Top 10 Hidden London -Top 10 Discovered Secrets
Traveling reveals many minor secrets about a place. That’s the primary reason I started this blog – to discover, record, and share little discoveries from the few trips I take. I enjoy researching trips as much as taking trips. One of my favorite ways to prepare for a trip is to type “hidden ________” (e.g. “hidden london”) into Google’s blog search and see what other amateur travelers have to share. My favorite secrets are ones that are quite obvious once I’m “on the ground” on trip but wouldn’t have occurred to me at home.
Today was a banner day for such discoveries. Here is what I learned,:
Tip #1 – How to buy tickets to the Tower of London when it is sold out
I wonder if this secret will close a loop hole. I figure I won’t be making use of it again and there will be few friend’s who need the tip. The Tower of London may rarely sell out in advance, but when I was planning my trip over Christamas there were a few days it was sold out. The website says your tickets are good for one entry within 7 days of purchase. I called and confirmed that I could pick up my tix I purchased for 12/23 entry on the sold out day of 12/26. I ended up not visiting the Tower of London until 12/27. I noticed that people purchasing tickets that day had to wait about 30 mins to enter, but since I was picking up tickets from an earlier day I could enter immediately. Pretty cool.
Tip #2 – Lingering at the Tower of London Crown Jewels
Don’t rush through your brief contact with the historic crowned jewels. Although the wait was short – only 15 minutes to enter the exhibit – on the unseasonably warm winter’s day I attended, I was nevertheless surprised to see how quickly people shuttle through the exhibit. It’s a pet peeve of mine that people spend more time waiting to see sights than to experience them. A cluster usually forms at the first exhibit (exacerbating the outside line) and quickly disperses at the crowd’s initial, novel wonderment wears off. You can, most often, easily bounce over the first exhibit to view the second exhibit unhindered. Now, at the crown jewels, the first exhibit is a bejeweled sword (The Jewelled Sword of Offering) and is not to be bypassed so blithely. However, as likely as the crowd is to cluster around the first exhibit and create an impatient buzz and forward momentum, they are equally likely to walk in the same footsteps at the same distance from the exhibit. You can usually stand askance from the exhibit with no rush. If you’re tall like me you have the advantage of standing behind the crowd as well. Either tact should allow you an unharried view. Once you’ve past the premier exhibit it becomes even easier to linger. If you linger directly in front of each and every piece you’re bound to be disturbed, but shift a few feet opposite the flow of traffic or step out of the beaten path altogehet and people flow right past you without nary a word.
The bulk of the jewelled treasures are displayed in the center of two moving walkways. About 80% of people I saw zoom through just once! There’s no posted rule that states you can’t backtrack and ride through two, three, four times. I’ve noticed at nearly every large exhibit people assume traffic is unidirectional. Once you realize you’re free to walk to and fro you can scan exhibits for the least crowded spots and pace your own tour. You’re unlikely to have a chance to spend time with these treasures during your own coronation (excepting Prince William if you’re reading) so make the most of your £20 Tower of London ticket.
Tip #3 – My favorite London street art pieces / My Top London Street Art Pieces
#3 – Banksy’s His Master’s Voice in the beer garden at 83 Rivington Street
#2 – Eine’s PRO + ANTI dominating Ebor Street – if I ever get tattooed this piece is going on my left and right arms respectively
#1 – Roa’s majestic Crane on a (currenly) exposed brick wall near the intersection of Hanbury Street and Brick Lane
If I were pressed for time I’d be happy to simply see those three pieces in that prioritized order. I spent the most time with Roa’s Crane (bird not machine) that completely captivated me.
Thank you to Lauren Porter who shared her own tips about London Street Art on about.com via her self-guided
tour that I saved in Instapaper and used myself. It’s a top Google hit and here’s a link to her guide http://bit.ly/vIhbEc. Which brings me to the next tip
Tip #4 – East London Street Art – You dont’t have to pay to have a good time.
I wholeheartedly recommend paying tour guides to expand one’s understanding of art or historical sights (street art falls into both categories) especially to provide context as to why an artist made a piece. However my misconception, while planning my trip on my couch in Los Angeles, was that I needed a paid tour guide ‘to find’ street art in London’s Eat End / Shoreditch / Brick Lane. What I came to find out “on the ground” is that there is street art everywhere and with the help of Laura Porter’s guide above it was simple to go on a self-led walking tour and find the most famous / popular works.
I’m certain that if had I gone on one of the paid tours lauded on TripAdvisor.com http://bit.ly/u31bqw or http://bit.ly/sVpOlC then I would have learned more quicker, seen fresher and more hidden art, and better understood the artists. However, both tours must have been on Christmas Holiday so my plans to impromptly join the latter tour went afoul when no guide showed up (totally my fault for deciding that morning and not emailing ahead). Adversity was the gateway to a self guided tour.
Lauren, you should totally retrace your steps and record an audio walking tour podcast!
Tip #5 – Time Out London is your friend
I have 5 more tips left to write!