What I love about London , and you should too…

Its official London, has been voted the worlds favourite tourist destination. With 18.7 million visitors expected this year, a whooping 8% rise from last year.
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As a Londoner born and bred, sure its a bit manic sometimes, and yes the weather is lousy and its getting more and more expensive to live here, but there’s is no place else I’d rather call home.

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So here are my top loves about London, and if your one of the 18.7 million making it to our fair city this year, be sure to check them out for yourselves.

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There’s always something going on London is definitely a place you can never get bored, there is always something happening everyday of the week. An opening here, a pop up there and festivals galore. Check out ONINLONDON (www.oninonline.com) a great site for letting you know what’s on in and around London, also includes local events if you want to experience real London.

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Museums
It always catches me out when I travel abroad,and I’m asked to pay to go into a museum. In London, we like to share the love with free entry for all. Here’s my personal faves.
British Museum
fascinating collection of over eight million objects. Themes include Leaders & Rulers, Animals, and Money.

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Museum of London
One of the world’s largest urban history museums. Exhibitions include the story of modern London from 1666 to today.

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Science Museum
science, medicine, technology and industry. Suitable for young and old alike.

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Natural History Museum
Life and earth science specimens in five collections: Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Paleontology and Zoology.

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Parks
Londoners love a park , Green , Regents or Hyde even Hampstead are all great spaces, find a deckchair and do a spot of people watching.

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Markets
There’s nothing better on a weekend than, getting up and having a wander round the local market. My personal favs are Columbia road Flower Market in Hackney on a Sunday morning from 8am and Borough Market in London Bridge open every day but Sunday is a Foodies paradise, and the smell around the market hall is sublime.

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The Southbank
The place to hang out on a weekend , there’s always some festival, or event happening, or you can just hang out with a coffee. I also like popping into Festival Hall to check out the free exhibitions.

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Brick Lane
If you want a decent curry in London, its got to be brick lane, in the heart of Banglatown. Though be sure to do your research as there’s loads of restaurants to choose from, a rule of thumb is if its filled with Bangladeshi’s your usually good to go.

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Theatre
London is bursting at the seams with theatres, from long running thrillers to a feel good musical. In order to save the pennies, I usually head to the TKTS booth in Leicester Sq to check out what’s going cheap.

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So these are some of my London Loves , leave a comment and let me know yours !!!

Sightseeing in London by Air , Land & Sea … 

So you arrive in London ready to see the sights, but you don’t fancy the usual hop on hop off , bland guided tours on offer. Not only are they pretty expensive for a family, but theres no chances of mingling with us lovely Londoners.

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If you really want to see the real London , firstly it helps if you’ve ready my Top London Essentials post, just case read you haven’t, read it Here https://eatsleepshoottravelblog.com/2014/07/28/top-london-tourist-essentials-hometown-tourist-project/
Armed with your Oyster card & AtoZ London is your oyster, hence the name I presume. London here we come ..

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Air

Its possible to see London from the air from as little as £4.00, so avoid the daily scrum and huge queues at the London Eye and head to Monument Tower. Located round the corner from Monument tube station the 202 ft tower was building in commemoration of the great fire of London by Sir Christopher Wren. There’s over 300 steps to the top via 1 winding staircase so leave the buggy’s at home for this one but when you reach the top you get an excellent via of the Shard and all along the River Thames down to Tower Bridge. Open daily 9am to 5pm, go at the start or end of the day to avoid the dreaded tour groups.

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If you have cash to splash, check out
The London Helicopter
http://www.thelondonhelicopter.com/
From £199pp for a 20 minute whizz over the rooftops of London, its great for that special occasion.

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Land

The best way to see London is either on foot ( that’s where the AtoZ is worth its weight in gold ) or from the top deck of a Red London Bus.

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Whenever I travel,the first thing I do when I get to a new town, is check out the free walking tours. Now of course they’re not really free , you’d have to be a real scumbag not to leave a tip , though I did once in paris it was just so boring, I had to ditch the walk in the first 20 minutes. The great thing about the free tours, it hasn’t cost you a bean. If you are lucky to get a great guide and enjoy your tour paying £10/15 per head as a average tip,
here’s a few to get you started:

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http://freelondonwalkingtours.com/

http://www.freetoursoflondon.com/

http://www.newlondon-tours.com/daily-tours/royal-london-free-tour.html

http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/london-walking-tours/

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If you don’t fancy all the walk be sure to jump on the heritage route number 15 bus taking you from Trafalgar Square down to Tower Hill . Its pretty special as it’s the only route that still uses the original Routemaster buses, and you can you use your Oyster card as its the normal fare.

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Sea (well river really but sea sounded better )

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One of the best ways to see London and get your bearings is from the river, The Thames Clipper is mainly a commuter service stretching from Waterloo down to Woolwich Arsenal
but as a tourist the best stops are:
Greenwich for the National Maritime Museum
Tower Pier for London Bridge & the Tower of London
London Bridge for the Shard & Borough Market and best of all you can use your oyster. The Thames Clipper thankfully has clean loos & you can even get a cheeky drink to sip out on the deck and pretend you on your own yacht , with 100 of your new friends. Fares from £6.12 single with your oyster or the best value for sightseeing is the River Roamer an all day ticket valid every day from 9am adult single from £16.50 Family Roamer (2 adults / 3 children) £36.00 total bargain !!

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Where to find London’s best Street Art

To find Londons best street art,  you need to head to Shoreditch in east London. The best way to get there is to take the London overground line ( orange line )  to Shoreditch High Street.

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when exiting the station turn left onto Sclater street and head for Brick Lane where you’ll find the majority of the street art on and Brick Lane itself  and off hidden away on the side roads.

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If your heading out for the first time I would highly recommend you join a tour, so you can note the routes and where’s the best places to spot new pieces and then you can come back again & again. I recommend http://www.streetartlondon.co.uk for the authentic street art experience , led by guides who really know their stuff and are passionate about the art.

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unfortunately the street art around Brick Lane can be here today, gone in the next hour , the turnover is sometimes that quick on some popular walls that  pieces don’t last the night. Here’s a selection of a few of my latest favourite pieces of street art

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IMG_4380-0.JPG If your really lucky you might even stumble upon a street artist mid flow, the best time to see artists at work is usually early mornings on weekends, when the street are deserted and they can work in peace. Street art is still considered vandalism in the UK, unless the artist has the wall owners permission.

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IMG_4419.JPG Street art spotting is hard work so if you get peckish, sure to pop into the world famous Beigel Bake the oldest bagel shop in London, that’s open 24-hour a day and produces 7,000 bagels every day, Its menu is focused on bagels baked in the traditional Jewish style with fillings such as hot salt beef with mustard, chopped herring, and cream cheese. Be warned queues can get long during the day, but the salt beef and mustard beigel is worth the wait.

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Happy Hunting !!

First timers guide to visiting Petra, Jordan.

Petra a unesco world wonder is undoubtedly Jordan’s most valuable treasure, and greatest tourist attraction. Petra is visited by tourists from all over the world, and a independent visit is easier to plan than you think, keep reading for practical tips for your first visit to Petra.

Getting to Petra 

Start by flying into Jordans capital Amman, and then depending on your arrival time you’ll need to spend the night in Amman before catching the Jett Bus  down to Petra at the crack of dawn the next morning.

 

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The Jett bus,  leaves the bus station in central Amman at 6.30am every morning ( returns daily at 5pm from Petra ) for 11 Jordanian dinar ( JD ) pp each way (approx £11/ $15 ) . The journey takes approx 3 hours arriving at approx 9.30am , with a short bathroom break halfway. The bus pulls in right by the Petra visitor centre, and seats can be booked online on the Jett website in advance , or in their office in Amman.

http://www.jett.com.jo

 

Entry into Petra

 

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Entry into the site of Petra is only permitted to visitors holding valid tickets. These are available at the Visitor Center and can be purchased on arrival. Prices differ for foreigners and locals and a range of ticket types are available depending on the length of stay and number of visits to be made into Petra.

A 3 day pass for 60 JD is the best value for money due to the sheer size of the place. if your  just visiting for the a day it’s a steep 90 JD entry especially as its impossible to see everything in a day. ** Please note you will need to show your passport as id so don’t forget to take it with you. **

For more info check out the Petra visitor Centre website http://www.visitpetra.jo

 

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Petra’s main trail

 

Petra is not the place for the faint hearted, there is a lot of walking and step climbing to reach some of the attractions , the main trail is 5 miles long from the main gate and the attractions are all accessible off the main trail.

Licensed guides are available to hire at the visitors centre from 50- 100 JD on top of the price of your ticket (for the group not pp) as I was travelling alone,  I couldn’t justify the expense, so I purchased a Petra easy guide via I tunes, which gave a short audio on each of the sights, a helpful map and it worked just fine for me.

 

 

The best time to visit Petra is as soon as the gates open at 6am. You’ll pretty much have the place to yourself, not even the Bedouin can be bothered to get up that early, to harass the unsuspecting tourist. It’s claimed that the ticket price includes a horse ride down to the Siq, what they don’t mention, is the horse owner will expect a hefty tip when its time for you to get off, so you have been warned.

 

From the visitors centre it’s a 15 minute downhill stroll to the Siq,  then approx 20 mins to walk through the Siq to the Treasury . This is the main hang out for horses & donkeys owners plying for trade, once you get past the hustle and bustle of the Treasury area there are clear signs pointing out the main trails.

Due to well documented animal abuse that goes on at Petra,  I do not recommend hiring any animals whilst in Petra.

 

 

Most sites are up steps from the main trail but there are 2 sites which require a bit of extra planning . The Place of High Sacrifice is an 45 min upward climb, challenging but doable at a steady pace.  The main and biggest climb,  is to The Monastery the big brother of the Treasury, noticeably harder than  the Place of High Sacrifice, at around 90 minutes of a continuous upwards climb from the bottom of the steps , so lots of  water and sensible walking boots with a good grip are essential.

 

As the start of the trail to the Monastary is the furthest away from the main gate (at least an hour ) , I suggest going straight to it when the gates open. Then you’ll get the place to yourself when you reach the top. There’s even a cafe  where you can grab a mint tea, and take it all in, but be warned I didn’t see a toilet, so maybe best to stick to just the one tea.

 

 

The Bedouins do offer donkey rides to the top, which I wouldn’t recommend due to the sheer drops and narrow ledges of the path and the questionable health of the donkeys.

 

 

Along the trails , you will be invited by the bedouin to stop to drink tea, which out of sheer exhaustion I stopped for a while to catch my breath. To their credit they were hospitable and the tea was delicious , I made sure to leave a dinar or two  for their troubles before continuing on.

 

Petra by Night Tour

If you are overnighting in Petra, it’s also worth doing the Petra by night tour, This is a magical way to see Petra by candlelight, the experience starts by walking the entire Siq to the Treasury, lit with over 1,500 candles. Petra by Night runs every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday starting at 20:30 from Petra Visitor Centre and delivers you back to the Visitor Centre around 22.30pm. The entrance fee for Petra by Night is 17 JD, children under 10 years are admitted free of charge.

 

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Where to stay

With regards to accommodation, I stayed at the excellent  Petra Moon Hotel, a solid 3 star hotel approx  5 minute walk from Petra’s main gates, and right next to where the bus from Amman pulls in . With free wifi , comfortable western standard rooms and a roof top pool, I highly recommend it rather than the pricier Movenpick next door. After a day at Petra, you won’t have the energy to do anything more strenuous than order room service for dinner  anyway.  http://www.petramoonhotel.com



 

For more information on Petra and Jordan check out the tourist board website http://www.visitjordan.com