Visiting London has been at the top of my list for many years. I’m not even sure what the main appeal is, other than the fact that it’s always seemed to be so trendy and a bit on the quirky side. I may not be trendy (have you seen my wardrobe?), but I’ll admit to being quirky. Since we chose Berlin for our previous Thanksgiving trek, we decided that it was time to hit up London for this Thanksgiving.
We know how to class up a joint waiting for a delayed flight.
Place to stay: Premier Inn London County Hall. This is a totally no-frills kind of place. However, the location and price are nearly perfect. It’s almost directly across the street from the London Eye, a block and a half from Waterloo Station, and within walking distance of many famous landmarks and attractions. The beds were pretty comfy and the breakfast was tasty. If you’re not looking for anything super fancy (more like a just-plop-your-head-on-the-pillow-and-pass-out kind of spot), I would highly recommend it.
Avoid: The Heathrow Express. If you fly into Heathrow, skip the Heathrow Express. Granted, the speedy train gets you from Heathrow to Paddington station in 20 minutes or so, the tickets are spendy and if you have our kind of luck, you’ll be out of it when the track maintainers decide to extend their maintenance. Just give yourself extra time and take the Tube. It’s less-expensive and more reliable.
Bundle up, Buttercup. Layer, layer and layer. Did I mention layer? Husband and I looked at the temps and were delighted because it was supposed to be warmer in London than Germany. While the actual temperature may have been warmer, the wind is vicious. I think we made it about 20 paces before we had to turn around and layer up. Seriously. It’s better to peel it off than to freeze it off.
Places to visit
You might want to sit down and have a cup of coffee…this may take a while. The best part of this trip for me wasn’t the necessarily the touristy spots. One of my oldest friends named L (abbreviation was used to protect the innocent) and her husband B (again, abbreviation used here) live in London. She and I have been friends since we were 12 — which is pretty much forever in our years. L and B were kind enough to play tourist with us while we were there. We had an absolute ball checking out their city and catching up with them.
St. James Park. This is a beautiful park. The Princess Diana Memorial Walk winds its way through this little piece of nature in the midst of the bustling city. It’s very peaceful and serene. Just be sure not to bother the birds. Like this kid.
On our way, we passed by Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. True to our nature, we didn’t actually go inside either of them. We’re not one for lines, and each place had crazy long lines. It’s kind of like Neuschwanstein Castle…just seeing the outside was enough to check the box for us.
Tower of London – Beefeater Tour. No, it’s not the gin. Although that’s probably quite tasty. L highly suggested we take the Beefeater tour. I wasn’t quite sure what it was about, but man… it. is. AWESOME. There is so much history to this impressive complex, and the guards, or Beefeaters, take you on a tour throughout the tower and recount its story. We had a fantastic guide and truly enjoyed it. The Tower of London is home to the crown jewels, and much to Girl Child’s delight, a small exhibit on torture chambers. I’m slightly concerned about her.
Borough Market. If you’re looking for authentic and eclectic street food, this is totally your place. Food stalls are set up and you can get pretty much anything your heart desires. My recommendation? Don’t go during the weekend. It was wall-to-wall chaos when we walked through. But the amazing smells were enough to prove it’s legit.
Tate Modern. This modern art museum is also home to a fantastic view of London. It was a little busy when we went. Rather than wait in line for the elevators, we hoofed it up to the top. That’s right, we’re a bunch of Betty Badasses. With the soft afternoon sunlight, the panoramic views of the city were worth every grumbling step taken up the stairs.
The Churchill War Rooms. An absolute must-visit. Even if you’re not a huge history buff, it is totally worth checking out. Almost perfectly preserved, the Churchill War Rooms are the bunkers beneath the city that Winston Churchill used to conduct business and operations from during World War II. The audio tour takes you through the different rooms and the piece de resistance — the Map Room. A large map displayed on the wall still has the pin holes and yarn used to represent troop advancements during the war. It is an amazing piece of history. There is also a very comprehensive exhibit about Churchill’s life.
The Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour. See forthcoming blog post.
Avoid: Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station. After seeing the one used at the WB studio, you’ll likely be disappointed. On the plus side, there is a Harry Potter store right next to it, so if you forgot a souvenir from the studio, you can always grab one there.
So here’s the deal. Obviously, we’re not super big foodies. Girl Child still has a very limited palate (she’s ridiculously picky), and honestly, we were just happy to somewhere that didn’t necessitate utilizing Google Translate. We were also lucky to have awesome friends that didn’t mind hitting up the obligatory Chipotle when we couldn’t find a restaurant without a crazy long wait.
Mulberry Bush Pub. Pretty popular with the after-work crowd and holiday parties. We met L and B here on our first evening in town. It’s a really cool pub hiding on a side street. I had fish and chips (of course) and Husband had venison stew. Both were absolutely delicious. They also serve Young’s brews, so the drink selection was also fantastic.
Nando’s Peri-Peri Chicken. Apparently, this is a chain of awesome. Nando’s is known for its spicy, juicy roasted chicken. Originating in South Africa and Portugal, the flavors are fantastic. You can order a 1/4, 1/2 or full chicken and different sides. The Peri chips come seasoned with different spices, and the Supergrain Salad is spot on. Loaded with different types of beans, quinoa and avocado, it makes you feel like you’re eating healthy. Even though it’s super yummy, you may want to resist eating more than one side of it … if you catch my drift.
London is amazing. It’s a city brimming with life and so many things to see and do. We had a great time with our fantastic tour guides and friends, and can’t wait to go back for more shenanigans.