Tuesday, July 5, 2016

London ~ DIY Low-Cost Sightseeing

Four days. No plans. Blue sky and sunshine. Temperatures in the 80's (26C).

London called out for aimless exploration. DIY – Do It Yourself sightseeing.

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Street Scene Mayfair District
Our stopover in London en route to Seattle from Greece was -- even for us who love to go ‘where-the-wind-blows-us -- a rather spontaneous adventure.  We hadn’t had time to do our usual guide book and internet research.  (If you missed why, and care to find out, you can read that here.)

We’d booked a hotel. But nothing more than that and our flight to the States five days later had been given much thought. 

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A Home? A Club? in London's Mayfair District

While that is far too unstructured for some of you and probably has you wiggling in your chair with discomfort, we found that having no expectations meant we had no disappointments. We hadn't arrived with a list of 'must-see' or 'must do'.

Because we weren’t rushing to get to the Tower Bridge, or Big Ben, or Buckingham Palace, or some other of London’s ‘tourist sites’ we had time to enjoy the street scenes that played out right before us – scenes we’d have likely ignored had we been racing to get somewhere to see ‘something’.

Exploring the Mayfair district
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Selfridge and Co. on Oxford Street
Our hotel in London’s West End Mayfair district was footsteps from Oxford Street, a wide boulevard that is home to some 300+ shops. It is said to be  Europe's busiest shopping street, with around half a million daily visitors. Perhaps one of the most well-known stores (thanks to the British television series) is Selfridge & Co. which opened on Oxford Street in 1909 in a building designed by Daniel Burnham for Harry Gordon Selfridge. It continues to be the company’s headquarters and with a reported  540,000 square feet of selling space, the store is the second largest retail store in the United Kingdom. It was a short walk from our hotel and provided free ‘window shopping’ entertainment as we explored its many floors.

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Just across Park Lane from our hotel, the 350-acre Hyde Park, offered a green, quiet alternative to the bustling Oxford Street. It is one of the city’s eight Royal Parks and its more well-known features include the Marble Arch, Serpentine Lake and the Speaker’s Corner. The weather had drawn multitudes of bikers, joggers, and sun worshippers – and strollers, like us – to it.

A delightful place, its history only adds to its ambiance: in 1536 King Henry VIII confiscated Hyde Park from the monks of Westminster Abbey. Back then it was used primarily for hunting. King Charles I opened the park to the public in 1637. The current park layout was planned by architect Decimus Burton in 1825.

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Animals in War Monument - Hyde Park
The park, which has no entry fees, is filled with beautiful statues but my favorite – a must-see any time we get to London – is the monument to animals who served in the war. The two-sided art work in which statues of animals with war equipment marching on bricks to the drab concrete wall which reads, “Animals in War – they had no choice” and on the other side the ‘free’ animals emerge to a green lawn and flower beds.

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American Embassy at Grosvenor Square
We were just a few blocks away from one of London’s many squares, Grosvenor Square, pronounced grove-ner. Once part of the Grosvenor family’s estate, the square was opened to the public and since the 1930’s has had a strong association with the United States. The American Embassy, pictured in the above mosaic, is located at 1 Grosvenor Square.

Seeing London – On foot


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No getting lost in London - thanks to these signs
London is a pedestrian-friendly city with sidewalks generally free of barriers and obstructions and crossing signals at busy intersections. Londoners do drive in the opposite lanes of what we do in the U.S. and other parts of the world, so visitors need to be mindful of that when crossing any street. 
Should you become confused about where you’ve taken yourself, you’ll find clarification from one of the many signs installed at intervals throughout the town, which tell you not only where you are, but what you are near as well.

For those who can’t or don’t want to walk, the city has any number of sightseeing options including:

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Tours of London from the Thames are popular
Tourist boats of every size, shape and description travel the Thames River.

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Regular city buses are a good way to see the city 
There are 'Hop On, Hop Off' tourist buses, or plenty of regular double-decker red buses that traverse the city, or for those who can’t decide between a bus and a boat:

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Is it a bus or a boat or both?
They even have those tour bus/boat combinations.

We set out on foot with tourist map (from the hotel concierge) in hand and next week I’ll tell you about some of the places we visited on this spur-of-the-moment DIY tour of ours. Thanks so much for the time you spent with us today.  Our wishes for safe and healthy travels ~ 

Linking up:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration















45 comments:

  1. Very nice photos. DIY tours are the best.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the photos. Thanks for commenting. Hope you'll be back here often. . .happy week ahead!

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  2. Oh yes I agree DIY tours are the greatest, you get to stumble upon one treasure into another.

    Worth a Thousand Words

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    1. And they really are 'hidden' treasures aren't they? Thanks for stopping.

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  3. Fascinating part of London ~ great shots ~

    I have some 'tourist' photos and some otherwise from recent London trip

    Happy Week to you ~ ^_^

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    1. Carol, thanks so much for stopping by ~ sounds like you and I share a love of London! Happy week and happy travels to you! Jackie

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  4. cool shots@
    Thank you for sharigng at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/07/happy-independence-day.html

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  5. You must be exhausted! Love the violet Selfridge photo, I couldn't watch it anymore when I found out what became of him~spoilers. That last photo looks like a WI Dells Duck, lol.

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    1. Thanks much for stopping by - hope you'll be a regular here! I also quit watching the show as I couldn't quite 'get into it' but having gone in the store, I wish I'd have watched a bit more!! Happy weekend~

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  6. Likewise. I rarely do my homework prior to setting foot in a new place. I like to adlib it, but those hop on hop off buses are really good for sightseeing once you get tired of walking.

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    1. We generally do a bit more research than going on the fly, but life didn't give us a chance this time and it turned out just fine (as things usually do!) Thanks much for stopping by, Kathy.

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    2. We usually don't do it quite as much on the fly as we did this one, but sometimes life has a way of taking over and plans go out the window. Thanks much for stopping by, Kathy!

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  7. A wonderful guide material! Saving it up for future!
    It really helps to have some prior knowledge about the place to visit.

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    1. Glad you found it helpful, Indrani. Thanks so much for stopping by~ Happy weekend!

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  8. I like to do my own thing when I visit cities. I think not making tons of plans for London is not a problem. There are tons to see and I am sure it is easy to move around.

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    1. Ruth, you are a traveler like us - we just aren't into the tours but prefer to see just what we see. . .hard to explain to those who ask us, "But what is there to see in city x,y,z?" We usually answer, "Everything!" which drives them nuts. ;-)

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  9. Your phrase, "No expectations... no disappointments" is the perfect way to sum up a DIY visit to any place! I loved seeing some of the places that give the huge city of London some flavor, especially the contrast of serene, outdoor beauty in Hyde Park and learning about the “Animals in War" monument. So looking forward to visiting this incredible city some day. Here's to great travels and continued good health!

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    1. Yes, great travels and good health, are our life's focus these days. Same good wishes to you two. Hope our travel paths cross this fall!

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  10. This is a way of exploring that we actually enjoy. As you say I love that there is no agenda and there is no need to feel disappointed if plans don't eventuate or live up to expectations. It is a real delight.

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    1. One of my favorite travel conversations is when I pull out the map and ask, "Where are we?" and Joel always responds, "What does it matter? We are where we are." (Seems so logical an approach to travel). Thanks for the visit, Jan!

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  11. We also preferred not to rush to London’s ‘tourist sites’ and enjoyed the street scenes much more. #TPThursday

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    1. It is such a fun way to see a place. We use this approach on cruises as well and instead of loading onto buses with ship tours we set off on foot and may miss some of the 'sites' but certainly return from the outing worn out from all the street scene 'sights' we've had. Thanks for commenting today!

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  12. I love to visit a city and have no plans. It makes some people nervous but I always feel that it's a chance to make a place more of your 'own' - you get out on the street and see things from a more intimate perspective.
    I'm delighted to be following now.

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    1. And we are delighted to have you following now! Thanks so much for your comment - it sounds like we have the same approach to visiting places, that of 'making it your own'. Hope to see you commenting often!

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  13. Wonderful tour and so lovely aspects from London and Thames. Who knows, perhaps one day I'll see London. So interesting pictures, as always in your blog posts! HAve a very good day and a great new week ahead!

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    1. Thanks so much for the lovely comment Alexa - so glad you like the photos. Happy week ahead to you as well! Hope to see you back here soon~

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  14. We did a weekend visit to London and did hit all the major tourist sites. But we got a sample of Notting Hill And Camden, and the area around the meat market. I'd like to go back and skip the tourist stuff and do more of the neighborhood exploring. I feel that with most big cities like London there is the Tourist City and the Local City, and it's nice to get to see both.

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    1. For some reason my reply to you came out as a regular comment below yours. Bottom line - thanks so much for stopping by, and taking the time to comment!!

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  15. We did the tourist sites on our first trip and I do think they are a must- who could go to London and not see Big Ben or the palace, right? But I am like you, I love to see the neighborhoods and get a feel for how everyday people like me live. Thanks so much Eileen for stopping by~

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  16. When i was in London, I made plans to see lots of places. Sometimes, plans don't go as expected and I ended up doing a bit of a walk about. Some really interesting things can happen when you leave it to chance.

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    1. I agree Rhonda. You might not see all the 'sites' but you will certainly have plenty of 'sights' along the way. Thanks for stopping by today!

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  17. I laughed at your title. I never thing of the words low cost & London in the same sentence.

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    1. I must agree that even while we were doing it ourselves and low-cost, the prices did make you gasp a bit. Even with Brexit impacting the Pound it will still be a bit of a shock to do the dollar/pound exchange.

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  18. Lovely photos...I have always wanted to visit Hyde Park :)

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    1. Hyde Park is so large and so wonderful that we could have spent even more hours there strolling its grounds and people watching. Hope you get the chance to experience it one day! Thanks for stopping by~

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  19. I so love London, and am way overdue for a visit. It was nice stopping there for a bit with you. I always cram in so much when I visit that I barely have time to sleep.

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    1. It does that to you, doesn't it Carole? So much to see and do that you almost have to limit yourself to a certain amount each day, rest up a bit and then head out again at night. I share your love of this city!

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  20. Some of the best days are when we spontaneously explore. Haven't had the chance to do it in London, but would love to.

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    1. It is such a refreshing way to see a place. I have friends who repeatedly sign up for group tours to places and then report that they were up at 6:30 each day, had breakfast and started a group 'march' somewhere until they had a group dinner and then fell into bed exhausted. That's not our idea of a good trip - spontaneity is the approach we far prefer!

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  21. Hi Jackie. Your DIY touring looks perfect. It's been a long time since I've been in London. I'd love to see the Animals at War monument one of these days. Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

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  22. I agree that there is no better way to see a city than by aimless wandering....and living a few steps away from Selfridge & Co. can't be bad either:-)

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  23. I love those structure-free trips. I haven't been to London in awhile - you've got me wanting to go again!

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So happy to see you took the time to comment. We read them all - and each is much appreciated. We hope you will be a regular here and comment often!

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