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As this London series comes to a close, I want to emphasize the surprises I had during this week-long trip to London and Dublin. First of all, the trip was all an accident. I never intended to spend Christmas in Europe until fairly late in November. All of a sudden we had to book plane tickets and hotels for a group of people, and the planning process was quite arduous and urgent. There was some good out of all this. Our plane tickets on British Airways included 2 free nights in central London. I was able to get in contact with several Hong Kong forumers residing in UK, and meeting up with InitialD for an urban design walking tour. It's quite ironic that we seldom meet in Hong Kong. We seem to favour bumping shoulders in either New York or London now. :)

My collection of photos is almost completely uploaded to my website.

1. Buses to and from the City

2. The view from St. Paul's is magnificent, and well worth the long stair climb

3. A very nice square next to St. Paul's

4. Street level

5. The "wibbly-wobbly" Millennium Bridge

6. Towards Westminster

7. Horse Guards

8. Wellington Arch

9. Memorial

10. This was a surprise to me - you can take the elevator to an outdoor viewing platform at the Wellington Arch!

11. The view wasn't spectacular, but interesting.

12. A dark London day ... after 4 consecutive days of blue skies

13. Apsley House

14. I did some bus spotting at Hyde Park Corner to get some photos of the famous red double decker.

15. I weaved along the underground subways to cross a few intersections, but wound up along the grassy median of Park Avenue for the best shots.

16. I prefer riding the bus rather than the Underground. A good reason was because the #7 terminus was right next to my hotel, and it goes straight through Oxford Street.

17. If it was a bit brighter, then I would've gotten a lot more clearer photos of the street. I didn't walk around on Oxford a lot during this trip. I already covered this part to death on my last visit to London.

18. London 2012

19. Harrods @ Knightsbridge

20. I changed a number of bus routes to go from Hyde Park Corner to South Kensington with stops at the Wellington Arch and Harrods. My group mates were quite amazed at how easy I can navigate London's public transport system. I find it much more user-friendly than most other cities I've been to.

21. A piece of Dubai in London

22. More buses ...

23. High Street Kensington near Hyde Park's west end

24. I was quite surprised by Southwest Trains. They were the most high-tech pieces of art I've ever been on for a commuter service. I made a big planning mistake though, because the trains from Paddington only took half the time to get to Windsor compared to their Waterloo counterparts.

25. I really like the approach to St. Paul's, although it's very hard to get a nice frame for the cathedral at street level.

26. Egypt and the London Eye

27. This memorial to animals in war surprised me a little. It was along Park Avenue and the theme is quite unique. I wonder if any other place in the world has something like this.

28. Park Avenue would look a lot nicer when the leaves come out in the spring.

29. A random photo from the top deck of a bus heading west through South Kensington

30. I lived in South Kensington on my first visit to London. I hated taking the elevators down to the deeply-buried Piccadilly Line station at Gloucester Road. I usually planned my day around the District and Circle Line instead, which was only a short staircase down from street level. A lot of their stations are open-air in that part of town.

31. InitialD took me around Canary Wharf to see some modern skyscrapers. I actually prefer the denser City over this part of London.

Now for some more commentary on photos I've posted in previous parts that are memorable to me :

32. I was very surprised at how blue and sunny London was in the middle of the winter. I expected a lot of rain and planned whole days in museums and other indoor activities if the clouds did roll in, but they didn't. For 4 consecutive days it was so sunny!

33. The Albert Memorial is a very beautiful structure, and I didn't see it in the guidebook at all. It caught my attention as I was riding the bus towards Westminster. I made a dedicated stop a few days later just as the skies cleared out yet again.

34. I visited Piccadilly Circus during the early morning and at night. I prefer Leicester Square though.

35. At night

36. The view from Tate Modern's cafe is quite nice. It's an interesting vantage point and I remember someone from this forum recommended it to me when I was asking for suggestions. You'd never read about these in the touristy guidebooks. That's why I like to ask local forumers for travel advice to get something different. :)

37. Armed with my London Pass, I was on a mission to visit as many attractions available on that card as possible. The feeling of getting more for free was especially satisfying for me since I had to pay for my plane ticket to London. Usually I fly on points and I had enough for a free flight to London, but I booked too late and there was no space left for mileage travel. I had to fail a whole bunch of people's final exams to make it across the Atlantic!

38. Beautiful blue skies and quite a nice contrast as well!

39. I felt extremely safe walking around in London. I ventured out a number of times at night. I spent a lot of time one night in the internet cafe burning photos onto a CD-R to free up my memory card. My record was 400 photos in a day on my New York trip last summer. I wasn't as insane this time, but still took a lot of photos.

40. I still have a lot of problems taking photos at night though. I didn't bring my tripod along with me, and I have to fiddle around with the camera's settings to get something half-decent going. Nevertheless, I still did a night-time walking tour of the City ... at 10pm. The streets were completely deserted. For once, I was scared walking out there.

41. London has a rich variety of architecture. The new City Hall is quite unique.

42. I did a whirlwind itinerary on my last day in London. Paddington was one of them. I was originally planning to visit all the key train stations in London, but only managed to do 3 in the end.

43. My visit to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre set me back by 45 minutes from schedule. In fact, I was very late getting to Heathrow. I didn't want to pay for a taxi, so I stuck to the Piccadilly Line. The trip wasn't that long - 50 minutes from Central London - but the fear of missing my plane made every second more painful to bear. Thank goodness I could do electronic check-in and I made it an hour before departure, and still had time to take a few photos at Terminal 4.

44. Returning to the bitter cold North American winter, with my last ounce of strength enjoying the complimentary white wine.

I hope this 19-part series was worth your time, and I look forward to surprising everyone very soon.

Other London Threads on the Forum
1 - View from St. Paul's
2 - BA London Eye
3 - The Underground
4 - Canary Wharf
5 - Leicester Square, Chinatown, Trafalgar Square
6 - Tower of London
7 - Tower Bridge
8 - Albert & Princess Diana Memorials
9 - Tate Modern & Shakespeare Globe
10 - A Walk in Central London
11 - St. Paul's Cathedral
12 - Walking Around Canary Wharf
13 - Walking Around The City
14 - Railway Hubs
15 - Night Tour
16 - Windsor Castle
17 - Piccadilly Circus
18 - Waterfront Walk & Lt Museum
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