Making the most out of a trip to London

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Article by Rick Cropp And Barbara Braidwood, For Postmedia News

So how do you make the most of your first few days in London? It can be overwhelming. The streets, gates, rows, ways, lanes, greens, woods, groves, vales, towns, hills, and parks that make up London are a never-ending series of riddles. It is easy to grow weary and become oblivious to the patchwork of old, new and ancient architecture.

We suggest your first visit should be preceded by as much history reading as you can stand, even if only through historical period novels that are relatively painless.

Once on the ground, take a bus tour first. It gives you an incomparable introduction to the centre of action and is a perfect activity when you are suffering from jet lag. As you make the circuit, draw out the route on a good tourist map. It is one of the best ways to stay oriented when you walk the same ground.

You can't go to the city and not take a ride in a London cab. Cabbies are some of the best trained geographers in the city. Ask if they'll give you a running commentary as you make your way around. They have studied "The Knowledge" for years, a fascinating story in itself.

Regular guide books give you more depth and much more breadth than a cab ride or bus tour but they can be a bit overwhelming.

Our favourite guide book right now is Bloom's Literary Guide to London. It tells you about the backstory bundled into the novels or poetry of many U.K. authors. You can see where they lived and worked and what the authors saw every day that made it into their novels.

The BBC also has a wonderful history section on their website that is supplemented with shows that are well done.

You can take a mobile device and web your way around, plugging in every address and plaque you encounter. But a small amount of this can go a long way.

There are dozens of museums but if you have to pick just one, start with the Museum of London (www.museumoflondon.org.uk) for "the story of the city from prehistoric times to the present day."

The biggest mistake most people make is trying to see or do too much. The Tower of London has been around for centuries and is definitely worth seeing, but go with the attitude that you will be back. You don't have to do everything your first time.

Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

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