This post will be shorter than the last few and will cover some of the things we did during our day and a half in London. The last post found us in Belfast, touring the Antrim Coast.
The morning of March 19th was an early one for us as we made our way from Belfast to London via EasyJet. It was a rainy morning and it started to seem like the bad weather was following us the whole trip, but we stayed positive. We landed around 10am at London Luton and made our way to the shuttle bus that would take us to the train, that would then take us to the London Underground. Since it was a Sunday, everything was so busy – it was overwhelming going from a quiet city to a bustling one. We quickly made it to our hotel, the Kingsway Hall, with the goal of getting out of the crowd.
After a little recharging, we decided to spend the rest of the day exploring the city and seeing what we could for free. First, however, we stopped for lunch at Nicholson’s, which is a cute little restaurant above a pub where we got delicious food and a trip of rich desserts.
The rest of the day was spent walking around London, stopping at Hard Rock Cafe for a new pin, checking out the third day of London’s St. Patrick’s Day festival (much bigger and more exciting than Belfast!), looking at Buckingham Palace, Harrods and Picadilly Circus. One of the main reasons I wanted to come back to London was to visit Harrods again and this time I bought some chocolates to take home with me and Bob got to check out the Toy Kingdom. I warned him it would be very crowded – I don’t think he believed me until we got there! After shopping, we took the tube to Piccadilly Circus to find somewhere to eat dinner. We saw a unique street performer who shaped other people’s bodies into action scenes – of course Bob got a picture with him.
We tried to get dinner at Slug and Lettuce but didn’t have a reservation, so we ended up at an overpriced steakhouse that was lackluster compared to lunch. We stopped by a West End ticket booth to see if there were any shows playing but there wasn’t anything good that night, disappointingly. Our night ended a little early, as we were travel weary, and we wanted to rest up before our next full day in London.
Our full day started with breakfast at Pret A Manger, followed by us hopping on a Golden Tours bus to get around the city. We decided to do the bus because we hoped it would allow us to see more sights in our limited time – plus we were tired of walking!! The one downside was rush hour, which made the ride quite long. The audio guide that was playing kept skipping, too – so much that we ever got a full story!
We got off around the Tower of London and spent some time checking out the Crown Jewels, the torture chamber, the ravens, and the Bloody Tower. It was amazing to see so much history in one place. Bob, being an animal nerd, liked being close to the ravens. After the Tower of London, we hopped back on the bus and took it over to the London Eye area, from where we walked to Westminster Abbey. It was so windy, I’m sure I gave everyone a good peep show with my dress! It was so crowded walking across Westminster Bridge, despite it being a Monday. We got in line at the Abbey – the one thing I said I had to see while we were there. It was incredible to see the inside, to imagine where Kate Middleton became a Princess, to see the burial site of Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Isaac Newton. It was a bit crowded inside, and people were not shy to stand in your way, but we took our time and learned many things.
(I’m writing this after just learning about the terrorist attacks at Westminster – it is incredible to think that we were just there on that bridge where the man drove into the crowd – )
After the Abbey, we waited for another bus to come around. This one had live commentary, so we were finally able to hear whole stories! As we were driving around, it began to rain pretty bad and I was immediately grateful we had gotten on the bus. We were able to sightsee and learn at the same time without getting soaked! Being on the top level of the bus, we did get a little river of water by our feet, but that was it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the kid sitting behind us was apparently poking Bob repeatedly – and because they kept talking, it became hard to hear the guide. At one point, we moved down to the bottom level so that we could hear better and the guide came down and said to us, “I’m going crazy up there!!”
We were planning on getting off the bus near Trafalger Square to find somewhere to eat, but the bus dumped us off near Buckingham Palace and we decided to walk. The Queen just happened to be in the Palace this time, and we checked out the guards again. One of the gates was open and we saw the mail man bringing in the Queen’s mail. I wanted to run in and say a quick hello to Her Majesty – since the gate was open and all, I mean, she left it open for me, right? – but Bob wouldn’t let me. As we continued towards Trafalger Square, what we believe to be a Royal motorcade passed by us – the windows were very tinted so only our imaginations can tell us who was inside.
We walked past the square and up to Forbidden Planet – a famous nerdy store in London. After browsing, we both decided we were famished, so we stopped in a local pub for our last UK meal. Bob got fish and chips of course – this was the worst one out of the whole trip, apparently (fitting considering London’s reputation for food). After dinner, we walked through Piccadilly again. This time, we decided to go into the Lego store and the M&M store. This was Bob’s first time in the M&M store and he was quite surprised by it’s extent! The Lego store was pretty cool, with large replicas of the Big Ben Clock Tower, a London Underground Tube compartment, a full size map of the Underground system, a large city mural, and many British symbols and icons – all made in Legos!
Once we were done checking out the big stores in Piccadilly, Bob found a Cornetto ice cream which he felt he needed in order to complete his trip – because of the Cornetto Trilogy. We slowly made our way back to the hotel, window browsing along the way.
That was the brief overview of our time in London. My heart goes out to those affected today – I can only think that we were blessed to have left before this happened.