I am back from India, it was great, and I’m exhausted!
What the heck is the best thing to do for 12 daytime hours after a 5 hour red-eye flight from Boston? Easy. Here are your instructions, photographically presented.
Step 1: After taking a brief (er, several hour) nap in the airport, clear Customs and head for London’s futuristically-nicknamed “Tube” subway. Take the Blue line in the direction of… Cockfosters. (Stifle giggles.) At the South Kensington Stop, switch to the Yellow or Green line towards Westminster and get off at that stop. This whole thing takes forever… or rather, an hour and a half.
Step 2: Emerge from the Westminster train station in a stumbling daze (a red-eye flight, time change, airport nap, plus 90 minutes on a train will do that to you). Realize it is dark, raining, and cold. Pause to scoff at London weather– then suddenly feel your breath catch in your drizzle-soaked throat as you look up and see the most beautiful train exit sight imaginable: Big Ben’s belly!
Step 3: Dash into the drizzle to the glory of Big Ben! Do not get hit by cars driving the wrong way, nor by throngs of tourists and locals stomping down the sidewalk. Shield your camera from dollops of rain.
Step 4: Remember your facts. Big Ben is the nickname of the clock tower (officially called Elizabeth Tower) on the Palace of Westminster, the building where the British Parliament meets to do its government thang. Big Ben is the third tallest freestanding clock in the world, and was finished in 1858. Most importantly, however, it was the site of the climactic fight scene in the animated movie, “The Great Mouse Detective.”
Step 5: Oh my! You have been so entranced by Big Ben that you missed another tourist gem just across the Thames River… The London Eye!
Step 6: Argue with your husband. Him: “That’s a cute ferris wheel.” You: “That’s not a boring old ferris wheel! That’s the London Eye!” Him: “Looks like a ferris wheel to me.”
Step 7: Eye your watch and calculate how much time you have before the long trek back to the airport if you want to make your flight in time. Eye the bridge over the Thames towards the London Eye. Feel the allure. Also feel cold.
Step 8: Declare that you shall cross the bridge to the London Eye! Become soaked with mist-fog-rain by the third footfall. Ogle double-decker busses in their red glory. Drink in the London Eye’s pulsing blue.
Step 9: You have crossed the bridge!!! Shiver. Feel the weight of your backpack. Take artsy photos of the London Eye. Wish you had the time and money to ride it before your flight. Glance frantically at your watch.
Step 10: Cajole German tourists to take a nice photo of you with Big Ben glinting across the river. Subsequently get roped into taking photos for those same German tourists, then the next ten couples who walk by. Freak out about time. Be about to run back across the bridge when you spot a store called…
Step 11: “Wonder Waffle?!” How could you pass up a Wonder Waffle, whatever the heck that is? There are all sorts of crazy waffle options at this magical place. You may be getting tight on time to get to the airport, but your pants are getting loose with hunger. A waffle of some sort is essential.
Step 12: Decide against the bean waffle and order the heaping dessert waffle. Be very disappointed at the fact that it actually stinks. It’s a spongy, luke-warm disaster. Oh well– at least it looks decadent.
Step 13: Find David Beckham (in plastic form) standing around (in an advertising display) and kiss him (with a hygienic half-foot distance from the already-slobbered-on plastic). Eeeeiii!
Step 14: Take a final fabulous photo of Big Ben before slogging back across the bridge and onto the 90-minute Tube ride back to the airport to catch your next flight. Be happy you peeked at London, at least a teeny tiny bit, rather than staying in the sticky airport sofas for those five hours. Well done!
There you have our 12-hour London Layover escapade on the way to India. What is YOUR advice for long layovers in London or elsewhere? Do you enjoy the sight of Big Ben and the London Eye as much as I do? And would you kiss plastic David Beckham square on the dirty cheek? Do tell.
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!