London is one of the most visited cities in the world.
And if, like me, you’ve been to the Big Smoke more times than you can remember, it’s hard to believe it is still possible to see this vibrant city from a new perspective.
But that is exactly what is on offer from operators within the Coach Tourism Council.
Yes – coaches. I’m not even half way to retirement age and before I gave this a go, I admit I associated this form of travel with my grandparents’ generation.
What I hadn’t realised was more than two million people travel to London by coach to see a West End show every year. I’m now one of them – and there wasn’t a Werther’s Original in sight.
It takes about three and a half hours to get from Sheffield to London by coach.
We then spent the duration of our trip touring the city on this form of transport – and I saw London in a whole new light.
The usual way to get around is cramming onto the Tube like a sardine in a tin. But by coach, you take in all of the sights above ground on your journey, from the beautiful, hidden churches tucked away on back alleys, to the window displays on the shopping streets.
London is, of course, as much about wide open spaces and green escapes as it is about buzzing streets and tourist hotspots.
Our first stop therefore was Kew Gardens (www.kew.org), a huge oasis of tranquillity in a sea of hustle and bustle. We took a land train around the gardens to get an idea of their scale and diversity before exploring such attractions as the glass houses and the historic Kew Palace.
The must-see highlight for me was the Marianne North Gallery, where the 18th century artist’s 800 paintings of nature from all over the world cover every wall from floor to ceiling.
We then hopped straight back on the coach – no hanging around in the rain – and headed straight to the Waldorf Hotel (www.waldorfhilton.co.uk) for afternoon tea. To know you are dining in style under the same roof which has also accommodated the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Pavarotti makes you feel very special indeed.
The Waldorf is a leisurely stroll away from the Piccadilly Theatre, home to the fabulous Jersey Boys show (www.encoretickets.co.uk).
This world class show, which tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is one of the best I have ever seen and had the audience dancing in the aisles by the encore. From the dazzling vocal talents to the breathtaking production, it is worth a trip to London on its own.
If you’re peckish after the show, we’d recommend the Bear and Staff pub just around the corner on Charing Cross Road (www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk).
After a great stay in the wonderfully-located Tower Hotel (www.guoman.com/tower), our last stop was the BBC’s Broadcasting House for a tour (www.bbc.co.uk/tours). Peering down at the building’s iconic broadcast newsroom and taking a seat on the One Show sofa were the perfect end to a trip which ticked all the boxes.
For someone looking for a hassle-free break, this is a no-brainer. The travel arrangements, driving and bookings are all sorted for you – so all you have to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the coach journey.
I travelled as a guest of the Coach Tourism Council. South Yorkshire members include Wilfreda (01302 330330, www.wilfreda.co.uk), Grays Travel Group (www.graystravelgroup.co.uk) and Coopers Tours (www.cooperstours.co.uk, 0844 3575353).