Hyde park is an oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of central London, very much like NYC’s Central park, a little unassuming from the street with a basic tree line but as soon as you step into it the traffic noise is all but muted to a distant ocean waves-like wash. A bit further in and its gone altogether and you’re left with the tranquil sounds of nature. One of the major features, other than the deck chairs ;) is the waterways and lake. There are plenty of ducks and swans looking for a feed and paddle boats to go exploring. Other wildlife in the park like birds and squirrels are very tamed almost to the point you can hand feed them, not that we were silly enough to tempt fate and risk a scratch or bite.

As mentioned, deck chairs are available (for a fee) but there are plenty of free benches and a whole lot of lush grass to soak up the atmosphere and any sunshine that may be lurking between clouds.

Photo tip: there are plenty of gardens in the park with a variety of flowers, ornaments and water features. A mid range zoom macro lens would be the way to go or a dedicated macro for close up flower work.

On the southern end of the park, crossing over to Brompton Rd. you will come across a line of higher end stores which pave a path to one of London’s most famous centers for pompus-ity, Harrods. If you’re like us and can’t fathom or afford thousands of dollars (pounds) for a purse or a single piece of clothing then have a quick wander, admire the intricate architecture on the walls and ceilings then get out before security labels you as a homeless bum and tries to usher you out… you heathen. If however you’re after some exotic llama cheese or feel like paying 30 quid for a small box of early grey then this is the place for you. Don’t forget your £17BP enviro shopping bag to carry it all home in!

Jokes and insane prices aside, the food court area on the lower level would be the most interesting for most people. There’s a lot of gourmet items, some prepped ready to cook while others are ready to eat there and a wide selection of wines, condiments, deli produce and sweets.

Piccadilly Circus

If you’ve ever seen a movie with a scene in central London then more than likely you’ve seen Piccadilly Circus, well at least the giant TDK and Sanyo* sign. Adjacent memorial fountain is also a popular landmark which is located outside one of the few notable shops in this area, Lillywhites.

Lillywhites is a sports store and some what an institution especially in this location since it has been here since 1925. There’s 6 levels of sporting goods with a wide range of brands and styles, a lot at very reasonable prices and much of that on special. Being in this location of course attracts the tourist crowd so it gets rather cramped and a bit frantic at just about all hours of the day. If you find the last pair of sneakers in your size and the box is available, grab them and hold on to them even if you’re not 100% sure, otherwise prepare to feel the cold hard sting of regret moments later when they will be gone.

* – After about 25 years of this exact sign occupying this space, news is Sanyo wont be renewing its contract. By the time you read this it will more than likely read “Hyundai”.

Phototip: try and get there both during the day and at night for some vastly contrasting shots.

Well that about wraps it up for London. Next we don the beret, curly moustache, cigarette and baguette, board the Eurostar and head over land to Paris!

London 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Soho Shopping
London 2011 part #2 – Central London sight seeing
London 2011 part #3 – Chelsea Flower show
London 2011 part #4 – Shopping – Hammersmith
London 2011 part #5 – Shopping – Covent Garden and Soho
London 2011 part #6 – Shopping – Camden
London 2011 part #7 – Shopping – Shoreditch

London photo gallery here
Chelsea flower show photo gallery here

The best thing about seeing the sights in central London is their close proximity, barely a couple km’s separates the majority of them so a few hours and footpower is all you’ll need. The trade off is of course having to compete with thousands of other tourists.

Trafalgar Square

Getting the Tube to Charing Cross will pop you up at fountains galore, Trafalgar sq. Like with alot of popular tourist spots there are always scammers, pick pockets and crazy bums accusing you of stealing their sandals so keep your wits about you and know where or how to contact police/security. Security here patrol the area and are easily visible.

Buckingham Palace

Fountain at Buckingham Palace

From here we took a short walk down to Buckingham palace where less than a month before Prince Willy and Cath tied the official knot. If you time it right you’ll also get to witness the famous “changing of the guard”. You can then cut through the gardens to the back of Cavalry Museum where you find guards on foot and on horse back ready to be demeaned with peace symbols and cheesy grins in a photo.

Mounted guard at Cavalry Museum

Big Ben

Westminster Abbey

A couple blocks from here are 2 unintentionally gloomy buildings thanks to period architecture and a typically overcast London day, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament featuring Big Ben. There always seems to be road or building works in this area so you may need to cross the road a few times to get a good spot. On the plus side, with the tower being a lot taller than the adjacent buildings you can get a photo of it from just about anywhere.

London Eye

From here its another short walk across Westminster Bridge to the London Eye. Even with the typical London haze and boring skies it’s a great way to see a broad view of the city and if you time it right you might even score some sweet sunset photos.

Tower Bridge - Lego version ;)

Tower Bridge - Lego version ;)

If you have time to spare, continue along Southbank. There’s usually artists and small market stalls set up along the way and the rug store closing down sale style of the “Under croft”, London’s longest running central skatepark dating back to the 70s. Further along there’s the Tate modern museum, Millennium bridge, London bridge and then the Tower bridge (what people think is London bridge).

Travel tip: If you’re catching the Tube back from this end of town, try not to get stuck at Monument or Bank stations during peak hour. This is a major business area and center for multiple interchanges. If you’re new to Tubing, its definitely not for the faint hearted (or short of patience/fitness). Also note, even though on the map the interchanges look close together there are some considerably long tunnel/escalator runs so it may actually be quicker to spend longer on a train than running through tunnels, especially if you have luggage.

London 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Soho Shopping
London 2011 part #3 – Chelsea Flower show
London 2011 part #4 – Shopping – Hammersmith
London 2011 part #5 – Shopping – Covent Garden and Soho
London 2011 part #6 – Shopping – Camden
London 2011 part #7 – Shopping – Shoreditch
London 2011 part #8 – Hyde park, Piccadilly Circus

London photo gallery here
Chelsea flower show photo gallery here