this city are narrow streets and lanes, little houses on suburbs with own gardens (barbeque with housemates has never been that easy as in England ;)) and of course the smell of tea and biscuit at 5 o’clock. I should also add to this list shopping on Oxford Street and excellent clubs like Ministry of Sound or Fabric. But something I do connect with my memories about London is Paddington Railway station.
Whether you take a shuttle bus from the airport, metro to get to the centre or any train to get to London from any other city in England you actually start your journey with commuting. For many of us the first journey to any city will usually start at the airport. As my colleague from work asked me for some tips, I made my mind it would be good to share it with others. I always wanted to show with my posts that travelling is easy and cheap and here comes the best moment to do so.
During a time I spent in England I was lost and late few times, but luckily I have never missed my flight, which I was pretty close to do so at least 3 times! Life in London is really fast, traffic jams are heavy, but before Christmas they are endless! It is outrages. Even though you plan to be 2 hours before your flight, London will verify your plans very quickly. Sometimes the only option you have is running and God bless you if that is on Stansted Airport and your gate is at a far end. It did happen to me once, not to mention I paid £60 for 3 kilo of excess baggage (I did not have time to chuck out random stuff), but I was pushing the limits of myself trying to reach to the gate on time. So first thing to do is right estimation of your time and the second would be choosing the right means of transport.
London has a very good connection with any airport. Trains go to Luton (Wizz Air flights), Gatwick (EasyJet flights) and Stansted (Ryanair flights), from Heathrow the easiest way is to get metro. However if you are looking for cheaper options you should definitely check out Terravision busses, National Express and Green Line operating from Victoria Couch Station. I guess I tried all of them and I even remember that I was lost few times or late because of them. But I have never mind to be lost. For me it is the best way to learn topography of the city. I got off once one bus stop earlier that I should, when I was coming back from the airport, and completely lost direction. I was distracted by having a chat with my friend on phone and after half an hour I have realized I should already be at Paddington Railway Station, but I was not. Actually I was completely in an opposite direction and till today I do not know where I was or how I got to the station. I believe it was my nose for finding my own way that got me safe. On the other day I was at Oxford Street and ended up with an idea to take a walk to Paddington. Well, my walk has finished there, but at first I ended up on a street where there were only Arabs and probably Muslims and I must say, I loved the way they looked at me with eyes saying “What is she doing here?”. At situations like that I always pretend I know where I am and walk very boldly. Rule #1 of survival: never look like a lost tourist! And this applies to any place you ever happen to be.
But Paddington has left way more memories than that. Kensington Gardens, which are just 15 minutes walk, are my favorite place in this district. Why do I like it so much? Because of sculptures constructed by Anish Kapoor. Giant curved mirror surfaces creates illusory distortions of the surrounding and they can be found only by those who hunt them down. I discovered them because I let my feet guide me wherever. Taking south exit from the park, you may come across Natural History Museum, which as most of the museums in London is free of charge. I was delighted by the entrance to the Earth Galleries, which was designed by Neal Potter, but other exhibitions are also very fascinating. In my opinion it is the best museum in London. Being always in a hurry I would probably have not found it on my way.
My trip to London usually stopped at Paddington so I quickly learnt there are only restaurants around this station. If you are willing to get one express drink with friends (let’s say you are going to Ministry of Sound, so it is supposed to be a pre-drink) – the chances you find a good place in a perimeter of 2 km are 1:100000. Oh well, there are lots of hotels and they do have bars. But imagine you just want one beer and get to Hilton on Friday and they ask you to pay £10 for entrance, what would you do? You would not get in, would you? But life is not only about drinking, the best sandwiches I have ever eaten were also at Paddington. Freshly baked baguette with melted cheese and ham. Delicious! Nothing better at 8 a.m. than that.
And last, but not least. London Underground is operating daily but do not overuse is it as London is much more attractive on the ground than below.