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.

Tried and True Niagara Falls

Overlooking 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.

Looking at the Niagara Bridge in Niagara Falls

Just above the Falls on the Niagara River
Looking at Horseshoe Falls from down the Niagara River

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. 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.

A view of the American Falls

Niagara Falls Canada

Niagara Falls Canada at sunset

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.

Niagara Falls Canada in the evening

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 at dusk

Best Birthday Gifts for Travelers

the ultimate gifts for travellers

Finding the best birthday gifts for travelers can be a difficult task. The person you are buying the present for might be your best friend, your boyfriend, girlfriend, even your brother, but that fact doesn’t make the gift-picking process any easier. So, the best way to find the right present for them is to see what things they like or want. Do they like reading? Do they like listening to music or perhaps painting pictures, or photography? Are they into fashion? Or, in the case of our today’s topic, do they like to travel? If the answer to the latter question is yes, then these are just some of the things to give the most original and, most importantly, the best birthday gifts for travelers.

The scratch-off map

One of the most popular gifts for travelers has been the scratch-off map of the world. This map has been all over Instagram and other social media, and more and more people tend to buy one in order to scratch the country they have been to. This is an amazing way to motivate people who like to travel, to travel even more, and to travel to destinations that are quite exotic. Having a map in front of you with all the countries that you have seen and all the ones that still remain to be visited is, first of all, an amazing way to decorate your walls. And secondly, a great motivation board for anyone who likes to travel. Apart from that, this type of gift might be a cliche right now, but it’s helluva lot of fun.

A nice watch

best gifts for travellers

Even though you might not think “trip” once this gift comes to mind, getting the traveler in question a watch is indeed a great idea. First of all, watches are always important – they are not only amazing fashion accessories, but it is something that is quite useful. As far as travelers are concerned, this might even be more useful for them, as they are traveling to countries in different time zones, so it is always important for them to have a watch by their side. However, the case with buying a watch in these situations is a bit more complicated, For example, it wouldn’t be a good idea for them to travel with a very fancy and expensive watch. So instead focus on one that looks amazing, is very fashionable, and is of high quality, such as a good automatic watch that they will be able to use in formal and nice events but also in sporty combinations. Apart from all of these reasons, a watch is also a great gift because this is one of the rare items that they will use even after they come back.

Portables

This is definitely not the sexiest gift that you can come up with, but it is definitely one of the most useful ones for travelers. The first option is the portable charger, which is, if you really like to travel, your #1 thing you need to have by your side. However, there are different brands, different price ranges, and power banks of different power, so you can get the most powerful one. This type of gift is one that will make everyone extremely happy as charging your phone while on a trip is really an excruciating job. Apart from that, bear in mind that power adapters might differ from country to country, so getting them a universal USB travel power adapter is also an amazing option. This will most certainly prove rather helpful and is also quite original.

A great travel bag

a great travel bag for travellers

Traveling with a bag that is not meant for trips is quite a task, and if you have traveled somewhere taking your things in a regular backpack, then you know what it means to have something in it but having to reach it. So that this doesn’t happen to your fellow traveler, you can find a good travel backpack that are quite popular nowadays. These bags are extremely functional with different compartments for laptop and tablet, a shoe compartment, a water bottle pocket, a compartment for documents, and even some hidden compartments and pockets to store your valuables. With this type of a travel bag, you might not even need luggage.

Summary

You’re buying a gift for a person who likes to travel. Perhaps not the easiest task in the world, but there are so many different options that you can go with. The only thing you need to do is think outside of the box and try to put yourself in the shoes of a traveler. What would you like to get if you were traveling a lot?