Wednesday, September 13, 2017

48 HOURS IN LONDON: Heritage or adventure

Wake-uppers:
Scene: Glyssa Perez on winning 1st princess in Miss World-Philippines 2017: I am where GOD wants me to be, at this very moment, every experience is part of His divine plan.  I was awarded Miss World Philippines 1st Princess. I may have not won the Miss World Philippines crown, but I still feel like a winner. All the Glory belongs to my Heavenly Father, thank you for my victory. I came to the competition with a heart of service, and I will continue to do so. The experience and friendship that I have gained through this journey was more than I could of imagined. I am a firm believer that "Everything Happens for a reason" and I know that God has greater things for me. I am so thankful for this opportunity, and I am more than thankful for the people behind every success of my journey. 

Scene:  The opening and blessing of Dalareich Chocolate House in Booy District, Tagbilaran City last Friday. It is Bohol's first and only Chocolate Factory.

Scene: "Jardin Necitas," Pilar’s glowing garden will turn on its light on Sept. 27, 6 p.m. There will be a live acoustic band "Jam403" with special participation of Jerome Sala Ucab.

Scene: Our dear Ruth “Neneng” Udtohan was dearly missed on her 16th death anniversary, Sept. 9.  At 17, she died from leukemia. She was a staff of The Lampbearer’s Night publication of the University of Bohol High School Evening Session. She wrote poems and short stories.


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LONDON—My Facebook messenger was busy. There were calls and messages.

Jocelyn Pilayre (of Gecko Tours and Travel, 2nd floor at Alturas Mall) calling from Tagbilaran.  She was asking/ tracking my whereabouts.

Big Ben is an iconic London landmark and
a must on your list to see while you’re in London.
“Where have you been,” she asked.

When she learned where I was, Jocelyn joked, “Are you there to visit The Queen?” Maybe she thought I was the pussycat in the nursery rhyme.

“If I would be given the chance to see Her Highness,” I told Jocelyn in my trying hard British accent. 

London has many iconic buildings, landmarks, parks, West End musicals and shows, and sights to be seen, whether they be old or new, London is constantly evolving and is rich in historic culture.

In London, we met Katherine Embradura-Shaw who hails from Tubigon town. She told us that many sights in London – most of them can be discovered by walking and free.

She said London is packed with destinations that can make one’s a day or two-day break worthwhile.

Katherine was right.  Most of London’s top attractions are all within walking distance of each other. And by using the city’s regular bus or boat routes, you can tick off even more sights in a short space of time.

Awesome scenes and sights are Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, Royal Courts of Justice, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and --- yes, yes, yes! --- Tower Bridge!

Buckingham Palace has served as the official London residence of the UK's sovereigns since 1837.
Photo by Leo Udtohan
Start your day down in South Kensington. From here, you can drop into some museums or wander up the road to Knightsbridge. Iconic London shops like Harrods and Hamleys will be a bit quieter in the morning.

The sights of London at night are astounding. Visitors can see London come alive as the lights of the city flicker on during your walk. In fact, I was humming Petula Clark’s Downtown when I saw Harrods and Hamleys at night. Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city. Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty, How can you lose? The lights are much brighter there, You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares...

The St James’ Park and Buckingham Palace are just around the corner. The Buckingham Palace is the Queen’s official London residence. It has a total of 775 rooms. It is one of the few working royal palaces remaining in the world today. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the famous Changing The Guard.

The Coca-Cola London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel
on the South Bank of River Thames in London. Photo by Leo Udtohan
Next, walk down the Mall towards Westminster. You might have more chance at spotting some politicians at the Houses of Parliament and of course, the world’s famous clock, Big Ben. I was excited to see Big Ben and to hear the iconic chimes thrice!

The Houses of Parliament is a neo-Gothic wonder built in the mid-19th century. It is made up of two houses – the Commons and the Lords – and if you reserve ahead or just try your luck you can go inside to watch British democracy in action.

The Coca-Cola London Eye is a major feature of London’s skyline. It was opened to the public in 2000, when it was first built it was the largest Ferris Wheel in the world. Visitors can buy tickets to go up in the London Eye in one of the little pods (actually, 32 capsules, holding up to 25 people), it’s definitely something to consider on your first trip to London so you can see out over London. The London Eye gives you a breathtaking experience with a unforgettable perspective of more than 55 of London’s most famous landmarks.

Westminster Abbey is next door so you can see two of London’s most iconic buildings in one place. It is a must-see 700 year old living pageant of British history, the coronation church of England.

Either jump on a boat down the River Thames to Tower Bridge or walk across Westminster Bridge to the South Bank, and meander down the river on foot.

Then either head into Borough Market, see The Shard (the tallest building in Europe) or visit the Tower Of London. The Tower of London is a 900-year history as a royal palace, prison and place of execution, arsenal, jewel house and zoo.

Inside the National Gallery Museum. Leo Udtohan
Afterwards, jump on the number 11 bus heading west. You’ll travel through the oldest part of London, The City, past St Paul’s Cathedral (where Prince Charles and Lady Di were married in 1981), down Fleet Street  and The Strand and arrive at Trafalgar Square for that photo opportunity with the stone lions.

If you love to museums, there are many museums in London for free, without eating into your budget.  There are at least eight free museums in London- Natural History Museum for the roaring T-Rex and earthquake simulator, Sir John Soane’s Museum for the candlelit tour, Museum of London for the fascinating history of England’s capital, Bank of England Museum to hold a genuine bar of gold, Victoria and Albert Museum for the beautiful objects, Museum of London Docklands to learn about the history of river Thames, William Morris Gallery for the life and works of one of Britain’s most inspiring designers, and Queen’s House and  National Maritime Museum.

In South Kensington, you’ll find the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and the V&A are all within a short walking distance of each other.

For art, the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and Tate Modern are home to some of the greatest paintings in the world.  Whatever time you go, the permanent collections are always free.

The London's red telephone booth, an iconic part of the city.
Photo by Leo Udtohan
The National Gallery holds one of the world’s most important collections, and sees over six million visitors every year.  For the first time, I was very close to marvel at the masterpieces of van Gough, Renoir, da Vinci and Michael Angelo! 

There are also London’s lesser known art galleries, Georgian estates, crypts, old police stations and even old telephone booths. For many, London's red telephone booths are an iconic part of the city. As cheesy as it may sound, a picture of the traditional red telephone box should be on everyone’s must-have photo list whether you are visiting or residing in London.

I was at The Square Mile when my celfone rang. My cousin Helen Castaño-Alagadmo, on the line, asking how my day was.

“I really love London,” I told her. “It’s 8 p.m. here and I am enjoying my afternoon tea.”

“Did you cross London Bridge?” she asked.

“Yes, twice,” I told her. “The bridge is spectacular at night time.”

She kept on asking about the bridge and I assured her that London Bridge is still there.

I told her, “London Bridge is not falling down!” And I heard her laughing out loud!

There are other quirky, weird, cool and interesting places in London. However, visiting them would require another day.

I woke up early for my flight to Dublin, Ireland, while Pinoy Aquaman and Roel Catoto returned to the Philippines last August 19 because of work and family.

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Thanks for your letters, all will be answered. Comments welcome at leoudtohan@yahoo.com, follow leoudtohanINQ at Twitter /Facebook.

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