London – Changing of the Guard, Camden and Bike Tour

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Biking in London

As I had mentioned, we did a couple of more unusual things with our US visitor on this trip to London.

On this final full day in the city, we opted to be a little different and avoid a day of the big sights.   However, we did start with the biggest obvious sight, Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard.   This was mainly because our visitor really wanted to see the palace and yesterday, we couldn’t see it form the bus tour because of the rain.  We also opted not to get of the bus as we woudl have gotten soaked!

So we headed to the palace for the changing of the guard.  As a side note, we could have joined a walking tour with the Original Bus Tour company (see prior post here), that supposedly gets you closer to the event.  As I mentioned in the prior post, we just didn’t have all that extra time to dedicate to this so opted not to use that tour included in the ticket.  Something though that others might want to bear in mind as watching the Changing of the guard is easier said than done!

There are a number of vantage points for the event but not one allows for a views of the whole thing.  We moved to 3 different locations to see snippets of the parade and marching of the soldiers.  They approach Buckingham Palace down the Mall…marching into the Palace courtyard.  Ceremonies and more music takes place here but without a spot by the railings of the Palace, its near impossible to see.   They then march out again on the right side of the palace.  Of which we saw but again limited.    We saw some to get a flaver of what what happening but be warned its difficult to see much without dedicating time to getting there very early and waiting….ad still with a limited view!

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Our next stop was Camden Lock/ Market.   This is definitely off track here and I would say much less touristy in the true sense of the word.  My teen had visited prior and was in charge o getting us around as I had not been before.   She did great as its not easy to navigate and the crowds were crazy (we visited on a Saturday).   We arrived by Tube.   We had really wanted to arrive by Water Bus but time didn’t permit this we know we needed to be back into Waterloo by 2:30pm.   Check out the Water taxi and if you have time, take it down the canal into Camden Lock.   My teen has done this is in the past and its highly recommended!

Arriving by tube was fine and we ambled down to the market place taking in the unusual shop fronts/ art along the way.

The market is made up of a number of sections and for the most part, mostly arts, crafts and similar for sale.  fresh produce (typical market fare) died out years ago, and Camden definitely caters to a more alternative crowd.

We headed towards the food market which was not only huge but offers food from all over the world.  We spent 25 minutes touring all the stands deciding what we wanted.  Many tasters are on offer too to entice you to their offering.   Between the 3 of us we had Indian, Turkish and Mexican food….something for everyone.  If you are into food, this place is a must!

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After more strolling, we ventured into Cyberdog.   A store (vs. a market stall) that caters the the alternative crowd and has a leaning towards neon and PVC clothing.  Not to be scared by this though as its fun inside.  Club dancers greet you in the main entrance and music booms throughout.   Teens (and myself) enjoyed the energy it gave.

Other stops in the market included a chap that makes wire jewelry with your name Incorporated.  Again, the teens loved this and had a ring and bracelet made on the spot.

We really only had a couple of hours at Camden.  It is best suited to a day to really explore thoroughly but we got a good feel for it in the visit.

Next, we had another experience booked – a bike tour of London.   We had found a Bike tour online and thought this would be fun and different.  We booked the Secret Tour of London.  Having crossed off many big beats, we thought this would be fun to do and something new to see.   You meet at Waterloo station.  Guides were prompt and easy to locate.  They take you into what’s known as the ‘Banksy’ tunnel/ underpass to pick up the bike.  This itself was great – before the tour had even started!  This is a tunnel under Waterloo where street artists display their work.    The walls are covered with graffiti art and its very cool to see.

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Banksy Tunnel

The bike tour is 9 miles in distance and takes about 3 hours.   A word of caution is that while this is mostly on back roads, you do go onto/ cross over some very busy roads.  You need some street sense for the tour and I wouldn’t really recommend it for kids under the age of 14.  We did this on a Saturday so rods in the City were much quieter than they would be on a weekday (especially a Friday).  I would recommend weekend bookings vs weekday.  I always remained at the back of the tour to keep an eye on my teens and shout some road awareness to them when i felt it was needed!

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Picking up the bikes!

With that said, the tour was great!  We visited a number of spots around London – brick Lane, Bank of England, Tower Bridge, Spitalfields, Canal paths and more.  The tour guide was knowledgeable and you break often to hear stories/ history.  There is also a break built in at Brick Lane and probably the most memorable part is cycling over Tower Bridge.  Not for the faint of heart but a memorable experience.

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Splendid views of London after we crossed over Tower Bridge….

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Tower Bridge

 

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Modern London 

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The Tower of London

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Tower Bridge

The ride was 3 hours so we ended in time for another quick tourist stop at Harrods and then onto some dinner in the Kensington area.  A great day but long day…we then headed back to base for the night.

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