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Things to do in London and the English countryside

Of the places I've been so far in Europe, London and the English countryside have been my favorite.  Just as quaint and homely as it is in the movies, London, and the little villages surrounding, are so charming and beautiful that they are almost magical.  It is no-wonder that this is the part of the world that inspired J.K. Rowling to create the Harry Potter books. 

My Friend Shay and I visited London in the fall, and here are our recommendations for some great things to do.  As an added bonus, they are all essentially free.

Arundel Castle

Me and Shay decided to go to Arundel Castle.  There are dozens of castles to visit in England, this was the biggest and most impressive one we could find near our location.  We tried to find a weak point in its sprawling bordering wall in order to gain a closer look, but turns out it is hard to break into a castle...  Arundel castle is open to tours in the spring, summer and early fall months and apparently holds real jousting tournaments. 

The village of Arundel

With a population of 3,400 people, the village of Arundel is a great place to hang out for the day.  There are a few parks, museums, old churches and no tourists in sight.  If you want a sense of what real England feels like, this is it. 

There are a ton of cool little trails and lake-paths to stroll down with your buddies.
No tourists around these charming little neighborhoods and streets.
Watch out for the swans, this guy almost ate my foot for dinner.

Seven Sisters country park / Sussex Heritage coast

Shay with the chalk cliffs in the background

The cliffs on the coastline near the 'Seven Sisters country park' are definitely worth seeing.  They are literally composed of chalk, a form of limestone that you can pick up off the ground and use to draw pictures on sidewalks.  Makes you a little nervous standing beneath these things, knowing that they could seemingly topple over at any moment.  Shay and I arrived just before sunset, but we wish we were here during the day to really take it all in.  

Downtown London

Things to do in the city of London

The great thing about London is that most things are within walking or biking distance.  If you do need to get on a bus, they are very simple and flow through the stops about once every seven minutes.  You must get a pre-paid bus card or a new style 'EMV contactless' credit card.  You buy the pre-paid cards at a train/subway station, the buses don't accept cash. 

Buckingham Palace

If you are riding the blue line from LHR airport, hop off at 'Green Park Station' as it is nice and centrally located.  Buckingham palace is just a quick walk through green park.  You can see the famous Queen's guards here, marching around in their signature furry hats.   

Buckingham Palace
Green Park
Furry hat man

Big Ben / Palace of Westminster

Camera settings:  
Shutter speed: 20 sec.  Iso: 100  Aperture: F2.8

Big Ben is hard to miss.  Towering over the river Thames, this clock tower can serve as your center beacon as you explore downtown London.  This whole area you'll want to see during the night as well.  

London Eye

At about 22 British pounds per ride, one might be better off just looking at this giant wheel. 

Rent a Bike

How much does it cost to rent a bike in London? This central location is the perfect place to rent a bike.  There are bike-rental stands all throughout London, and once you rent a bike from one stand, you can return it to any stand in the city.  Renting a bike for a full 24 hours only costs 2 pounds (3USD) and is a perfect way to get to all the places you wanna see.  There are pretty decent bike paths/walk-ways all along the river in most parts, but in some places you'll have to navigate around wandering people and narrow roads. 

MI6 - James Bond's office

The coolest place in London as far as I'm concerned.  Who wouldn't wanna walk in the footsteps of Daniel Craig, Pierce Brosnan and Sean Connery.  This real life 'Secret Intelligence Service' has been in many Bond movies over the years, and holds a special place in my heart.  Try to sneak in the front entrance with some sharp wit or a handsome smile, the guards with mp5's won't mind.

Tower Bridge

Me and Shay only spent two days in London, but that's all it took for us to fall in love (with the city, not each other...)  Haha, but seriously if London is a place you are thinking about visiting during your Euro-trip, move it to the top of your list.  

London FAQ

What Camera did you use on this trip?

      This camera has really good functionality and is the best for video, but I found myself wishing I had a full-frame camera for stills.  Maybe one day...

Can an american rent a car in London? 

  • Yes, all you need is an American License and a credit card.  You will also save a lot of money if you are over 25 years old.

As an American, is it hard to drive on the left (wrong) side of the road?

  • Driving on the left side of the road isn't that hard in and of itself.  Combine driving on the left with shifting a manual car with your left hand, sitting with the steering wheel on the right side of the car, and not having a clue where your going or what any signs mean, and this all starts to become nightmarish.  After a while you kinda get a hang of it.  Thank God we didn't crash.  I did smash into the curb 4 times though... 

My Airbnb discount code:  www.airbnb.com/c/kevink151

Does an american need a visa to travel to London?

  • No they do not.

how much is gas in London? 

  • Super expensive!!  it was 1.19 British pounds per liter, do the conversion to American dollars, you're looking at 3.79 liters per gallon x 1.82 USD = $6.90 USD /gallon.  Thankfully our Fiat 500 got 50 mpg despite me red-lining it the entire time..  

Are there speed cameras in England?

  • There is literally a string of speed cameras across the 'interstate' once every two kilometers.  Are they on/do they work?  I don't think so.  People actually drive pretty fast here, about as fast, if not faster than Americans drive on the interstate.  Nobody would slow down for these cameras, and I never saw one of them flash.  We saw cars drive past going over 85mph and nothing happened.  I'm thinking the cameras are just some kind of scare tactic, or else they're not actually active.  Or the English just seem to know something I don't... 
  • Also, side note, we think the right lane of the highway is actually the fast lane.  People would get angry when we drove the speed limit in the right lane.  Side side note, I have no idea what the speed limit is/was.  We couldn't see a sign for it the whole time.. 

Is there a train from London Heathrow international airport to downtown London?

  • Yes, it's the blue line subway, it's located at the exact center of the -1 Level of the airport.  This single subway will take you the entire way, no need to get off and change trains.

How much is the train from LHR (London Heathrow international airport) to city center?

  • About 10 USD

How long is the train ride from LHR to downtown London?

  • Exactly 45 minutes.
  • There is also a faster (first class style) train called the "Heathrow Express" that takes 18 minutes for about 30 USD, but we don't fit in with that crowd...

Is there anywhere to park a car in downtown London?

  • Kind of, but you will save yourself a lot of stress if you ditch your car and take the train into the city. 

Where is the location of the Abbey Road Beatles album cover? 

  • Facing north at the intersection of Abbey Road and Grove End Road.  Abbey road was the one place we did not make it to, as it is on the outskirts of town and the bus driver wouldn't let us aboard with our unaccepted, old-style credit cards 🙁