I knew I would run out of Schengen days and didn't have to be back at work for another 10 days, so I spent nine nights in London. Haven't been there in over 30 years. I booked a reasonably priced (for me) room at London House Hotel, and after a few email mishaps (I typed in the wrong security code for my credit card payment, they charged my card before the free-cancellation period expired, I realized I needed an extra night but the cost for adding to my original reservation was more than double the previous nightly rate, so I made a new reservation for the last night - just the kind of mistakes I am prone to every day anyway).
I flew from Milano to Gatwick, bought an Oyster card and a 7-day transportation card to cover the nine nights, and set off to find my hotel via tube from the airport. My hotel was near Bayswater Road (Street?), about two blocks from the tube station. The front desk seemed completely staffed by workers of different nations, which I realized was a reflection of the hotel's clientele, so brilliant to have so many languages accessible. My room was a "small single", efficiently arranged, but no place to put a suitcase (even my 20" rolly) except to empty it out and leave it on the floor or at the end of the bed, between bed and wall. Good-sized mini-fridge, a safe in the closet, no end table but I was able to improvise one from a narrow bench below the mirror. The bathroom was large. From the outside, the hotel looks like all the other hotels on the same street, and on the surrounding streets.
There is a bus stop to go toward the main sights about a block away from the hotel, a bus stop for returning "home" around the corner on the same street, and two tube stops: Bayswater, and a couple of blocks further on the same street, Queensway. I love a good bus ride, and every time I asked for transportation advice, I was given tube stops which, although much quicker for reaching a destination, don't help me with orientation as much as seeing landmarks and bus stops do. Also, I didn't come to London to sit in the dark. I loved having that unlimited 7-day pass! I could change my itinerary at a moment's notice. I also got a discount (1/3 off) on the roundtrip boat ride to Greenwich.
I planned to use London as my recovery time from a long summer trip, and except for meeting up with Nigel and his better half, I had no plans. I did want to go to Greenwich, a few museums, and Westminster Abbey. My wish list was pretty modest.
I started out by walking around the neighborhood - a garden, many inexpensive restaurants, some other stores, a florist, a couple of banks, two Pret a Manger restaurants within two blocks, and lots of souvenir shops and "pound" stores.
The next day I took the boat to Greenwich and back, with the standard commentary from the guide, and as we passed one historic landmark after another, I realized how much British history is part of the American educational and cultural experience. My ancestors were from Italy, but going to school in the U.S. I "took on" a lot of British history as my own. I was a little shocked at how familiar London seemed to me. One key moment was when the boat passed Traitor's Gate (clearly labeled), which the guide did not even mention, but which sent chills up my spine as I thought of the people who had their last glimpse of freedom as they passed under that low bridge. Blackfriars, the Tower of London and its iconic bridge, and the Houses of Parliament receding in the distance - I felt at home.