|Winter Honeymoon in London
My first impression of London as I stepped off
the plane after a grueling twelve-hour flight was: "It’s so
cold". With a maximum temperature of around 7°C, one could be forgiven
for wondering why on earth we would choose London as a honeymoon destination
in November. But the truth is London is one of the most beautiful and
exciting cities in the world, regardless of when you go. My husband and I
were in awe of the hustling bustling crowds that swarmed the streets, shops,
restaurants and every available area. There is an electric atmosphere in
London that surpasses anything one can feel in Johannesburg or Cape Town or
But let’s start at the beginning. Arriving
at Heathrow Airport is like arriving in a city in itself. I had never seen
such a large airport. We managed to find a taxi to take us to our hotel
because we were a bit unsure of navigating the Tube all by ourselves with so
much luggage. A taxi will set you back a pretty penny, but may be worth it
if you have never been to London before. Ours cost around £30.
The Tavistock Hotel (http://www.londonhotels.ndirect.co.uk/tavistoc.htm),
where we spent six wonderful nights, is a centrally-located, three-star
hotel, situated just around the corner from the Russell Square tube station
on the Piccadilly Line. The staff is efficient and cordial and the rooms are
comfortable. Our travel agent had unfortunately forgotten to mention the
fact that the hotel does not give double rooms to travel agencies and so we
were quite shocked to find two single beds in our "honeymoon
The hotel had no double rooms available and
so we had to make do with tying the two beds together! Not the ideal
honeymoon situation, but we made the best of it. My advice to avoid this
kind of mix-up is to either forgo the travel agent entirely or else to
contact the hotel yourself and ensure that you are booked into a double
The wonderful thing about London is that it’s
so easy to get around. The Tube can take you anywhere you need to go with a
minimum of fuss and the system is not that difficult to navigate.
London is a unique mix of nature and
humanity. We were surprised to glimpse squirrels frolicking in a nearby park
as we walked to the Tube station. The red, gold and orange of London’s
Autumn leaves drift down streets a flood with taxis and trucks, creating a
picture worthy of Da Vinci’s brush. The beauty of a Cape Town sunset or
the moonlit beaches of Port Elizabeth is eclipsed by this image of the
London of contrast. As we stepped into the rush of the station, it is hard
to believe that such beauty can exist in a city that thrives on its mad pace
Our first stop was Madame Tussaud’s (http://www.madame-tussauds.com),
which is just a few steps from the Baker Street station. At £10.50 per
person, Madame Tussaud’s may appear expensive but it is well worth it. Our
first encounter with the life-like wax inhabitants of this interesting
museum was a face-to-face encounter with Mr. Terminator himself, Arnold
Schwarzenegger. We had an official photograph taken of ourselves cozying up
to Arnie, which we later purchased at the exit for £3.50. We spent an
incredibly fun and surprisingly romantic afternoon rubbing shoulders with
the doubles of Sean Connery, Naomi Campbell, Lennie Henry, our own Nelson
Mandela and Princess Di. The wonderful thing about Madame Tussaud’s is
that, unlike most other tourist places, they have no problem with your
taking photographs of the wax models. We used almost an entire film.
As evening fell – and since it was winter,
evening came as early as 4pm – we took a leisurely stroll through Covent
Garden Market. The sights and smells of London can best be captured by
looking at its markets and Covent Garden is the epitome of the London
lifestyle. Street carts selling huge baked potatoes filled with everything
from tuna to baked beans line the streets, while rap musicians and Opera
singers entertain diners and browsers. Souvenir stalls abound and you can
purchase anything from miniature statues of Big Ben to gold-leaf paintings
of tourist scenes at reasonable prices. Walking hand in hand with my new
husband through the exotic wonders of London’s best known market was an
experience I won’t soon forget and one that I recommend to anyone who
travels to England’s capital.
The next morning dawned bright and brisk –
which is another way of saying cold – and we ventured out of the hotel to
Our first taste of a London department store more than lived up to our
expectations. Selfridges is a three-floor shopper’s dream situated at Bond
Street and specializing in anything your heart desires. The home ware
department alone is bigger than a Woolworth’s or an Edgars. We took a
break from shopping at the Selfridges coffee shop, which offers such a range
of choice that it took ten minutes to decide what to order. The prices are
steep, but bargains do abound if you know where to look. Videos and CDs,
especially, can be bought at much lower prices than locally and, of course,
the choice is much larger.
Our next stop was the London Zoo (http://www.weboflife.co.uk/londonzoo/).
If you are an animal-lover like me the Zoo is a must-see. Housing over 6000
different types of animals, London Zoo is situated in romantic Regent’s
Park. Here, the majestic Bengal Tiger shares the stage with a baby
We ventured into the Nightlife section, where
baby foxes and strange-looking Egyptian Jereboas, which look like mice on
stilts, make their homes. The Zoo keeps this underground haven at constant
twilight during the day, so that the animals that only roam at night can be
visible to Zoo visitors.
The petting farm is wonderful for kids and
grown-ups alike. You can stroke goats, sheep, ponies and even big fat pigs.
We spent half a day just wandering around and we did not even see half of
the Zoo’s inhabitants.
No trip to London would be complete without
sampling the theatre offerings of the West End. My husband and I were
fortunate to see two exquisite West End musicals during our honeymoon stay.
The first was really the best. Disney’s stage adaptation of their animated
feature Beauty and the Beast (http://disney.co.uk/MusicalTheatre/beautyuk/m2.htm)
surpassed our expectations and was truly the highlight of our trip.
We took the Tube to the beautiful Dominion
Theatre and sat spellbound as the actors and actresses of Disney’s
Theatrical Company brought "the greatest love story ever told" to
life before our eyes. Disney has done a truly fantastic job with this play.
The special effects, costumes and choreography were magnificent and the
actors and actresses shone in their roles. It was truly the most wonderful
theatre experience we had ever had and the perfect end to a fabulously
The next day we braced ourselves for a hectic
rush of sightseeing as we boarded the Big Bus Company open-top tour of
London (http://www.bigbus.co.uk). The
bus tour, one of many in London, follows three prescribed routes through the
main tourist areas of the capital.
Our first stop was the breath-taking
Trafalgar Square where Nelson’s Column towers above mortal man and the
waters of the beautifully sculpted fountain spout from the mouths of nymphs
The Square is opposite London’s National
Gallery, which was our next stop. There is no way to cover all the art
exhibited in the gallery in one day and we only managed to scratch the
surface as we strolled through room after room of the Sainsbury Wing which
houses artwork from 1260 to 1500. There is so much to see, in fact, that
after a while the paintings all seem to blend into one another and it looks
like you are seeing the same painting over and over again. My advice to
those who really want to take in the essence of the awe-inspiring art that
has its home in the National Gallery is to take things slowly. Visit a
different section each day and take your time.
Stopping only to pick up a few souvenir gifts
for the family back home, we hopped back onto the bus and made our way to
the (infamous London Dungeon, a museum of a different sort, a museum of the
macabre. The dungeon goes all out to scare the living daylights out of you.
We were greeted by white-faced Dracula's who directed us to a room where I
had the opportunity to chop my new husband's head off. Don't worry it was
just a pose for the official photograph, which (as usual) you could purchase
at the exit for £3.50.
Moving into the museum itself, we were
confronted with some of the most gruesome and terrifying scenes from English
and European history. We watched as men were stretched on the rack, beheaded
with axes or burnt at the stake. Definitely not a stop for the
We then ventured through two large doors
which shut ominously behind us and found a not so friendly tour guide
waiting for us. She went onto explain in gory detail what various torture
and restraint devices did to a person. There was a very interesting one that
fitted around a man's private parts, but we won't go into that!
Next we were ushered into a medieval
courtroom where we were summarily found guilty and sentenced to death. We
were taken to Traitor's Gate (or rather a replica thereof) and put into a
boat. We floated up the river to the execution dock, where we were shot to
death. The ride is very exciting and a great deal of fun.
From our execution we wandered into the land
of Jack the Ripper where we were treated to as glimpse of his handiwork and
a recreation of all the Ripper murders. Our tour ended with a trip to a
French Revolution execution scene complete with guillotine. Watch out for
After a quick trip to Hay's Gallaria and the
HMS Belfast, we ended our day with a visit to the infamous Tower of London
where we saw the real Traitor's Gate. Our guide, Scottish Yeoman Warder
George regaled us with tales of the various executions and imprisonments
that have taken place at the Tower over the years. The highlight of the tour
was, of course, seeing the Crown Jewels of England, which are as beautiful
and ornate as expected.
We dined that evening at a London Pub, but
were sorely disappointed. The food was ok, but not traditionally English
(Chicken Cordon Bleu) and the place was smoky and cramped. After dinner we
went to The Trocadero, also known as Segaworld. This game-lover's paradise
features six stories of arcade games and rides.
My husband bravely ventured onto the Pepsi
Maxi Drop, a terrifying ride that takes you up six stories to the roof,
hangs around for a few seconds and then lets you free fall almost to the
floor. It stops about a meter from the ground and glides the rest of the way
down. It's quite an experience, I am told, one which costs £3. We also went
on a virtual reality space mission and took the James Bond ride, which
assured us we would be "shaken not stirred". Great fun.
The following day, we took it a bit easier.
Buckingham Palace was top of our list for sightseeing and it more than lived
up to our expectations. The ornate gates and life-like statue of Queen
Victoria were breath-taking and the changing of the guards was well worth
Next it was on to Westminster Abbey and a bit
of lunch at a wonderful little Greek restaurant called Dionysus. We did a
bit of shopping at Forbidden Planet, one of my favorite shops in London as
it is a specialty store dealing in everything related to science fiction.
The ultimate (and most expensive) shopping
experience, though, has to be Harrod's. The store occupies an entire city
block and is six stories high. The window displays alone can take your
breath away and the selection of everything from fruit to chocolate to
perfume is truly out of this world. Of course, the prices are equally out of
this world and I wouldn't recommend doing any Christmas or birthday shopping
There is a memorial to Princess Diana and
Dodi al Fayed in the basement section and this is the only part of the store
that you are allowed to photograph. Still after two years, their deaths have
an impact on the English population and the memorial is scattered with
flowers, gifts, notes and photographs from grieving fans.
We went back to the hotel to rest, having
purchased some strawberries and a few chocolates. We stopped at a coffee
shop to buy some hot chocolate. Tip: If you can, choose to takeaway your
coffee or hot chocolate if you stop at a Starbucks or other coffee shop. If
you take it away it's 99p, but if you sit down to drink it, it'll cost you
After a quick rest, it was on to Her
Majesty's Theatre and the production of Phantom of the Opera. Although,
there is a great deal of hype about this Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, we
found it a bit boring and definitely less appealing than Beauty and the
Beast. It's worth a watch, though, especially for the music.
London, for us, was a city of dreams. It was
the most wonderful honeymoon destination and I have no qualms in
recommending it to other honeymooners, no matter what the time of year.
After all, the most important thing is to be together.
# # #
is a freelance travel writer based in South Africa whose passions include fine dining and even finer theatre, preferably of the
musical variety. Her travel writing has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Wedding Solutions, Brides and Homes and ComputorEdge. She also specializes in
business and marketing writing. (More about
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Bianca Wright)