I planned the first day of this trip to Brussels as a quick tour of other places, namely London and Luxembourg. And with a scant six and a half hours between flights in London I had time to hit a few of the major sites but not much else.
First stop was at the hotel of my friend Chris to drop off his bags and freshen up. Then we were off to Buckingham Palace. I was rather unimpressed by the architecture of the palace, but we happened to arrive during the changing of the guard and that performance overwhelmed any disappointment I was feeling. Sure, it was mostly pomp, but the concert performed in front of the palace, complete with french horns and a bassoon, was impressive, as was the marching about of the guards. The only thing I’ve seen previously that is even close was the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, and this put it to shame in terms of showmanship. Because we arrived a bit late to the party we were stuck rather far back from the fence and couldn’t see too much. I took advantage of the tripod I had with me and was able to get a few shots from above the crowd, and quite a few strange looks from everyone around me.
Next up was a walk through St. James’s park towards the Parliament building and Big Ben. We crossed over the Thames and headed to the London Eye for a “flight” over the river. I was rather skeptical going in to the Eye, but it was definitely a cool ride. Part of the appeal to me was the architecture of the ride itself, but the views were equally impressive. It was a bit grey so not the best scenes of London, but some great views nonetheless.
And then my time in London was essentially finished. A quick tube + docklands light rail ride and I was out at London City Airport (LCY) for my flight to Luxembourg. LCY is quite nice, the way flying should be in many ways. From arrival on the train to sitting in the gate area took me less than 10 minutes, and part of the delay was that I needed to reprint my boarding pass. Security was quite thorough but still efficient and respectful. The departures lounge was quiet and calm – no overhead announcements – and they had free WiFi.
And flying out and directly over London was damn cool. The clouds meant I could only see for the first few minutes of flight, but it was still pretty impressive. On a clear day it has to be amazing. I was very skeptical of BA’s plan to operate LCY-NYC with a tech stop in Ireland, but now having flown from LCY I can understand the appeal. I’d consider flying that routing if I were in London. It was just way easier than the Heathrow or Gatwick experience.
Certainly I need to get back to London to see more, like some of the museums and friends and such. But for a six hour stopover this was a pretty good itinerary.
Also, a couple of logistical notes. The post-9:30am daily zone 1/2 tube pass is a bargain. And it isn’t valid for travel to LCY. There is a GBP 1.60 up-charge for that, unless you beg the conductor not to charge you because you have no GBP currency on you. Whoopsie.
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