Without further delay, here is the beginning of our “little” travel log of our trip…just so we won’t forget any of the fun things we did or make the same mistakes! Since it was such a LONG trip, I’m breaking it up for your viewing pleasure and my sanity. Consider it part one of…a lot.
18 hours. 5260 miles. 12 hours in Budapest. 929 more miles and we made it to London. Whew. It is even exhausting typing that out. Not the most efficient way to get there, but we arrived nonetheless. The next 72 hours were the most jam packed, non-stop, wonderful hours I had. Looking back, London was my favorite place to go. It was the place I could see myself actually living, and one I would most definitely love to go back and visit. This was my first taste of Europe so I greedily grabbed my camera and snapped away, not paying any attention to the quality of my photos. Really just too excited to stay still for long. Let’s just say there was a lot of filtering through for these pictures. So without further ado, here’s a list of what we did, saw, ate, and discovered:
Hello Mate! As trip preparation, my friend greeted me with “hello mate!” for the few weeks preceding our trip. While this little ritual was fun, I never once got to use the phrase while actually in London. It might have had the same effects as me shouting “howdy” at the rodeo in Texas. So yeah…probably better left alone.
We stayed in a cozy little village called Etchingham. It is an hour outside London and it is the cutest place ever. Bunnies hopping all over the place, cute. For real. We stayed with the Riggs family which basically just made me want to raise my kids in England. At least if they would turn out as adorable as their boys. I couldn’t stop grinning they were so cute. Finding Neverland anyone? Talk about random reference, but the cute kids in it are literally all I remember about that movie. Since our time was so short, it was nice to get a glimpse outside of London.
We could walk to the train station and even took the little path below one day. A 6 year old was our guide as we went traipsing through the brush. He warned me about nettle…which was good because I had no idea. So much to learn.
Once in the city, we were bombarded with so many things to do and see. This just confirmed to me how much I love cities! Especially with the Olympics only a week away, the place was crawling with videographers and tents and chaos. Here’s where we ended up exploring:
Westminster Abbey – We took a tour for this one and really enjoyed it. By the end of my trip I was so thankful for the free audio guide trend! It certainly made a difference in staying engaged for a couple hours. Or maybe everyone else has a longer attention span than me. It is amazing the history involved in this place and how many people are actually buried there. While my husband was taking in the rich history, I was totally visualizing I was a part of the Royal wedding.
National Gallery – I don’t know if I can fully count this one as something we did considering we only spent an hour in this massive museum, but I loved the parts I did see. I would really like to go back and take a tour of it all. However, I saw my favorite: Van Gogh. And we purchased our first real “art piece” in the gift shop – The Boulevard at Montmarte at Night by Pissarro. This was such an achievement considering we have such different taste in art.
Kensington Palace – Since Buckingham Palace was closed while we were there, I wanted to still get a taste of British Palace life. In retrospect I liked a lot of the other palaces we saw in other places more. The building was beautiful, especially the grounds, but I wasn’t a huge fan of a few of their exhibitions. The “dress collection” sounded better than it actually was. I was hoping for more dresses and less photos.
Imperial War Museum – Ladies, your husbands will love you forever if you take them here. At least mine did, this was one of his highlights for our whole three week long trip. They have real tanks and war machines on the first floor. I’ll admit, I’m not a history buff, but thought this was a pretty cool museum. Did I mention it’s free??
London Eye – One word: expensive. But when you are dropping pounds like you wish you were in real life, it’s a great one to add on. It’s only 30 minutes, but I love views. I’ve realized this is one of my favorite activities to do on trips.
SOME EYE CANDY
We also saw so many landmarks and beautiful streets. Below is a quick glimpse at my faves.
Side note: The photo above was actually Ben Franklin’s hood back in the day. Not 2 seconds after I said I wanted to live on this street, I saw the plaque with Ben’s info on it. Crazy! We could have been neighbors.
GRUB (& A PUB)
I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the places we ate along the way, because what is a vacation without food?! We really didn’t eat out a lot in London because we also had access to the most amazing home cooked food, but here are a few places we did try:
Busaba came recommended in a tour book as a great, lesser expensive option. So on our first day, we scoured the streets to find it and were definitely not disappointed. I think it’s a great choice representing modern London. And whatever you do, don’t forget to order their lemongrass tea!
We had “high tea” at The Orangery which was right next to Kensington Palace. It was a high tea in which we didn’t need reservations or fancy dress. Just the way I like it. This was my highlight of the WHOLE trip!
“Non descript Pub” because I don’t remember the name. We were hungry, it was busy, we ate. We ordered a Pimm’s & fish and chips. The Pimms was better than the fish.
Pret a Manger was our go-to “we are hungry and don’t have a lot of time” stop. Good stuff. Nothing fancy, but it was food. It was fun to take our little sandwiches and eat on the steps of church…at least when it wasn’t raining.
And last, but surely not least, I had lots of tea. Whether we were in a train station, at a restaurant, walking along. Whenever the whim hit, I got it. And it was totally normal to add milk! This was my paradise, especially compared to the rest of “coffee only” Europe.
The first half day we were in London, we hit up some shopping. It was easy to fit in that day, since we were still figuring out our way around the city. My favorite item I got was a pretty little tea tin from Fortnum & Mason. LOVE!
Liberty was pretty amazing. This picture shows it in the far background. I loved browsing the various floors and especially loved their little housewares section. They had handbags I’d die for. This one was window shopping for me, but definite worth a look. And of course you can’t forget their iconic fabric they used for loads of great gifts and goodies.
Oxford Street had tons of shops and we went in and out…as many as my dear husband would patiently wander through. He really is the best about shopping, but I just feel so guilty. However, we made it in Topshop and a few other classics.
Harrods. You can’t go to London and not make it into Harrods. Or can you? We actually had to choose between this and the War Museum for times sake, and went with the latter. I got in a lot of shopping so the hubs won. However, I did stand outside it. And drool.
Fortnum & Mason is actually where I bought a lot of gifts and tea. They had tons of the Queen’s Jubilee items which made for more fun gifts. I am still wishing I had bought shortbread though. I ended up having some in Munich…go figure, and had to enlist serious self control to keep from eating the entire tin. It was amazing!
And no trip is complete without some: CHEESY TOURISTY STUFF! I just had to get a picture in a phone booth. I look just like a local, right?!
And just in case, fingers crossed, there is a next time:
- We purchased a Travelcard for each day which enabled us to get anywhere in the city as much as we wanted. For two travelers with a whim…this was amazing! Note to girls: do not place your Travelcard near any magnet (aka purse clasp). Finally figured this out on the last day when my card kept getting deactivated. You can still travel around, but it is such a hassle! And we had train tickets attached to our cards, so they couldn’t just reissue mine when it stopped working.
- Staying outside the city, we actually used “left luggage” to take care of our bags while we traveled around on our first day. This may not be useful if you are staying in the city, but for us…it was amazing. Although seriously expensive! Not every underground station had them, but most of the larger ones did.
- Make sure you have loose change because for a concept foreign to me…you actually have to pay for public restrooms!! Note: if you can plan your natural urges for restaurant and museum times, you are golden.