I Heartily Endorse London

I Heartily Endorse London
The Floor in Heathrow

Not that London needs it ...

Last week Hazelcast had their first annual user conference in London and I was there to give a workshop.  It was my first visit to the UK and I must say that I really enjoyed it.  

London is one of the easiest to navigate cities that I've ever visited.  Of course the fact that the language is English helps but it goes beyond that.  Public transit is great, the signage is actually helpful and, in general, getting around was very easy.

Some of my favorite things in the "getting around is easy" category:

  • You don't need to bother with public transit tickets or cards. If you have a tap-enabled credit card or a phone with Apple Pay or Google Pay, you are ready to travel.  The turnstiles in the underground and the buses are all equipped for contactless payment and you just need to tap you card.  Brilliant!
  • There are trains from Heathrow right into central London.  My round-trip ticket on the "Heathrow Express" to Paddington Station was 37 pounds.
  • In central London, there are maps every few blocks.  Each one is centered on your current location and they show what is within  5 and 15 minutes walking. No looking for the "You Are Here" sticker!
  • The traffic patterns are backward from what I'm accustomed to.  When crossing a large street this can cause problems because you may habitually look left when the traffic is coming from the right.  Luckily, the crosswalks are all prominently marked with arrows and text indicating the direction you should look.  They literally say "Look Left" or "Look Right!"

I  had only one day free,  and on the advice of friends, I spent it walking in the area on both sides of the Thames between the London Eye and The Tower Bridge.  In addition to the beautiful architecture, some of the highlights were:

  • A morning walk in Saint James Park near Buckingham Palace.
  • Shopping in Covent Gardens.  There were many people there making it one of the most crowded places I visited but it had a festive atmosphere. There is a large market stalls selling crafts and food vendors.  I did my gift shopping there and picked up some unique items.
  • The neighborhood around Waterloo Station.  A few blocks from the London Eye in the South Bank area, Lower Marsh is a vibrant pedestrian street with a funky vibe.  In the afternoon it comes alive with street food stalls and music.  At one end is an entrance to "The Vaults", an alternative feeling venue built into the underpass under Waterloo Station.  If you walk through in the afternoon or evening you'll be assaulted by the smell of spray paint as several street artists are always there painting the walls.
  • The walk along the South Bank.  The views are stunning.
  • Shakespeare's Globe

I'll end this post with a few photos from my day in London.