Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast in London. (Image courtesy of Nick Fewings / Creative Commons / Flickr)
Walnut High School

Column: My experience visiting London before COVID-19

During the winter of 2019, before the COVD-19 pandemic, I went on a winter break trip with my family, and one of our stops was London.

I arrived in London the day after winter break started and it was the first city that I visited on my winter break trip. London is a bustling capital of 9 million people and is one of the most visited cities in the world. Although I did not spend a lot of time there, the experience was good and I enjoyed it. 

The first thing that I noticed when I landed in London was the weather since it was very different from the weather in Los Angeles. The weather in London is considered abnormal and miserable for a lot of people. During the winter, temperatures get to a cold 30 degrees Fahrenheit but usually, they sit at an uncomfortable 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

The air can appear as a combination of mist and fog and is a one of a kind climate. I personally did not like the weather in London. The foggy and misty air made the city appear miserable and dirty.

The weather was too cold for my liking as it required me to wear a thick jacket and take it off whenever I got indoors. ّIt got so cold at night that it started snowing once or twice.

After I finally beat three days of jetlag, the first place I went to was Selfridges since I wanted to get some shopping done. Selfridges was founded by Harry Gordon in 1908. It is a chain of high-end designer retail stores and is very well known in the UK.

The owner wanted to make shopping fun instead of a chore so he opened up a department store. There used to be many activities and fun aspects to occupy people who didn’t want to shop, including things like a lounge for men to wait in for their wives, but today, that isn’t really there anymore. Now, it functions like any other department store. 

Selfridges was a nice place but it was not really anything too impressive. Compared to other high-end department stores like Barney’s or Neiman Marcus in the US, it was really about the same.

However, they had good service and nothing about the experience could be considered bad either. The employees were pretty nice, and since I already had something that I wanted to buy, they quickly assisted me and transferred me to another department where I could find the item. 

After some planning using a map of London, we decided to go to Buckingham Palace first. Opened in 1705, Buckingham Palace was built to house the royal family of the UK, and it still does. Today, it is a highly visited tourist destination, and there are many attractions like the royal guards and the palace itself.

This site is highly recommended for people who love sightseeing and large buildings. While we did not actually go inside or close to the actual palace, we still got a good look at it. 

The Buckingham Palace was one of the destinations of a “hop-on, hop-off” bus that we took. You buy a ticket for 24 hours and then you can hop on any time it comes by and then hop off when they stop at a destination that you want to visit.

From the entrance of Buckingham, the palace itself does not look very big or impressive, but according to my friend who has visited it before, it gets much more impressive when you enter the gates.

I feel like if I went close to it and participated in some of the tours, my experience would have been a lot better. Because I did not thoroughly visit the palace, I am not able to give a rating or review of it out of fairness. 

While continuing on the hop on hop off bus, we passed the London Bridge, which I did not notice until the driver pointed it out to me. There have been lots of bridges that have connected the opposite sides of the River Thames, but the most famous one is the London Bridge.

While it has been replaced numerous times, the physical London Bridge has a history of 2000 years and is a symbol of London. It was also made popular by the popular folk song, “London Bridge is Falling Down.” 

While it felt kind of special to be driving on such an iconic bridge, the experience was not as cool or interesting as one would imagine it to be. Besides its history, this bridge was just another bridge that connects two masses of land, something that pretty much all bridges do. However, it does look very cool when I show people a picture of it.

When we reached Big Ben, we decided to hop off the bus and take some pictures because it is a very famous monument and it was cool to see it for the first time.

Big Ben is a very famous clock tower standing above the Palace of Westminster. It was originally used to tell time during wars and to signal church times, but it now only serves as a tourist destination. It also symbolizes the success and continued functioning of the UK government since a clock symbolizes that time is still moving. 

Big Ben was actually a pretty cool experience for me. In many pictures of London, Big Ben is a very visible building in the skyline, and it was very nice to be able to see the clock tower in person. I am a big fan of skyscrapers and skyscraper-like buildings so this clock tower certainly caught my eye. 

Overall, in the 4 nights I spent in London, I had a lot of fun after I beat my jetlag. There were lots of things to see in the city, and I did not have enough time to cover even half of it. London is definitely a place that I plan to revisit again once the travel restrictions of the pandemic are lifted.