London: A perfect weekend escape

by Meghan Augsburger
Ramstein High School intern

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

Buzzing with life both night and day, one can never be bored in London. From rock-and-roll musicals to exclusive shopping trips, it is the perfect city for a quick, weekend trip.

Traveling to the City
There are many forms of transportation that can get you to London. A popular option is flying from Hahn Air Base with a cheap but strict airline based out of Ireland. At times, they advertise specials such as tickets for only a few Euros. Though easy on the wallet, the airline has many rules about luggage and seating arrangements.

Only one bag may be brought in cabin per person. It must be 55 cm x 40 cm x 20 cm and weigh no more than 10 kilograms.

Passengers are not assigned to certain seats, as is custom with other airlines. They can pick any seat they like. This makes it a necessity to get on the plane as quickly as possible, especially if you are traveling with people and would like to sit with them.

For those worried about finding a seat, priority boarding is an option for an extra £5 when booked online or £10 at the airport.

These flights are routed through London-Stansted Airport, which is a 45-minute train ride away from London itself.

Other transportation options include taking a Eurostar high-speed train through the Chunnel or arriving by ferry. If traveling by ferry without a car, there are London train connections at the major ports.

Getting Around
Once in London, one can travel by bus, metro, train or taxi. The easiest mode of transportation is with the metro system, the Tube. The best part about the system is that another train arrives every three minutes.

For those planning on using the Tube as much as possible, the Oyster card may be the best option. The Oyster card gives you discounts on fares for the Tube, buses and trains. Simply purchase one at a ticket office and swipe it when using any public transportation.

London’s iconic taxis are easy to spot on the streets but are more expensive than many of the other forms of public transportation.

London has a variety of incredible museums that are completely free. The British Museum, a well-known history museum, has everything from the Rosetta Stone to ancient Parthenon sculptures.

Museum artifact exhibits are categorized by what region or ancient civilization they originated from. The largest and most popular exhibits are the ancient Egyptian, ancient Greece and Rome, and Middle East sections.

Mummies, sarcophaguses, and limestone slabs of hieroglyphics are on display in the Egyptian section. Most of the Greek and Roman portion of the museum is filled with sculptures and vases. The Middle Eastern section has huge stone sculptures of Assyrian gods and lions that once guarded their ancient cities. Different Islamic artifacts can be found as well in this section.

Another museum popular with tourists is the Victoria and Albert Museum, which houses a variety of artwork and design projects.

Many museums cater specifically to children. The Natural History Museum and Science Museum have hands-on, interactive exhibits that make learning fun for kids.

Though most attractions are not free, they are absolute must-sees when visiting London. Parliament and Westminster Abbey, the coronation church, are located near Big Ben and are open to the public.

Other popular destinations are the Tower of London and the London Bridge. Known for its infamous torture chambers, the Tower of London was once used as a fortress and armory. Today, the famed crown jewels are displayed in their newly designed exhibit.

The London Bridge provides an especially scary exhibit called the “London Bridge Experience and London tombs. Walking through secret tunnels, frightening characters jump out and tell the story of the haunted catacombs.

Some attractions are free and fun to explore. Big Ben, the iconic clock tower named for its biggest bell, is near the Parliament building. Though it is not possible to go inside, it is fantastic to photograph and look at.

At Buckingham Palace in February, Changing of the Guard ceremonies are held every odd numbered day. Wearing traditional uniforms, the old and new guards switch duties.

Many activities and sights can be enjoyed for free. For Beatles fans, visiting the famous Abbey Road is a fantastic idea. Art lovers can visit the National Gallery or National Portrait Gallery and see the newest portrait of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge.

Exploring London’s shopping districts and luxurious department stores is also entertaining. Though the products are expensive, it’s interesting to look at the exclusive products and lavish interior designs of the stores. The most popular department stores include Harrods and Fortnum and Mason.

London has plays ranging from comedies to dramas to musicals. Catch a show either in the afternoon, before dinner, or later in the evening. Most shows can be seen throughout the week but often do not run on Sundays.

The most popular musicals at the moment are:

  • Wicked
  • We Will Rock You
  • The Lion King
  • Les Misérables
  • Shrek

Shows coming up in the next few months include:

  • Macbeth
  • The Book of Mormon
  • The Audience
  • A Chorus Line

Tickets can be purchased online, at theater box offices, or through ticket agencies such as Encore Tickets. Never buy tickets off of scalpers because they are often stolen, forged or very expensive.

Traditional British cuisine consists of heart meats and vegetables, stews, pies, puddings and fish. Today, curry dishes have also become very popular.

The following can be found in British pubs and restaurants:

  • Steak and kidney pudding – crust made of suet (beef or mutton fat) and flour with minced beef and kidney
  • Toad in the Hole – Yorkshire pudding with sausages
  • Fish and chips – fried fish with French fries
  • Shepard’s pie – pie crust filled with minced lamb
  • Roasted chicken
  • Green pea soup

Though these are traditional dishes, London is filled with restaurants of all kinds. At Piccadilly Circus, there are many family oriented restaurants such as the Rainforest Café. Leicester Square is also filled with various types of restaurants such as Mexican, Japanese, and Indian food.

Between 4 and 7 p.m., the British have their afternoon tea. It is customary to indulge in a cup of tea and finger foods. The glitzy, expensive hotels in London such as The Ritz or The Savoy often hold afternoon tea services. However, they must be booked in advance. In many cases, there is a dress code for those attending.

At tea services, they often serve:

  • Cucumber sandwiches
  • Coronation chicken sandwiches
  • Scones
  • Pastries
  • Macaroons
  • Cakes