Drum roll please… The LAST stop of our three-month world tour: LONDON.
Returning to the city that I fell in love with on my study abroad in 2012, and being able to play “tour guide” for my husband, was such a treat. Finally being in an English-speaking country for the first time in three months was also a treat. It meant no more communicating with body language, no more Google Translate and no more mistaking hair conditioner for body lotion.
I don’t know exactly what it is, but there’s something magical about London that always makes me crave more of it. Maybe it’s the sight of red double-decker buses and black cabbies all around me (on the LEFT side of the street, of course). Maybe it’s the dozens of antiques, clothing and food markets. Maybe it’s because I love to hear little kids’ British accents on the Tube.
This time around I had a much shorter period of time to see and do everything. On study abroad I had over three months in London, but this time we had one week. And because there is SO much to do, it was the only place we planned out each day’s activities in advance:
Piccadilly Circus. After we finally got checked into our Airbnb (in an adorable gated community with a central garden, to my delight) we decided to go out for a few hours to take advantage the pretty spring evening. So, I thought, what is a great place to see at night? Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, of course! We walked around the “Times Square” of London and the theatre district to soak up the bright lights.
Bus Tour. Something that is ultra-touristy, but that I’m SUCH a fan of, are those big sightseeing tour buses. I tried one in New York City, when I was once a tourist there and not a resident, and I loved that it was a fast and efficient way to see the whole city while learning historical background. We rode the Original London Tour buses around and took advantage of the complimentary river cruise and Jack The Ripper walking tour. Of course we saw everything from Big Ben, to St. Paul’s Cathedral, to Tower Bridge (my personal favorite).
Call this our “Royalty” day. We went to see the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace and took a tour that taught us all about the Queen, the Royal Family and monarchs of the past. The Royal Family is a big deal in London and, although Dillon thinks of them as just a tourist attraction, I like to appreciate that aspect of the culture while in England.
Covent Garden. It’s one of my favorite shopping areas, and a great place for free entertainment with all of the street performers. I once saw a performer juggling knives on a tightrope like 8 feet off the ground!
Dinner at Dinerama. This abandoned parking garage has been turned into a hot spot for young professionals to grab a drink or a bite to eat and chat around communal-style tables. With lots of vendors with different types of food, it felt like something similar to Smorgasburg in Brooklyn.
No trip to London would be complete without a trip to Harrods, the most famous and impressive department store in the world! So that’s where we finished off day three.
Walked around the Tower Bridge area and Hays Wharf.
Borough Market, AKA the best food market in London and straight-up foodie heaven. It’s a seemingly infinite maze of food vendors with hundreds of different types of food. We tried cheese raclette, a blow-torched beef sandwich, goat’s milk ice cream and the softest doughnuts ever. Success!
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We were lucky to find tickets to this show only a few days before, because these shows are almost always sold out weeks in advance. Shakespeare’s Globe is a replica of the original that was burned down during a play in 1613. The cast did an awesome job of modernizing this Shakespeare classic and we were laughing through the whole thing.
Visited Westminster Cathedral (not the same as the famed Westminster Abbey), which is a secret gem in my opinion because it’s not too well known among tourists but I find it to be one of the most beautiful cathedrals in all of Europe. The elaborate mosaics that wrap around the aisles and nave are truly mind-blowing.
Finished off the day with the best fish n’ chips in all of England at Bailey’s.
Saturday means market day! We went to my favorite Portobello Market, known for its antique shops and Saturday street vendors. While I liked looking at antique jewelry and bags, Dillon was more into the antique watches and leather goods. Although we didn’t have one ounce of room in our tiny backpacks to be buying any souvenirs, it was still just as fun to look around.
Walked around “The City” section of London while listening to Rick Steves’ self-guided tour on our phones. The best was seeing St. Paul’s Cathedral and then heading next door to The Madison rooftop bar for an amazing view (thanks to my girl Kenzie Andrew for the tip!)
It was Sunday and so we went to LDS church at the lovely Hyde Park chapel in Kensington. I love that area and the ward members are so sweet! We spent the bulk of the day in Hyde Park after church. It gives me Central Park vibes with the row boats in the lake, the never-ending bike trails and the all-around hugeness of the park itself.
I’ve recently become a Sherlock Holmes nerd after finishing the series on Netflix, so naturally we had to pay a visit to 221B Baker Street. Then, near the Sherlock residence we had what was Dillon’s favorite meal of the entire three-month trip–Indian food at The Rajdoot, a small hole-in-the-wall joint!
Camden Market is a pretty bizarre place, and very unlike any other London market experience. Try to picture a maze of indoor/outdoor stalls carrying everything from preppy and gothic fashion to street food and picnic areas. I can’t quite describe it but we left feeling very confused.
Highgate Cemetery. I must be a mortician’s daughter or something because I find cemeteries SO COOL. Especially this one. With the massive forest-looking trees overgrown throughout the graveyard and the crooked old tombstones, this place is as creepy, and yet peaceful, as they come.
Dinner at Flat Iron (a true gem of a restaurant in the theatre district) and then the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical!
We finished up our last night abroad with a walk down the Thames River to see the lights of Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye. A beautiful end to a trip I will never forget.