London has long been one of my favorite cities in the world. From our first family vacation here in 1997, I’ve loved walking the streets, the late bright summer nights, the accents, the tube, and even sometimes the food. I’ve been back a number of times since, always finding a fun new way to take it all in, but was especially excited for this my 7th trip to the city, to be bringing Jen along for the ride.
All of those “wow” moments I remember from my first experiences in the city were able to take on a whole new life as I got to see Jen’s eyes light up at the sights and sounds of the city. Even more special were the new things and places we were able to discover together on this our first (but far from last) trip to the City of Westminster.
Day 1 – No Time to Lag
We took the Virgin Atlantic from LAX, not the coziest coach section if you’re a butt, but it flew by. We grabbed a cab and headed for Hazlitt’s House, the home of a legendary British writer and essayist built in 1718. This was one of the parts of the trip Jen was most excited about after finding this gem online. I was cautiously optimistic, knowing the quaint old hotels can go one of two ways. Lucky for us, Hazlitt’s was awesome. We got the Madame Kennedy room, complete with a little library entry area, big bathroom and standing shower, huge 4-poster bed, windows looking onto Frith Street, and plenty of space. A very brave John caved to my endless giggles of excitement at any mention of Hazlitt’s. It was the most special way to experience London for the first time.
The rest of the hotel is full of original 1700’s touches, creaky floors, and a cat. There is also a beautiful library with an Honor Bar. We honorably partook often.
The location in Soho put us right in the middle of our favorite places, from Covent Garden, to Piccadilly. We could walk in any direction and find great places to eat, shop, or see drag queens sing songs.
When we first arrived at the hotel, our room wasn’t quite ready, so we took a walk to Covent Garden, probably my favorite spot in London (and one of my favorites in the world).
It was a beautiful sunny Sunday, not too hot, and the performers were out on display. We grabbed a pizza at Union Jack’s, but didn’t take a picture. I think we were still half asleep. We did however take a photo of my Simply Pimms (OK) and Jen’s Moscow Mule (Eh).
After that, we checked into our room, fought off the urge to nap (I won, Jen lost), and got ready for Afternoon Tea at the Anthenaum Hotel (read more).
After Tea, even at 7:30pm, the sun was still high enough for a great walk through some of our first truly London sights. We started at Wellington Arch, named after our favorite food – Mini Beef Wellingtons. We then made our way down the Royal Mall, closed on Sundays to cars (except for the one guy who came through as part of a high speed chase with a police car following).
We followed the Mall to Buckingham Palace just before sundown, for some great pictures. Next was Trafalgar Square, closed down for a Turkish Day concert so we really only got like one Lion shot there.
We wandered through Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus on a meandering walk home, finally crashing out and resting up for day 2 at Chatsworth House…
Day 2 – All Pride. No Prejudice.
A dream of mine has always been to visit the real-life “Pemberley” from Pride & Prejudice. A very sweet boyfriend made it happen 🙂 Enjoy tales from our day at Pemberley here.
Day 3 – London Eye See You
After a couple of days with nearly perfect weather, it was a classic drizzly London morning that coaxed us to get a slow start on the day.
We walked to Piccadilly Circus to grab tickets for the Big Bus, an open-air double decker hop on hop off situation. Apparently it’s better to buy tickets right from the people in the Big Bus jackets and not from the booth nearby with a fake Big Bus sign on it. Only a few pounds difference but a helpful tip.
The rain lifted shortly after noon and made for a great afternoon back at Covent Garden for the Jacket Potatoes from Dinner Jackets (read more). Nothing fancy but it’s a longtime Covent Garden favorite of mine.
WE got a couple of cool etchings from an artist in the Apple Market section of the Garden, and then Jen’s new tea hobby kicked in. We found a cool tea shop where she got a couple of great pieces to start our collection and hopefully one day throw a ladylike/gentlemanly tea. We also realized we don’t really have a teapot but we’ll figure that out at some point. Note – I do not at this time drink tea, but I plan on making it work.
We got back on the bus and drove past a number of famous spots, Big Ben, Parliament, and down through the financial district to see the newer buildings in town. Through the Tower Bridge and a stop at the Tower of London where we walked through some of the towers as another mini rainstorm passed.
It was close to 5 so many of the attractions were closing down, but it was an awesome time to see the Crown Jewels. Instead of the one time through deal, we could walk around as much as we wanted, checking out diamonds so huge you could still see a pea-sized lump of coal in the middle. We’re talking racquetball sized diamonds, worth many many hundreds of dollars I bet. Jen thinks even more.
We took the bus back across the Thames to the London Eye and surrounding area, for a stunning sunset behind Big Ben and Parliament. After some of our best London photos of the trip, we thought we would check out the London Eye.
A sign at the London Eye for a Champagne Experience got our attention, since we love champagne, and we love experiences. It’s actually not a bad deal at all. For about £9 a person more than you’d already be paying for a fast pass ticket (about double the cost of a standard tickets), you get to skip the line, go in a generally less crowded pod, and get a glass of champagne at the top of the Eye.
This was a no brainer, only problem was the next one was in almost 2 hours. We solved that problem by grabbing a drink down at the Giraffe restaurant and enjoying the great weather.
The London Eye was cool, and the champagne part was neat. I wouldn’t put it on my London must-see list, but if you are there for a number of days, and the skies are clear, it’s a cool way to see the city. I’ve also heard you can get a great view from the top of The Shard, but being that far from the old city I bet it’s harder to see things like Buckingham Palace as well as we could.
We grabbed a taxi and headed right to our final dinner in London, at a fantastic French/Indian Fusion restaurant called Porte Des Indes (read more). It was our best meal in London by far, and an awesome way to look back on our favorite moments so far.
London remains one of my favorite cities in the world, and we can’t wait to go back.
On our “To Do” list for future trips to London & England:
- Picnic at Pemberley
- Westminster Abbey
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- See a play
- Abbey Road
- Picnic in the Park (we like picnics)
- More Indian food
- More Pubs (didn’t even go to one!)
- Tate Modern Museum
- Trafalgar Square