Different places always have different attitudes when the last gleams of sun signal the breakers to flash on and welcome in the nightlife. Personally, I’ve always seen daytime as the older, more collected sibling, while nighttime is its exciting, energy-pumped younger sibling. It sometimes amazes me how cities and people can grow in energy during the night. London may not be known as the city that never sleeps, but it does a pretty good job of being sleep-deprived.
Our hotel was unfortunately farther than comfortable walking distance to some of the exciting parts of London, but that was thankfully taken care of by a special night bus ready to take us to London and back to the hotel. The night bus driver even provided some color commentary and stopped us near the perfect photo locations. Unlike London, Los Angeles has a public transportation system I would rather not like to mention, whether out of aggravation or sheer embarrassment (but I admit it is improving with the Metro). Therefore, it’s pretty easy for me to fall in love with convenient public transportation and the London Underground, or the Tube, was no exception. The Tube consists of the Metropolitan Railway, the world’s first underground railway when it opened in 1863, and currently has eleven lines. London’s Underground may not have the express trains that New York offers that skip some stops, but as a person from Southern California used to hour-long traffic jams a few minutes wait was hardly torture. Another thing I have to point out is that the Tube is amazingly clean and well maintained, at least compared to the shady subways I’ve visited in the past. All of the subway stops are also colorful with different color schemes depending on the different lines, and if you look on the map you can see that the overlaying lines on it correspond with the individual depths of the train tracks. I know this all seems a bit much, but just allow me this moment to extol the system’s virtues as I sip from my new mug painted with the London Underground map.
Now that I’ve finished gushing over public transportation, I’m sure you want me to start getting into the exciting bits of London in the night. Piccadilly Circus was usually where we started each night’s journey. Many consider it a shrunken down version of Times Square, and it kind of is but it was also a great landmark to get everyone to meet up at since there were tube stations and buses right near it. If you’re in the mood for some cheap souvenirs the shops nearby will have an array of key chains and magnets. Near the area is Chinatown, where I refused to eat on account of being surrounded by it in the San Gabriel Valley everyday of my life. Most of the time we ate at pubs sampling some of the traditional English food, like fish and chips. That area is generally a fun place to just walk around and explore; you’d also be hard-pressed to find a place that wasn’t decently crowded. So my advice is to spend some time there souvenir shopping before checking out the rest of London.
Throughout this whole series of stories I do find myself constantly calling out movie references, so with London being home to just too many references I’ll try and limit myself. King’s Cross station may be where people board trains to France or Belgium, but it’s also where Harry Potter took his famous train ride to Hogwarts from Platform 9 ¾. The display at King’s Cross isn’t much but makes for a very fun photo featuring half of a cart bolted to the wall as you try to run through it. Another location featured in Harry Potter was the Millennium Bridge, which was attacked by death eaters before plummeting into the River Thames. The bridge has some fancy lights, but I’ve always preferred the area near the Thames near sunset or late afternoon.
With the River Thames running right through it, London has a multitude of bridges that look wonderful in the night. Some of my favorites would definitely be Tower Bridge and Albert Bridge. There was one point in the night when we wanted to take a picture of the bridge from another bridge across it. We nearly walked half the length of a bridge only to finally notice we were on the wrong side and a photo from that side would largely consist of passing cars and a small bridge in the background.
You can ask any of my friends and I’m usually the one who’s the more mature and calm-collected of our bunch. However, there are certain things that trigger my childhood spirit and Ferris wheels are one of them. To be honest, it’s always like I’m playing a horrible practical joke on myself whenever I go on one. My initial awe and wonder are too often overshadowed by my fear of heights as I start to realize the horrible mistake I’ve made of willingly going into a metal deathtrap. I’ll write about the London Eye during the daytime some other time, but definitely check it out during the night. Usually it harbors a blue hue, but certain events will cause it to change color. During the Olympics, its color was dictated by positive or negative tweets about the Olympics causing it to turn gold or purple, respectively. When we came it displayed a combination of red, white, and blue. There are numerous places to take a picture of the London Eye, but after hours online painstakingly zooming in and out on Google maps I managed to find the place where we took our favorite photo. On Waterloo Bridge there is a place near the Royal Festival Hall where you can take a photo featuring Big Ben in the middle of the London Eye, a stunning image especially in the night with both of them lit up.
London in the night is a bit like London in the day since both seem to have an onslaught of cars and people, but there’s something about that high-paced energy that is the highlight of every major city in the world. I was going to warn you not to stay out too late since the trains usually stop at around 1 AM and don’t open until 4-5 AM, but they’ve recently implemented a 24-hour train system for weekends so by all means stay out as late as you want. Even if it means a couple more minutes chatting at the pub, readjusting your camera for that perfect shot, or lingering just a few minutes longer to watch that street performance go ahead do it. It may be time we all embrace our energetic, sexy alter egos— after all, we can’t have the younger siblings bearing that burden all of the time.