More “after the trip” thoughts…
If you’re going to London or Paris and like to explore on your own, I suggest you make a list of places you want to visit, centering each day around one major event but throwing in some more or less “day’s off” along the way.
Then, as you plan, make serious use of the London Journey Planner and the Paris Recherche avancée. You can specify quickest – bus – train – etc. for the journey. Do a copy/paste into a document, one page for each day.
Then, as you travel around use the information you’ve gathered.
I surprised myself in Paris as we left the Eiffel Tower, wanting to take the bus (to see Paris as we went) to the Louvre. Per my own instructions we walked along an avenue, turned at the right place, and there sat two busses with the correct route number on them. When we approached the front bus, the driver pointed across the street to yet another bus, just loading. My self-made instructions were almost perfect, just not pointing to the correct side of the street.
We did stuff like that as we found our way around London and Paris, not quite moving around as locals, but independently flowing from one place to another in a satisfying way.
On both the Tube and Metro (subway and bus alike) you need to know the train or bus’ ultimate destination plus your stop along the way. Having a pre-printed page of instructions (to and from) makes a huge difference as you stand in an underground station deciding which platform is the right one. Of course, you have big maps in every station and, of course, you have a pocket map – but things feel rather confusing when there are thousands of rushing commuters all around you.
There’s no chance people will think you’re a local, but having the piece of paper in your hand that says, in your own words: “At Green Park station, take the Jubilee Line towards Stratford Underground Station or West Ham – get off at Canary Wharf” gives you more confidence than just knowing you need to “take the tube to Canary Wharf.”
You can see lots of photos from our trip in my photo album.