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Balloon Flights Over London

A History of Balloon Flights over London

The first ascent of man to the skies was made in a hot air balloon from Paris on 21 November 1783. Such was the progress of science that just a few weeks later a superior balloon design using hydrogen gas flew from Paris for longer, further and higher. Charles Green taking off from Vauxhall Gardens in London, he flew to Germany with a local MP making the 480 mile journey in 18 hoursLondon’s long association with balloon flights began with an Italian: Vincenzo Lunardi. He was the first man to fly from London and indeed from England on 15 September 1784 in a balloon filled with hydrogen gas. He took off from the Artillery Grounds near Moorfields and flew in the company of a cat, a dog and a caged pigeon to Ware in Hertfordshire. Following his success, balloon flights became a regular occurrence over the skies of London for over 150 years until the outbreak of World War II.

The celebrated London balloonist Charles Green was born at 92 Goswell Road, on 31 January 1785. His first ascent on the 19 July 1821, was in a balloon filled with coal gas. Sponsored by the owners of Vauxhall Gardens near Vauxhall Bridge, on 7 November 1836, he set a major long distance record in their balloon "Royal Vauxhall". He flew with Robert Hollond, the MP for Hastings and Thomas Monck Mason, to Wielburg in Germany. Taking off just after midday and flying through the night, they landed at 7am after their 18 hour journey had covered a distance of 480 miles (770 km), a record which remained unbroken until 1907. By the time he retired in 1852, Green had flown in a balloon more than 500 times, many of those ascents being from parks and sites in London.

Cheap Bus Tour

If you fancy taking a bus to see the sites and are looking to cut costs, then you can take a regular service (free with a Travelcard) which passes a number Routemaster Bus: the oldest but most popular buses in service. Number 9 which runs up the Strand to the City is still operating (pictured on Piccadilly)of significant sites. Okay - no commentary, but it's cheap.


Two routes are good contenders:

RV1 Bus - Modern Single-Decker

Tower Gateway Station -  Tower Bridge Road - Tooley Street - Duke Street Hill - London Bridge Station - Borough High Street - Southwark Street - Tate Modern - Blackfriars Road - National Theatre - Waterloo Station - Waterloo Road - Waterloo Bridge - Aldwych  - Russell Street - Covent Garden


Airplane and Airport Services

There are two main airport hubs serving London, and several smaller airports:

Jet landing at Heathrow airport in West London.


Billed as the world’s busiest airport with 67 million passengers per year, travelling from five terminals.  It’s the busiest for international rather than domestic passengers – for the fact quibblers and has excellent transport links into London.


Trains and Rail Services

Although train tickets can be bought at a discount over the Internet (in advance), many British users still find the system unwieldy. Eurostar terminal at St. Pancras is where to catch trains to continental Europe (via the chunnel).
Generally, all mainline stations in London have a large ticketing area, where you buy your tickets before starting your journey. There will be a queue of some kind, so leave more than a minute or two.

Taxis or Black Cabs

Black taxis are everywhere. A more costly method of getting around (unless there’s five of you to split the fare), true, but very convenient. They sit a punishing Black Cabs: are vacant when the orange 'Taxi' light is illuminated above the windscreen.exam (the ‘Knowledge’) to qualify which takes up to 4 years; so they know their business. They’ve memorised 25,000 streets, so don’t be surprised if you get an understated nod, when you state the destination. They’re simply calculating the quickest way to get there, taking into account current traffic, roadworks, etc. Once they’ve ‘crunched’ the route, expect some friendly banter, they’re famous for it.
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