How to behave like loony tourists in a leading global city
Roaming the streets of London, exploring the home of British monarchs…and a few million expats
Tower of London
So, what do you do when your eldest son has flown the nest, migrating like a bird from the southern hemisphere to the north to become an expat in a leading global city? You do what all expat parents do. We visit him of course and use it as a good excuse to see another country! I like to think we’re not the only ones that behaved like loony tourists where royalty lives.
In May and June of 2006, we left our den and roamed our way around the streets of London as well as a few other places too. Everyone knows it’s the home of the British monarchs, but I think we’d all be surprised how many expats there are too. A few million! This time we were staying for longer than just four days, unlike our last visit to London.
What can I tell you about the City of London that you haven’t heard before? Undoubtedly not much but browsing through our photos might just be worthwhile. We took an excess of pictures as all tourists do. The pictures will tell most of the story and I’ll add a few snippets. This is not a city guide with tips and highlights to see, but a glimpse of what we did and how we survived on a fairly low budget.
We dashed around the usual tourist traps. Some we’d seen before. It didn’t matter, we enjoyed seeing them again. Those we hadn’t, we enjoyed even more.
London and outskirts.
Outside of London:
Fragments of our personal experiences:
We strode along the streets of London, trailing our resident son like faithful puppies, or rather the men sauntered ahead and I jogged behind at speed. Picture this: three men walking ahead like royalty and a short woman a few steps behind, puffing and panting, while trying to keep up (I had bronchitis at that stage too, to add to my lack of oxygen).
This was when we commenced with the 'ostrich'. Where it originated from, I don't recall. Let me explain: if we couldn't always see each other in the crowds of tourists, especially me, being of short stature, we would raise an arm, stretched up high and make an ostrich like beak to identify each other in the crowds. The people around us must have thought we were just slightly deranged or perhaps they shook their heads at what looked to them like a few country bumpkins or loony tourists that have been set free in a top international city for the first time. We had fun though and certainly laughed nonstop.
To get around we used the underground or tube, which is an integral part of any commuter in London. The three tourists didn’t always know where we were going or which line to catch, but Mr Expat chortled, “Don’t worry, I know where I’m going.” We had to agree, he did, but we hopped on and off like grasshoppers, with the odd “Come on, Mom!”
As for filling our tummies, we survived on cheap student type food, following our son’s example. We ate many a meal at a reduced price making good use of specials such as two for the price of one or eat as much as you like for the next hour. Some of the supermarkets sold produce at reduced prices because they were reaching their sell by date too. We had our first taste of Subway – the fast food outlet, that is. Not too unpalatable for franchise food. You may ask why we chose to eat budget food; because we had to pay for all the sights we wanted to see.
Our accommodation was at the Tavistock hotel. It is a huge tourist establishment with busloads of tourists being carted in. A full English breakfast was included. The mass production of rubbery fried eggs floating in oil and leathery bacon was not ideal, but at least we didn’t starve. The price of the accommodation wasn't too bad either.
One of the things on my bucket list was to visit the Chelsea flower show. Although it is expensive, (now about GBP 35 to 105) the Chelsea show was a "wow" moment for me. We were dazzled by the colourful floral exhibits as we strolled around the innovative garden designs.
Having designed and installed 3 show gardens myself in my own hometown at one of our local influential nurseries, I had a vague idea of what it entailed. The gardens at Chelsea though, were awe inspiring. The main marquee was so colourful and a cloud of fragrance hung in the air. Towers of flowers, pillars of strawberries and swathes of floral exhibits stood proudly in their stalls.
Did I mention we took photos? We took an overabundance of snaps at the flower show alone that I could dedicate an entire photo blog to that. I even hobnobbed with some of the gardening fraternity TV personalities in the flesh - almost! They obviously didn’t know I was there (or they just ignored me) I mean, really! But then I would have too, if I was in their shoes.
By the end of the day hubby and I were drooping like wilted flowers, and I could have happily kicked off my shoes to pamper my weary toes on the cool grass or in the soft loam of the flower beds, but it wouldn’t be fair to squish those magnificent flowers with my feet. I’m forever grateful that I had the opportunity to see it and I would recommend it to anyone. Even hubby had fun, although he, not being a gardener, is most likely to call a rose by another name.
I would advise though that you buy your tickets well in advance and expect to stand in queues.
After having seen the sights of London, we boarded the train for the Lake districts. We stayed with family whom we hadn't seen for ages. The scenery around that area was stunning! Upon our previous visit to the UK, we had a glimpse of it but this time we spent a few days and could see a whole lot more.
We explored and browsed around, then popped in to the odd pub for a meal. I love walking around the lakes and enjoy the scenery, that’s before one even heads up into the mountains.
I think some of the gardens were affected by the floods from 5th and 6th of December 2015.
The guys had tickets to a rugby game in Edinburgh, so we drove up to Scotland for a fleeting trip. While the men watched a game of rugby, the gals visited a friend. We also managed to do a small amount of sightseeing before the rugby game. On the way back to the Lake districts we popped in at Gretna Green, before going back to London and saying our sad farewells.
** Apologies for the dates on the photos. They were taken in the days before I started blogging and took note of such things. **
Like what you saw? Pin it, please.
Have any of you become travellers by default, because your families are expats? I think we should start our own group. Who’s going to come up with a name? Although, my theory is, many of our children may have become expats BECAUSE we introduced them to travel.