March 30, 2020

United Kingdom Travels | London Calling

Last year, we had the opportunity to go to Paris and Rome for our VERY delayed “honeymoon”. This year, we had the opportunity to fly across the pond to London and ran with it! I’m so glad we did because the day after we got home, flights were all cancelled due to COVID-19 😬

Since we’re all stuck at home, I thought I’d write a blog updating you on our trip so we can all do a little “traveling” from the couch. Sound good? Let’s go!

Day One

Our first day was a little crazy since we got into London around 6AM and our hotel wasn’t ready for us since check in is after 3PM. They told us to drop our luggage and to come back after 12. Extremely tired, hungry, and desperately needing a shower, we sat in the lobby and started looking for things to do.

Thankfully, the clerk came back less than 5 minutes later to say they cleaned a room and would let us check in early. We took a quick nap, showered, and went out on the town by 11:30.

Westminster

The hotel was close to Big Ben, but unfortunately, it was covered in scaffolding so you couldn’t even see it. We walked over to Westminster Abbey instead and WOW. Talk about a massive place full of amazing history. And dead people. Kings, queens, normal people. Lots of dead people.

You aren’t allowed to take any photos inside the Abbey so here are some from the courtyard instead because I like to live dangerously. Just kidding, there weren’t any signs with cameras crossed out so I assumed it was safe.

Next we stopped by Trafalgar Square (we went here several times) and to the Covent Gardens. Despite the name, there isn’t a garden, it’s a large shopping area. Kind of like a mall but spaced over several streets rather than inside one building. There were lots of brands I recognized but even more local places that were amazing as well.

AND we had the biggest and tastiest crΓͺpes of our lives. Also found out England likes to use bamboo silverware over plastic. WYD, America??

At this point, we were exhausted, wet, and wanted to go back to bed. We bought Josh some waterproof shoes (LOL), walked around some more to stay awake before eating and going back to bed.

Day Two

After sleeping close to 12 hours, we got up and started the day early. One thing Josh will probably always complain about when traveling with me is that I pack so many things into each day. I can’t stand wasting time, and I refuse to spend more time than necessary in a hotel. I want to see the world, and I intend to do it as efficiently as possible. Ha!

Anyway, we started this day out by buying Oyster cards for the London tube. If you ever travel to the UK, do this instead of paying for individual tickets as you will save so much money it’s crazy. Each ride costs around Β£2.50 instead of Β£4.50 AND it’s free on Friday/Saturdays after a certain hour.

Borough Market

Once we figured the train system out (WAY easier than the Paris rail), we took the tube up to the Borough Market. If you’ve ever been to a farmer’s market, think of it like that but bigger. Much bigger.

Borough Market Vendors London, UK

We sampled foods, saw vendors’ wares, smelled all the smells…It was amazing. If there’s one thing I wish America would adapt from Europe, it’s the markets and fresh foods that come with them.

Borough Market, London UK

There are market places like this all over London, but this was the one we were able to get to since it was close to the other sites we wanted to see. Everyone was so nice and I wished I could buy all the things to bring home. Instead, we bought a few things (that fig cider thoooooough) ate at a little restaurant there, and moved on.

London Tower

If you plan to go to the tower to see all the “torture devices”, turn yourself around because they’re not here. There is a tiny room at the bottom with 3-4 things in it dedicated to punishments they used in ye olden days. Apparently, in truth, only 40-some people were ever tortured in the history of the London Tower.

Instead, there are tons of artifacts that are really cool and you can see the Queen’s jewels (but no pictures). We enjoyed walking around and seeing all the things that happened in the tower and the battlements as well. It was crazy to see how it changed over the years and how it has been used in every era.

OH, and just FYI, this is NOT the London Bridge as most people have lovingly referred to it. It is the TOWER Bridge. London Bridge is a tiny walking bridge that has nothing to look at πŸ˜‚

Josh also refused to take a picture of me on the bridge because it was so cold and windy. I had to selfie it while walking. Terrible Instagram husband, 5/10 stars.

The rest of the day was filled with little shops, good food, and lots of walking. There is so much to see inside the tower, it honestly took most of the day. From British military works, Queen’s jewels, court zoos, all the way to dungeons, metal horses, and collars for your wives. The Tower of London is a one stop shop for all things English History.

Day 3

THE SUN WAS OUT! Totally unbelievable to be honest. After two full days of rain and wet shoes, we couldn’t believe our luck! And on Josh’s birthday of all days!

Buckingham Palace

Our first stop was Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard. Now, I knew there would be a lot of people there, but nothing prepares you for the crowd that shows up to watch some guys in bearskin hats blow on trumpets and walk in and out a gate.

I think the best part was the police on horses yelling at everyone to get off statues, and “watch for pickpockets, they’re all over today!”

If you ever go to this, be sure to plan ahead. Go well before the time listed online (they only change every two days I believe), and be prepared to stand forever. No matter where you are, you won’t be able to see the whole thing, there are just too many people. Stand either by the fence or by the rope next to the main courtyard area (near the statue of Victoria). You can see them come in or you can see them playing instruments inside the gates. You can’t see both and you’ll be shocked at how rude people are to get their 5 minute video on their phones.

British Museum of Natural History

The one and ONLY thing Josh requested the entire trip was to go to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs πŸ™„

Well, his dreams came true and it was actually pretty cool! Lots of dinosaurs and lots of other things to look at while in there: the human body, animals, photography, sea creatures…just be prepared if you go into the human body section. It’s…uh…graphic πŸ˜‚ I’m glad we didn’t have the kids for the questions that would have come, but there was a whole school there looking so good luck to those parents.

I love museums so much, and the best part about this one? It’s completely free! A donation is suggested, but you don’t have to put anything in if you can’t afford it. Totally worth the walking, kid dodging, and Β£5 donation if you ask me.

Victoria & Albert Museum

Now, this was a really amazing museum that I would recommend as well! Again, it’s completely free but a donation is suggested. It has busts from Greece, Rome, various religious relics, items from all over the world…It was honestly incredible.

I mean you could spend DAYS in here and probably still have more to see and learn. I wish we could have spent more time inside, but adventure is out there and we had to go where we were called. AKA where I scheduled stuff for the day because I always have serious FOMO when we travel πŸ˜†

Baker Street & Abbey Road

We traveled all the way to 221B Baker Street and were sad to find it was closed due to remodeling. There was scaffolding all over the building and we were told we couldn’t enter. We did however get to stop at a cute little shop next door and grab some hot chocolate before heading up to see the famous Abbey Road crossing.

In case you ever wondered, Abbey Road is literally in the middle of the residential area of London, and there really isn’t much of a crosswalk. There are no lights, it’s crazy busy, and people are constantly backing traffic up by standing in the road to take pictures. Josh refused to take a picture like that, so we had to get creative, meaning I had to find a way to document it in a way Josh would approve. He didn’t actually approve and probably hated it more since he had to be in charge of the camera if I’m being honest πŸ˜‚ but we did it! Walked the Abbey Road crossing!

We ate some delicious burgers, less delicious “American food” that was anything but American, and overall had the best day for Josh’s birthday. Oh, and if you really must know, we ate at a BBQ place for dinner that I think was called “The Big Easy” but everything was “Texas Style” and came with lobster bibs and people were eating with silverware πŸ˜‚ hate to break it to them, but we’re slobs in ‘Merica and eat BBQ with our hands minus bibs, and most people have a jug of beer to go with it πŸ€·πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ We had a good laugh about how little they knew about American BBQ

Day 4

Canterbury Cathedral

The rain and chill came back for this day, but we decided to take a train out of London (TERRIFYING) to Canterbury for the day. Canterbury is a cute little town on the south side of England with lots of shops, the Abbey of St. Augustine, and of course the Canterbury Cathedral. The Canterbury Cathedral was originally a small chapel used by the Romans, but then gifted from one pagan king to his Christian wife to basically appease her and the few Christians that lived in England at the time. Augustine came as a bishop, but was later made the Archbishop by the Pope. It was eventually closed by King Henry VIII when he wanted his divorce and kicked the Catholic Church to the curb, however is still used today for a place of prayer and worship.

Unfortunately, most of the outside was under scaffolding, but it was impressive nonetheless.

If you look closely, you can see the coat of arms for all the influential families at the time on the top of the hallway. There were several apartment areas that are still inhabited today.

Abbey of St Augustine

The Abbey is actually ruins at this point because it was largely forgotten for many, many years. When Henry VIII suppressed monasteries (and closed Canterbury as a Catholic Cathedral), much of the Abbey was destroyed. He used the remainder as a royal palace for a period before it was sold and used for a poorhouse and then a school.

If you notice the red brick on the top of the wall in one photo, that was where Henry VIII built the palace over the top of the Abbey ruins. Cool, right? My history nerd is coming out hard right now πŸ˜†

The British Museum

Our last stop for the day was the British Museum, which again, was free. Most museums were due to Prince Albert and his love of history. This was such a cool museum because MUMMIES!

Seriously, though. There was so much to look at from all over the world, but I’ve always LOVED Egyptian History! Josh thought he wanted to see mummies until he saw the people juice stains on their wrappings and then wanted to jet out of there as soon as possible. Ha! You can even see hair on the last guy, who was naturally mummified in the desert under a rock. Gross and so cool at the same time.

Day 5

Kensington Palace

Now, I’m not sure what I was expecting here, but it wasn’t this. Kensington Palace is so small compared to everything else. And if you are one of those lovers of Princess Diana, you would have been disappointed. They only had one of her outfits on display and nothing else. This palace is essentially a shrine to Queen Victoria because she grew up there before becoming the queen.

Victoria hated Kensington and moved out as soon as she became the queen. Because of her mother and John Conroy, a friend of her father, she felt like it was a prison due to the ridiculous rules they made for her. However she may have felt, she was still spoiled as a member of the royal family with all kinds of things average people of the time wouldn’t have been able to enjoy such as the opera.

The Queen’s Apartments were closed, but we got to see everything else which was still interesting as we learned about the life of Victoria.

A gift from her husband Albert, her emerald necklace was custom made to match her tiara. As weird as it is to us today that they married each other since they were cousins, they did love each other a lot. If you like history and haven’t watched the PBS show “Victoria,” you should! It shows their relationship pretty well as well as the struggles Victoria had as queen.

Day 6

We spent our entire day venturing the English countryside to see all the famous sites outside of London. Our first stop was Windsor Castle!

If you’ll notice in one of the photos, there’s a little flag flying on top of the castle. It has some yellow squares on it, which meant that the queen was in! WE WERE IN THE SAME BUILDING AS THE QUEEN! We didn’t see her, but we were within walking distance. Ha!

Windsor Castle is the oldest castle still in working order. They still use it for the royals (royal wedding, hello?) and there are actual apartments in the castle people live in day to day. We obviously couldn’t go in them, but it was cool to see how much was still in working order.

We couldn’t see the chapel where Harry and Meghan got married as there was a memorial service going on that day and the ROYALS were there. We saw quite a few, but didn’t know who they were, so that was cool!

Stonehenge

Okay, so Stonehenge was pretty cool just because of the sheer size. However, it’s on top of a really windy and muddy hill which was less cool. Especially in March when it’s 35 degrees. We were COLD.

Other than the giant rocks, there’s nothing up there but sheep πŸ˜‚ like it’s literally in the middle of nowhere so don’t get left behind or you won’t have a way to get back to pretty much anything.

Roman Baths

Our last stop was the Roman Baths in the city of…Bath. Aptly named for the baths the Romans built due to the naturally warm water that came from the area. The water was actually steaming when we went and you could feel the heat without even touching it (which you aren’t supposed to do).

If you look close, you can see a guy dressed up like a Roman πŸ˜‚

The city of Bath was known for the “magical” properties of the water. Royals would travel to Bath to cure themselves by drinking and bathing in the water for weeks at a time when they had an ailment. Whether it was the fact that they were drinking water and not booze or the water was actually magical, who knows, but generally they felt better afterward.

At the end of the tour, there is a little fountain you can use to sample the water, and I’ll tell you…it’s gross. Like really, really gross. Just no.

The town of Bath itself is really cute and I wish we had an entire day to spend exploring. Next time!

The Food

If you know me, you know I can’t forget the food we ate. Last time I just put it in with each day, but this time I thought I’d give the food the entire section it deserves. Ha!

I don’t think we ate a single bad meal. Even the not-very-American American food was good. I’m pretty picky about where we eat when we’re traveling because mistakes are made when you just go somewhere when you’re hungry. I plan out each place we will go before we go and I make sure we have reservations because that’s a thing in Europe. They don’t like taking walk-ins very much and often don’t have room if you don’t reserve a table.

I’ll try to give each place I found a little highlight, so here we go!

Tacos El Pastor

El Pastor was over by Borough Market and SO good! They recommend you buy two sets of tacos or tacos and then a large dish to share. I also recommend this as their tacos are delicious, but tiny. The dessert was yum as well, but not sweet like we’re used to here. I honestly prefer it that way, so bring it on πŸ˜‹

Dishoom

If you like curry, Dishoom is for you! I’m really not big on Indian foods or the like (this is Iranian food, I think), but this was SO good! They don’t do leftovers, so share a main dish and get smaller things if you get to go. The mains are pretty big. We couldn’t agree on one main dish so we got two and there was some left behind that we were sad about, but happy to have full stomachs. They also have a “sober patrons” drink menu that is super tasty! I wish more American places had that.

Bancone

Italian in England, yes please. One thing I really love about pasta in Europe and the UK is it’s homemade. It’s not that hard boxed stuff that we get in most American restaurants. You can definitely tell a difference, and I’m a serious food snob if you didn’t know that out already. At Bancone, Josh got a spicy pork pasta, and I got squid ink pasta. They were both so fresh, light, and delicious. I dream about this pasta, and that’s not even a joke.

Honest Burger

Okay, I didn’t get a picture of this one, but the Honest Burger was possibly THE best burger I’ve ever had in my life! It was the perfect cook, had pickled onions on it, and the “chips” or fries as we call them were amazing! I’m inspired by this burger and I’m not sure I can lower myself to a fast food burger after this golden egg.

Flat Iron

This place was a little hard to get into as they didn’t do reservations, but we went early enough one night to get in within 45 minutes, which was a pretty big deal, honestly. The first time we tried it was over a 2 hour wait, which is why we ended up at the “Big Easy”.

Flat Iron only had 2 options, which were steak and steak and several sides. I’ve never in my life eaten a leek, but I did that day and really liked it the way they served it. The steak itself was perfect and the sauce I got to go with it was salty, mushroomy heaven.

At the end, they give you free ice cream and you can buy their cool steak knives for Β£10.

Ivy Market Grill

This little spot was our first dinner and if you want a very home cooked British meal, this would be a good place to go. We both got seafood and loved it. It was fresh, light, and gave Josh his first taste for mashed peas. I’m not sure what’s with Britain and peas, but they serve them with everything. Now Josh is asking for them at home πŸ™„

The Alfred Tennyson

If you go to London, you have to eat at a pub at least once! Alfred Tennyson was cozy and the food was so good. Fish and chips were flaky, fresh, delicious, and the pork belly had the best crisp sear. I’ve never had wild garlic before, but that mash on the side was yum! This meal was our last, and I couldn’t have thought of a better one for us to say goodbye to England with.

We also had a pear custard crumble and it was seriously so good. Easy enough you could make at home, like a cobbler with a custard sauce, but it hit the spot after walking through cold rain most of the day.

We ate pasties from small vendors and various items from little side shops, like the chocolate shop in Bath that had several types of hot chocolate (roasted white forever) to choose from. When you travel, my best suggestions is to do your research. Don’t eat at shops close to tourist areas as they’re geared more toward tourist tastes than authentic foods from the country you’re in. Any time we’ve tried those out of desperation and hunger, we’ve left disappointed. Shop small and you generally get a better experience.

All the Extra Goods

That’s all I’ve got for now, but I have a few more images to unload, so enjoy those before I let you go for the day…

WWI Memorial

This was a WWI Memorial in Canterbury dedicated to all the soldiers lost

I know we’re trapped on our couches for now, but eventually this too shall pass. Until then, enjoy a little trip to London!

Questions or comments? Drop them below!

Until next time, friends πŸ’•

-Lauren B.

comments +

  1. Rebecca says:

    Oh I just love that you got a photo of Victoria’s emeralds! They are some of my favorites of the Crown Jewels.

  2. lbeauregard says:

    I loved the emeralds! I think they might have been my favorite out of all the jewels we saw!

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