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3 Hidden Experiences in and around London

3 Hidden Experiences in and around London | CosmosMariners.com


London is, in my opinion, one of the greatest cities in the world. As Samuel Johnson said, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." One of the wonderful things about London is that there's always something new to see or do, another restaurant to try, another alleyway to explore.

There's this great novel by Geoff Nicholson, Bleeding London, in which one of the characters tries (and fails) to walk every street in the A to Zed. No matter how long you've lived there or how many times you've visited, London still has mysteries to discover. 

During my time in London (a decade-long love affair that includes four glorious trips and a study abroad stint), I've tried to crack some of the city's secrets. If you've seen the usual sites--Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, and the like--here are three experiences that will help you deepen your understanding of London and the surrounding area

Hidden Experiences in and Around London | CosmosMariners.com

1) The Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. 

Pretty much everyone in the world recognizes the Tower of London; it has, after all, been around since William the Conqueror's early reign almost a millennium ago. Most people don't know about the ceremony that takes place each night as a symbolic way to secure the property. Tickets are free, but since a very small number of people are allowed each night, you'll need to book way in advance. 

Hidden Experiences in and Around London | CosmosMariners.com
Yes, I was THAT close to Stonehenge!

2) Getting up close and personal at Stonehenge. 
The first time I visited, I was disappointed. The regular visitor path keeps you from getting too close to the stones, and there wasn't much context for the site other than what you learned on the audio guide. 

However, on a more recent trip, I went on a sunset tour of the property with one of the archeologists studying Stonehenge, and whoa, what a difference the guide makes. We drove around the entire property (which is much larger than you'd think), looked at the burial grounds located across the roadway from the main site, and then got to see the stones up close (really close: I could have touched them if I hadn't been worried about toppling something over!) 

Multiple outlets offer similar expeditions, and they don't come cheap--but if you're interested in learning more about this UK landmark, it's money well spent.

Hidden Experiences in and Around London | CosmosMariners.com
Hello, all of you sad souls that stood out in the rain for three hours. I, too, know what it's like to be on the other side of the gate.

3) Changing of the Guard from behind the gates of Buckingham Palace. 

If you've ever been to London, chances are you've squeezed into the giant crowd that forms each morning to watch the Queen's guard. I had the chance to see the ceremony from a unique perspective: from inside the gates! 

While I had to stand off to one side up against the building, I had an unparalleled vantage viewpoint for the ceremony--when the Irish Guard (with their mascot, the Irish greyhound) came by, I could almost reach out and pet the dog. (N.B.: not a great idea.) This is, unfortunately, one of those events where you have to know somebody that knows somebody (as was the case when I visited--one of my travel companions knew of someone who knew Prince Philip's secretary), but I supposed you could just write the royal secretaries and beg. The worst they can do is say no!

Would you be interested in doing any of these? What lesser known attractions or experiences have you done in London?