Date of Trip: May 2009
I almost couldn’t believe it as I was standing just outside Speaker’s Corning at Hype Park on a Sunday morning in Early May, preparing to go on a Big-Bus Tour. How “touristy” of me – a seasoned traveller. In my defense, I had decided to add the Big Bus tour to our itinerary because we were only going to be in London for 4 days before departing out of Southampton on our cruise, which isn’t nearly enough time to enjoy this big beautiful sprawling city, and since I already had us scheduled back-to-back with tours of Palaces, Museums, and Exhibitions, etc. ,I thought this would provide a welcome break, and would allow my mom a chance to see the city and it’s sights with minimum effort, all in one day. So there we were, trying to decide which tour to take. There are 2 main tours available. The Red Tour Provides a Live English Commentary, the Blue Tour has commentary in a choice of 8 Languages (French, German, Portuguese, Italian, English, Dutch, Spanish, and Japanese) provided via, yours to keep, headsets. With the exception that the Blue Tour takes you around Kensington Gardens, via Harrods and the Victoria and Albert Museum, both tours cover the same sights.
After deciding on the Red Tour, we boarded the bus, and headed to the choice seats on the top, open air deck. It was kinda breezy, but not uncomfortable, being that it was May. What I found was a pleasant surprise. The guides were informative, with little antidotal tidbits, which were both interesting and entertaining. Thanks to the awful traffic in London, and the tour’s regular stops, there were plenty of photo opportunities, many unobstructed when you’re standing up on the top deck.
The actual tour is about 2 hours; however should you decide to get off of the bus at any of the sights, you can make this day as long as you like. At each of the boarding stops they have very friendly assistants to help point you on your way. We decided to get off of the bus at Westminster, Houses of Parliament, and at Buckingham Palace. It was also at Buckingham Palace that we decided to switch to the Blue Tour and take it to Harrods for shopping.
Some of the other not so famous, but fabulous none the less, highlights were, crossing Abbey Road, made famous by the Beatles for that “famous” album cover; seeing the old city wall, which dates back to the Romans; seeing the oldest clock in London as we rode past the Clockmaker’s Museum; Cleopatra’s Obelisque; the flat in which Amy Winehouse recorded the video for the song Rehab; a fantastic photo opportunity in which you can frame the London Eye with Big Ben appearing in the middle of the ferris wheel in the background right before crossing Waterloo bridge; and one of my personal favorites, the little Crowns adorning the street lights on Regent’s Street indicating real estate under Royal ownership.
These tours are an outstanding and affordable way to get a feel for the layout of the city both geographically and historically. I was so pleasantly surprised by this tour, that I actually plan to take one in while New York City… and gawd, you can’t get any more “touristy” than that.
There are 2 “Big Bus” tour companies in London. We used The Big Bus Company (http://www.bigbustours.com/) at £25.00/per adult. The pass is good for 24 hours and includes guided walking tours and a cruise of the river Thames.