Exploring London’s Underground Secrets

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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.

Best places to experience the true spirit of Canada

a Canadian flag and mountain ranges

The Canadian natural and urban landscapes are undeservedly neglected in many travel plans. However, if you are looking for the best places to experience the true spirit of Canada, you have stumbled upon a guide that will list and explain why the home of maple syrup (among other things) should definitely be on your travel horizon.

Essentially, this is a big country that boasts one of the most mesmerizing and impressive landscapes in the world. On the one hand, you can encounter lakes, mountains, and other natural sceneries of indescribable beauty. On the other, Canadian cities are a perfect starting and finishing point on your trip. They offer you a chance to experience incredible architectural gems in a progressive and liberal society. Read on to find out more about the most breathtaking and exciting places in Canada you should visit on your next trip to the Great White North.

Toronto

If you are looking for the perfect city to start your Canadian journey, Toronto is the place for you (and my hometown). It is one of the largest and culturally most important cities in this country. Toronto’s distinguishing landmark is the CN Tower which you must have seen if you have ever received a postcard from Toronto.

When it comes to its tourist potential, Toronto’s transportation system makes movement through the city impeccable, with a network of subways, street cars, and roads. However, if you get bored with Toronto’s bustling urban energy, you can always take the ferry across the harbour to the nearby Toronto Islands.  

a Toronto skyline with skyscrapers and CN Tower
The famous CN Tower dominates the Toronto skyline

Banff

If you are looking to visit the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Banff is a great resort town to start your hiking, biking, or skiing journey from. It is located in the Banff National Park, the first national park established on Canadian soil. As for what it can offer to its visitors, Banff is a town that is brimful of small, local cafes, restaurants, art galleries, shops, and other tourist amenities. You can find the beautiful Mount Norquay towering over this little town and the famous Lake Louise just an hour away from Banff.

Icefields Parkway

Icefield Parkway is a world-famous 144-mile double-lane highway drive between Jasper and Lake Louise. What makes it so epic is that this road offers an incredible overview of the Canadian Rocky Mountains while taking you through orchards, waterfalls, lakes, and other intact natural scenery. This route is fantastic for those who enjoy hiking and camping in breathtakingly beautiful Canadian nature.

a big lake at the foot of mountains in Canada, symbolizing the best places to experience the true spirit of Canada
Canada is home to supreme vistas and natural sceneries.

Vancouver

Vancouver is another big Canadian city that should be on your priority list, especially if you are visiting western Canada. This city is famous for its multiculturalism and green living. Around 50% of its citizens speak languages other than English, making it a truly inspiring and eclectic city. As for what you can do besides the essential sightseeing around the city, Vancouver is a well-known stop for any serious skier given its nearby world-renowned ski resorts such as Whistler Blackcomb. The local city council continuously strive to achieve the best living standard by pioneering and incorporating green design ideas into the city’s infrastructure.

In fact, a rising number of US citizens are moving to Vancouver and other Canadian cities to pursue a cleaner, more humane way of living. If you are considering moving to Canada from NYC, be mindful that you might need to hire an international relocation company to help you get here from NYC, with the necessary vehicles and equipment.

Cape Breton

Cape Breton is a unique part of the province of Nova Scotia located on the east coast of the country. It is one of Canada’s most beloved road trip destinations because of its amazing landscapes that line the famous Cabot Trail – a 186-mile route through the Cape Breton National Park. You will be able to see fantastic nature from Cape Breton’s lookout points, picturesque fishing villages, and one of the most breathtaking scenic routes in the world. A drive through Cape Breton is one to not be missed.

Prince Edward Island

This lovely eastern province and island is famous for its green hills, red cliffs, and amazing seafood everywhere you go. Also, given that most locations in Canada are oriented towards active vacations such as walking or hiking, this island is the perfect getaway where you can relax and enjoy the island scenery. This island is also huge in the golfing world due to its many golf courses available for play. Beside these luxurious, upper-class amenities, the island is also famous for its seal population – as many as four different species of seal inhabit its shores throughout the year.

Niagara Falls

colorful waterfalls and a tree
Niagara Falls are an incredible sight any time of the year and the best place to experience the true spirit of Canada

And, last but certainly not the least, the amazing Niagara Falls. There is hardly a person who has not heard of this collection of waterfalls on the United States and Canada border. The Niagara Falls are indeed a natural wonder that merits at least a day of your attention, especially if you are staying or moving to Toronto in the future. 

The waterfalls – Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls – make up an astounding six million cubic feet of water that splash downward every minute. This makes the word wonder in the phrase “natural wonder” a literal description of what experiencing the Niagara Falls is like.

All in all, we hope this short guide has helped you visualize the best places to experience the true spirit of Canada. Of course, there are many more amazing spots which you can visit, especially if you enjoy spending your holiday in the great outdoors. Don’t forget Quebec, Newfoundland and the other provinces and territories (coming in a future post). Whatever your favorite places are, we are confident you will love every minute spent in this beautiful country. Just make sure you stay safe and healthy during your travel.

Tried and True Niagara Falls

What’s not to like about tried and true Niagara Falls? Those of us who live in Southern Ontario or Western New York largely take it for granted. Living in Toronto, Niagara Falls is just a short drive down the highway. 90 minutes if the traffic is good; 2 hours or more if it’s not so good. From Buffalo, Niagara Falls is 30 minutes give or take. Over the years, I’ve probably been to Niagara Falls 25 or 30 times, maybe more. It’s intoxicating and a fun place to visit.

Niagara Falls USA

Looking at Niagara Falls USA from Niagara Falls Canada

Before COVID-19 and 9/11, a quick trip across the border was a semi-regular event. Lunch, dinner, shopping, etc. Buffalo was normally the final destination but it’s always a treat to cross the border at Niagara Falls. As you cross the bridge, you get the full view of both the American and Canadian Falls. Niagara Falls U.S.A. has the American Falls, the Seneca Casino, outlet shopping, hotels & motels. They also have some authentic American food restaurants like Villella’s Italian Restaurant (795 Rainbow Blvd), Buzzy’s (7617 NiagaraFalls Blvd.) and Sammy’s Pizzeria (1400 Hyde Park Blvd). Great chicken wings, pizza and beer.

Niagara Falls Canada

Niagara Falls Canada gives you the full view of both the American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls (the Canadian Falls), 2 casinos, not so great shopping and many more hotel & motels. The better side for falls views and other activities. There are 27 wineries within 20 minutes and several championship golf courses nearby. There always been this “vaudeville” feel to Niagara Falls with the walks, jumps and plunges that have taken place for almost 200 hundred years. In 2012, Nik Wallenda walked across a tightrope from the U.S. to Canadian side and an unidentified man became just the 3rd person to survive an unprotected trip over the falls.

Beyond looking at the Falls, there are a couple of great interactive Falls experiences. “Journey Behind the Falls” takes you down a 150 ft. elevator into a tunnel to 2 observation decks and portal behind the falls. The rushing water and roar of the falls is something else. The other more well known option is the “Maid of the Mist” boat tour. The boat takes you passed the base of the American Falls and into the basin of the Horseshoe Falls. A short walk from the Falls, Clifton Hill and area gives you amusement rides, takeout food and a lot of neon. The glory days of “the honeymoon capital of the world” are long gone but you can still find a motel with a heart shaped Jacuzzi tub.

Summary – Niagara Falls

At the end of the day, it all comes back to the wonder of the Falls. I never get tired of tried and true Niagara Falls. It’s the unofficial 8th wonder of the world. It’s well worth the visit any time of year. And almost in my backyard.

Niagara Falls Canada at sunset

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