London by Duck

Due to this terrible head cold I’ve been battling along with my body’s refusal to reset it’s circadian rhythm, we lost a day.

Thursday was one quick lunch at Noodle Noodle (near Victoria Station) and a walk through some side streets back to the hotel.

While far from 5*, The Dover provided a great location for both walking to the attractions of London, and commuting to/from the airports and more distant city locations. A mere 5-10 minute walk from Victoria Station, it really is the best location for the price (we paid around 90usd a night for a top floor double twin room with a bath). Be warned, the stairs are more than you’d be prepare for, and walls are thin!

The kitty-corner pub, The Marquis, has a great little restaurant upstairs. The fish and chips were on point!

 

Feeling a fair bit better, Friday we made it over the bridge and through the construction to the London Duck Tours ticket office! It’s not as obvious of a location as it had seemed at first, but a few direction requests got us there. It’s not immediately in front of the Eye, but two streets inset from the river. The meeting point however, is just one street inset, in front of Jubilee Gardens, where all the busses stop. We were told that “during peak times, tickets could be purchased there”; I’d suspect that means tickets could always be purchased there. 

The duck tour was totally worth it! Do check Groupon to see if their 18.50/person deal is available during your visit (it was blacked out during ours). At 26/person it was still a very nice way to get a well informed tour guide to show us the sights. I was a bit skeptical of the value we’d gain, since we’d already walked to most of the listed points of interest, but our guide’s knowledgeability really made the tour impressive! The water portion was a bit lacking, in my honest opinion. I was hoping we’d travel to London bridge and back, but only just barely made it to Big Ben before turning back to the MI6-adjacent slipway. Still, to say you’ve ridden a duck down the Thames is a treat in itself.

Post-Ducking we began to head up towards London Bridge, and eventually Tower Bridge, where we had tickets to a 5pm show. We stopped to tour the food market, and having no cash on us, went upstairs to find an ATM. Before we’d located one, we saw Feng sushi, and decided a sit-down credit-card-accepting sushi spot was preferable. We just wanted a snack, so split a “roll selection” for 12.50. It was just enough to hold us over, with 4 pieces of each: California, salmon-avo & tuna rolls. The sushi was good, not great. At that price, it’s hard to mess up enough to warrant complaint. (Full disclosure: my cost-value meter is set to LA standard.)

After the light lunch, I was determined to try cockles! They’re little clams that are generally disparaged, but so were lobster at one time, so I thought they deserved a chance. We strolled along the South Bank’s lovely Queen’s Walk, diverting to Borough Market, and stopping frequently along the path for photos.

Once in Borough Market, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and turned around in circles a few times. Eventually I found my cockles! For a measly 3£ I had 100g of tiny clams, dressed up traditionally by the friendly cockle monger: vinegar and pepper. They were good, I think they would’ve been better warmed, but it was a nice second-seafood snack of the afternoon.

From there we were on a bit of a time crunch to get to Tower Bridge for the 5 o’clock show. We hurried back up to London bridge, and down along the riverside pathway again. Once past London bridge, some truly awesome views of Tower Bridge are to be had.

We arrived just in time to wrap up the intro speech to the immersive light and sound show we had gotten ourselves into. It was about 45 minutes of mind warping projections against an inner wall of the part of the tower housing the bridge’s raising and lowering mechanisms, all set to sound delivered though headphones. I can’t lie, it was peculiar. I’m 90% sure I was brainwashed somewhere along the way. All the same, it was interesting and spoke to the current state of the human condition.

After the show, we climbed the many stairs back up and out of the tower, then made our way to the not-so-straigtforward Tower Hill underground station. The ticket buying process was a mess, with only one (out of order) machine accepting bills, and none taking credit cards. Eventully, the kind underground staff let us pass onto the train, and casually said to let our destination station know there was ticking trouble at Tower Hill, as if this is a usual occurrence.

An aside: Aside from one socially illiterate ticketing agent at Victoria station, Londoners were surprisingly some of the friendliest people I’ve encountered in my travels thus far! 5* to London for personality! Further, the food in London far surpassed my expectations, both in diversity and in quality! I wish I had been well enough to enjoy all of the many options available at the street markets!

In general, the only place I can fault London is on their ease of use for public transport. The ticket offices are either far from their respective platforms, or terminals and platforms follow a meandering path that require asking for direction (which would be especially complex for non-English speakers). All the same, we got where we needed to be and hoped on the 5:25 to Tottenham Hale connecting to the Stanstead Express well in time for the 8:45 am departure this morning! Milan is next!

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