Exploring London’s Underground Secrets

London1


Over the past century and a half, London’s Underground has seen two world wars, millions of passengers, and more secrets than we could begin to count. The “Tube” is used by Londoners and visitors to the beautiful city every hour of every day, but most are unaware of the history they’re traveling through.

Once you learn of the 150-years’ worth of secrets and history housed below England’s capital, you’ll earn a completely new appreciation for this feat of engineering and human-kind.

Underground History

In the early 1800s, London was booming. The influx of people bustling about quickly made it apparent that a better method of mass transportation was needed, and fast. The Metropolitan Railway took on the immense challenge of constructing the first underground line below the city. After months of construction, the 3 and three quarter mile railway carried 38,000 passengers safely to their destination on the inaugural ride on January 10, 1863.

soldiers parading on the streets of London

For the following five decades, London’s Underground saw changing ownership, builders, and thousands of passengers. However, once World War I began London saw its first air raid, and the tube was transformed into much more than a transportation system. The safe-haven continued on into the World War II.
Image Source: BiblioArchives

abandoned bomb shelter

Initially, British government officials tried to prevent the tube stations and lines use as bomb shelters. But, after their attempts to keep people from taking shelter there were decisively ignored, they decided to regulate the shelters instead. Trains continued to run on certain lines, bringing supplies, food, and other Londoner’s seeking shelter. A number of unused stations were converted into factories for wartime productions.
Image Source: secretlondon123

While the Tube was considered by many to be the safest haven, no place in London was completely protected from German Blitzes. Hundreds of Londoner’s lost their lives when the tube was hit by German bombs in 1940 through 1943.
Even in the times of crisis and tragedy, the Underground has remained as a point of togetherness for the people of London. It’s an unmistakable symbol of the ingenuity and strength of Britain as a whole.

Traveling the Underground Today

The Underground lines cover nine zones and stop at more than 200 stations. Even though there are nine zones, tourists typically stay in Zones 1 and 2 because they cover Central London where many of the major tourist attractions and hotels are located.

These days, 11 Tube lines transport locals and tourists throughout Britain’s capital:

  • Bakerloo Line
  • Central Line
  • Circle Line
  • District Line
  • Hammersmith & City Line
  • Jubilee Line
  • Metropolitan Line
  • Northern Line
  • Piccadilly Line
  • Victoria Line
  • Waterloo & City Line

Generally, the Underground runs are between 5:00 a.m. — 12:00 A.M., Monday through Saturday. Sunday times are reduced by a few hours with later starting times and earlier stopping times.

Secrets Along The Stops

We alluded to the importance of the Underground during the World Wars, and proof of that is beneath 8 of the 11 Tube lines. For under these lines sit deep-level air-raid shelters. The construction of the shelters took place between 1940 and 1942. Originally reserved for government officials, 5 of the 8 shelters opened up to civilians as bombing intensified.

abandoned tube station in London

Image Source: secretlondon123

The shelters that were constructed include:

  • Chancery Lane
  • Belsize Park
  • Camden Town
  • Goodge Street
  • Stockwell
  • Clapham North
  • Clapham Common
  • Clapham South

After the war ended, several of the shelters were still used by London’s military. The Goodge Street shelter was used by the army until the 1950s. The Chancery Lane shelter was used for the Kingsway Telephone Exchange during the Cold War years.

Recreated World War 2 communications room

Image Source: Shiny Things

In addition to the secrets you’ll uncover while traveling the Underground, you’ll also see all of the most iconic sights of the region.

Circle Line – Tower Hill Station

Tower Bridge – Built 120 years ago, the Tower Bridge is an engineering marvel and arguably one of the most recognizable attractions in the world. If you’re feeling brave, trek out onto the high bridges suspended between the bridges towers.

Tower Bridge in London

Image Source: spacedust2019

District Line – St James’s Station

St. James’s Park – Millions of visitors flock to the beautiful St. James’s Park every year. It’s the oldest of London’s eight Royal Parks, and it includes The Mall and the Horse Guards Parade.

View of St. James Park, London

Image Source: foshie

Jubilee Line – Westminster Station

Big Ben – Is there a more iconic London sight than Big Ben? Lucky for visitors, this sight is right along the Jubilee Line outside of Westminster Station. Whether you’re a history buff or just want to check it off of your bucket list, you need to stop by Big Ben.

Night view of Big Ben and Parliament Buildings

Image Source: Nan Palmero

Northern Line – Waterloo Station

London Eye – The London Eye is a larger-than-life Ferris wheel on the River Thames in London. From here, you will be treated to the most spectacular views of the city and a ride you won’t forget.

The London Eye at night

Image Source: Altug Karakoc

Piccadilly Line – Covent Garden or Leicester Square Station

Covent Garden – The district of Covent Garden in London is a hub for local shops, delicious food, and incredible street performers. Once you hop out of the Covent Garden station, you’ll have a tough time fitting everything you want to explore into just one day.

Covent Garden

Image Source: Aurelien Guichard

Parts of the Tube’s storied history are somber, but the incredible spirit of London persists and prevails. For once you wander the stations and secret passageways hidden beneath the surface, you’ll never think of London the same way again.

7 tips for solo female travelers

woman in the desert looking at a map

If you are a free-spirited individual and you want to travel on your own, you will surely hear cautionary tales about how precarious it is to do so, how you can get lost, bored, hungry, mugged, attacked, etc. Although there is an element of danger involved in traveling alone, especially during these turbulent pandemic times, we believe that the benefits significantly outweigh the risks. For this reason, we have seven tips for solo female travelers which will equip you with the necessary knowledge about what it actually looks like to travel alone as a woman. And, even more importantly, what you really have to take into consideration in terms of accommodation, transportation, money, safety, local culture and the like.

Safety first!

Your personal safety should be at the top of your priority list every time you hit the road. Some women associate safety exclusively with potential muggings, so they make sure they take self-defense lessons before they go on a big journey to unknown regions.

However, it is not only strangers that are potential sources of havoc. Depending on where you are traveling, you need to make sure you have all the necessary supplies. Avid travelers know that it is helpful to research the topographic characteristics of the terrain to decide on the type of clothing and shoes that you may need. You should also know what you absolutely have to have in your backpack – water, knife, lighter, first-aid kit, maps, insect repellent, medication, etc.

Listen to your gut

As any woman who likes to travel alone will tell you, eventually you will develop a keen ‘sixth sense’ for detecting potentially dangerous places and people. We all have it in us; you just need to get on the road to finetune your decision-making. Being too fearful can make the journey tedious and less than enjoyable, whereas having no inhibitions can naturally put you in tricky situations. Since we do not live in an ideal world, solo female traveling may come with challenges, but in most cases, these bumps in the road will make your journey thrilling and unforgettable.

Be informed

Basically, it is essential to know where you are traveling to – weather changes, availability of potable water, food, healthcare, and medication in the given country or region are all important factors to consider. Another factor you have to take into consideration is the cellular coverage in the region. Although your phone and internet may work in the hostel you are staying at, that might not be the case once you leave urban areas.

woman pointing to a place on a map
Carefully planning your journey is more important than seems at first glance.

No woman is an island

Yes, traveling to a completely novel environment alone is a deeply gratifying experience, but it is a mistake to think that you have to be alone all the time. Be on the lookout for travel tours that offer assistance in the form of local guides. These types of offers provide you with the chance to seek help when you need it, but without forcing you into traveling in somebody else’s shoes, so to speak. For example, suppose you want to go on a photo safari. In that case, you have workshops led by wildlife photography experts who can brief you about the best timing and position from which you can take pictures of the savanna nature and wildlife. 

If you are looking to spend a longer period of time somewhere, it might be useful to join a traveling group. In this way, you can plan group journeys when you feel like it; you can meet like-minded travelers upon which you will be able to rely during your stay and still retain the sense of choosing your own itinerary for the day.

people jumping in the sunset
Solo female travelers are usually surprised to find that they have met so many amazing people on their journey. 

Meeting new people is part and parcel of traveling solo

From expats to locals, from flight attendants to hitch-hikers, be sure to delve deep into the melting pot of different faces and experiences that come your way. The journey to yourself is, for most people, actually the journey towards new friendships.

Talking to people has a practical side for solo women travelers as well. Especially if you do not speak the local language, you might miss out on important information of all sorts. People you meet will surely share their experiences with you, and you will most easily travel the country by knowing where to go and where you can go.

Meeting yourself is also part and parcel of traveling solo

If you are a sociable person, you might easily succumb to the urge to be surrounded by other people. It is understandable, and it may be tempting to form a group to travel together in unfamiliar surroundings. Although this is not necessarily wrong, at times, this approach to traveling might obscure the bigger picture – that you are traveling solo for a reason.

There are many things to learn about yourself that, perhaps, you cannot find out in your hometown. Learning to enjoy nature, silence, and your thought processes will be a life-long lesson that traveling solo will bestow upon you.

a woman standing between a gate made of rock
You might be more capable and adventurous than what you give yourself credit for

For instance, it may happen that you do not have any money left. You may find out that you can sell your photographs or artwork or earn money by doing land work. These kinds of revelations will reveal to you something you may not have known about yourself – that you are resilient, resourceful, and streetwise.

Book a bed in a hostel or private accommodation 

Immersing yourself in local culture by staying in a shabby hostel or renting a room from a local will widen your horizons and give you a more accurate picture of the local environment. There is a chance that you will meet someone who speaks the same language as you do – both literally and figuratively.

Furthermore, you will always have someone to ask for help or advice, even if you are not that into the idea of making friends. It is usually challenging to get through to hotel staff in such a way. Also, hostels are generally well prepared for solo female travelers, and they probably already have the answer to any of your questions.

4 Tips For Skiing Over 50

This Post Was Originally Published on the Liftopia Blog on March 14, 2016 by Mark Crone; updated March 5, 2020

I started skiing at the age of 6 and I’m now well above 50. My first boots had laces; my skis had screw-in edges and ski straps; my poles had leather strap baskets. A lot has changed since then – and thankfully.

If you are well under 50, you may be thinking, “this has nothing to do with me,” but it will at some point. You will hit the magical age of 50.

If you are indeed over 50, the fork in the road may be “you do ski” or “you would like to ski”. Either way, read on. Here are my 4 tips for skiing over 50:

skiing over 50
Photo by Mati Mango on Pexels.com

1. Get Modern

Above, I described my first set of ski gear. When I’m at the hill, I still see people in purple ski suits (from the 70s), rear-entry boots and 200 cm. skis. Now “Throwback Thursdays” are one thing, but… modern ski clothing provides warmth, durability and weather resistance.

Ski technology makes skiing easier (if you are old enough, think “before parabolic skis”). Get into your local ski equipment shop and talk to an experienced professional. They’ll fit you for boots (literally) and set you up with the best pair of skis for you based on your ability, normal terrain and your budget.

2. Get Fit

Skiing is tough work and you need to be in some kind of “ski fit” condition to really enjoy yourself. I’ve talked about it in another post for Liftopia – “How To Get Ready For The First Day Of The Ski Season”.

As a Ski Patroller, and someone who is over 50, I ski all day. It’s a given that I’ll be tired the next day (as I am today) but you need to have enough stamina during the ski day to enjoy your time on the slopes (be it a half day, full day or ski vacation).

Skiing is great exercise and requires at least some strength and flexibility. As you get older, it gets much tougher to get up if you fall. But it’s tougher still to get up if you aren’t in shape.

3. Get Lessons

It’s never too late to learn to ski. Lessons are an absolute necessity if you are learning to ski at any age. A professional ski instructor will make learning to ski fun and help you to master the basics and stay safe. You’ll enjoy yourself and look forward to a good time on the slopes.

Even if you have skied for a while, or are coming back to skiing, a “tune up” lesson, clinic or program is a great way to re-start and improve your skills.

4. Get Out There

The “over 50” market is a big one and a growing one for the ski industry. Websites, equipment, clothing, lessons and more are all geared to “north of 50”. There are “over 50” ski clubs and groups (regular clubs, clubs for singles, seniors clubs) to ski in a group and socialize afterwards. There are “over 50” ski holidays offered by some ski clubs and ski tour operators. Liftopia has you covered for great deals on lift tickets when you buy in advance and if you are over 65, they have senior prices too. There are no excuses!

Above all…

Ski at your own pace and on the terrain that you feel most comfortable on. If you skied when you were young, the exhilarating mogul runs and double black diamonds may now be a thing of the past. But you can still have a great day of fresh winter air, physical exercise and great skiing. When you get tired, simply call it a day. Go back to the ski lodge, get a hot drink and sit by the fireplace to warm up. There’s always tomorrow…