On my way to Cape Town, South Africa, I had a 12-hour layover in London. My boss offered to pay for a hotel so that I could catch up on some much needed sleep, but I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to stroll through this magnificent city.
Beyond finding an old map from the last time I visited London, I made absolutely zero plans. I think my thought process went something like, “I bet a yellow brick road will appear for me just like it did for Dorothy, and my backpack can’t weigh more than 2 pounds with its laptop, 2 textbooks, giant camera, and week worth of Clif bars. I bet London at the beginning of December is pretty warm, but I’ll pack a light jacket just in case.”
Here’s the breakdown of how I spent 8 hours in London spending only $21.14. For 18.14 US dollars, I bought a day pass for the Tube. The Piccadilly line took me from Heathrow to Hyde Park Corner. Minus the trip back to Heathrow, I spent the rest of the day on foot.
I wandered briefly though Hyde Park. I was stopped by two elderly British ladies who wanted help with directions. Their faces paled a bit when they heard my American accent, but I felt pretty great that I at least looked like I knew where I was going.
From Hyde Park, I went to Buckingham Palace, Buckingham Palace to the House of Parliament and Big Ben. Please note that Big Ben is actually the bell inside of the Palace of Westminster and not the iconic tower itself.
I took a break on the Queen’s Walk overlooking the Thames while I drank coffee and devoured a Clif bar then continued on my way to the London Eye, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe, and London Bridge (a rather nondescript bridge that shouldn’t be confused with Tower Bridge) before backtracking to cross the Thames on the Millennium Bridge.
Hunger and cold set in as the sense of adventure wore off so after gazing in awe at the Westminster Cathedral, I set off determined to find food and a way back to the airport. Well, it turns out hunger also happens to leave my brain without a great capacity for decision making, and so with my heavy backpack now slung in front of me off of one shoulder, I stumbled down the stairs to catch the Tube back to Heathrow.