London

“London is always a good idea.”

I truly went into London exhausted, and just mentally drained. I left London in one of the best head spaces I’ve been in, in a while. My best friend Lauren told me London would be life changing and it was. All of the architecture and the museums, just the culture amazed me.

We chose to schedule as much as possible within 3 days so that we could go spend a few days with some family friends up in York so our trip was packed!! We still go to see so much but next time I would definitely spread it out a little more. There were certain exhibits or museums I wish I got to explore a little more, but we had a trip of a life time and I wouldn’t have changed how we did it!

It’s not a secret I have been struggling with stress and a little anxiety recently so I was in my own head. I made a deal with myself that I would try really hard to get out of my head on this trip and for the most part it worked… sorry Mom for those few moments of crankiness!

Okay lets get into the trip!!

We had an overnight flight to London out of JFK with a quick layover in Shannon Ireland. The flight to Ireland we got the luck of the irish – the flight was basically empty so we ended up getting a full row to ourselves! We both spread out and got to actually sleep! When we arrived in Ireland (an hour and half early) luckily the restaurants were open so we were able to get breakfast! Our flight from Ireland to London was super quick!

When we arrived in London we took the tube (Subway/underground) to Kings Cross Station. We were slightly early to check in for our air bnb so we grabbed coffee. After hanging out at the coffee shop for a little while we decided to try and find our airbnb. (Tip #1 – bring a map, or look it up ahead of time) we totally went the wrong direction and ended up walking way further than we needed to! Once we arrived at the flat we met the property manager and he showed us around! The flat was very nice. Comfortable and convenient to everything. We settled in and changed before leaving to do the bus tour. (Tip #2 – Take a quick nap if you have an overnight flight) The bus tour was a slight blur since we were so tired! We chose the hop on hop off bus (golden tours) It was great to see some of the sites and familiarize ourselves with the area but the actual tour was recorded so it kept skipping parts. A real tour guide would have been so much better! – If you can find a tour with a real person, do that! We could barely keep our eyes open so we decided to grab a snack, take a nap and then head back out for dinner. Well that didn’t go as planned. We ended up grabbing pizza at a local place (pizza union – so yummy definitely check it out) and headed back to the flat. We ate our food and passed out!! Neither of us set an alarm so 3.5 hours later I woke up. We both weren’t hungry so we just went right to bed.

Day 2

We woke up around 8:30AM, showered and got ready for the day. It was supposed to be the coldest day so we dressed for it and thank god we did! It wasn’t awful during the day but we were out until 9PM and it got chilly!!

We started our day with the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. Slightly over rated if you ask me but cool to say we did it. If you are going to do it get there PLENTY early and get a spot near the palace gates. The guards march from the street into the gates of the palace and then there is a ceremony. Definitely not my favorite thing and very hard to see.

We then decided to walk through the park to the main area towards the London Eye. (use it as a reference as you can see if from almost everywhere) We happened to stumble upon the Calvary museum and debated upon going in. SO GLAD WE DID. Not only was it a great museum, you can dress up as the soldiers in the field and the guards at the palace. One of the guides stopped to talk to us and she was phenomenal. Extremely knowledgeable about the area, the museum and provided us with many insider details. She also advised us to go outside to the court area on the hour to watch the changing of the guards. Lastly at 4pm they do a end of shift inspection. Be sure to check both of those out!! They aren’t nearly as crowded and it is interesting to see the process and the tradition. We then walked to grab lunch at a quaint spot nearby.

After lunch mom wanted to go to the Winston Churchill War rooms… I wasn’t so enthused. But the line was so long we decided to come back later. We strolled over to Westminster abbey to find yet another long line!! But this was WORTH the wait! WOW JUST WOW. Be sure to check times before you go, apparently the day we went it was only open from 2-3:30pm. About 30 people behind us they closed the gates so we got lucky! After what seemed like forever we finally got inside. They give you a headset and a Ipad looking device to walk around. There are no photos allowed inside so you truly have to be in the moment. Walking around the abbey and seeing the beauty and the craftsmanship that went into constructing it is truly magnificent. There are plenty of places to stop and say a prayer or just soak it in. My two favorite moments were near the beginning there is a place to light a candle and say a prayer, which I did and it was just a magical moment. The second was one of the officiants got up to unite everyone to say a prayer and it was another moment that you wont’ forget.

After leaving Westminster Abbey we quickly made our way back to the Calvary museum to watch the end of shift inspection!  – This was really interesting! Its truly amazing to see the time they put into looking the part and respecting tradition.

After the inspection we noticed the line for the war rooms was much shorter and decided to go check that out! Let me first say it was fascinating. But it was LONG! Be prepared to be in there for almost two hours. The rooms for the most part have remained untouched since Churchill used them. The rooms are all underground including a museum dedicated to his life story. Actually quite an interesting story. Some of his quotes are my favorites! The man has a way with words I will give him that! I didn’t expect to enjoy the war rooms as much as I did.

Of course once leaving the war rooms we were hungry but decided to go do the London Eye first! Sadly upon arrival we discovered the ticket office was closed. You are able to ride after the office closes if you purchased a double ticket. Meaning you rode during the day or purchased a ticket for a later ride. So we grabbed ice cream and walked along the river! After a little while we wanted to eat dinner.

Little advice…  (Tip #3) look ahead to find restaurants you want to eat at! We walked around for a while before finding something that looked good. We ended up eating at a place called Prezzo. DELICIOUS!!! Wow. I had the mushroom risotto and a side salad. Mom had the goat cheese pea pasta with pomodoro sauce and a side salad. For dessert we both had the vanilla cheesecake with raspberryies and peppermint tea. The whole meal was divine. I would definitely recommend you try it!!

We walked to the tube after dinner and ended up in Picadilly Square – OH WOW!!! I was obsessed and definitely want to go back and explore. Lots of shopping, street performers, theaters, restaurants etc. It was beautiful, clean and just seemed like a great place to explore!

We took the tube back to Kings cross and of course grabbed a few snacks before turning into the flat.

A jammed pack day for sure, but amazing none the less. London is so far one of my favorite cities and its only been 2 days J

Day 3

Woke up a little late, grabbed breakfast at the black sheep coffee shop and headed into London. First stop was city cruises – it was nice. Very crowded but nice way to get down to the tower of London. The best view of the London bridge was on the city cruises boat! Unobstructed and gorgeous! We went in the tower and started the audio tour. – You can easily spend about half a day here so book out some of your day. The tour was extremely interesting especially when you really put yourself in their shoes. The café on site had some really tasty food! I highly recommend the potato and leek soup! Also the chocolate cake was yummy too!

The line for the crown jewels was SO SO LONG. If its long outside, its even longer inside! We did get through about 75% of the tour but just ran out of time. So I would definitely recommend getting there early and spending a solid 4-5 hours there, 6 if you want to do lunch!

We left the tower and proceeded to take the tube over to kengsington gardens. This area of London was far less crowded and the grounds were beautiful. We walked through the gardens to the palace. There is a really nice palace tour featuring Queen Victoria and then a great princess Diana exhibit.

After leaving the palace we went back down town and took a ride on the London eye. If you think about it too much it’s a little scary but its beautiful to see! Originally the London Eye was only going to be open for 5 years, and now it has been extended to 24 years. It was fun, but a little overpriced. It is ne of those things you do once just to say you did it! I would try to catch a ride near sunset because that would be beautiful!!

After our ride we walked through the town and stumbled upon a pub called the silver cross. Love the concept, you seat yourself and order at the bar. They only have a few staff members as they do not need anyone serving or attending to each table. The food was mediocre so not a restaurant you must go to. We then took the tube to oxford circus to get wafflemeister. Love the concept, but the food didn’t live up. Its basic sweet waffles with gelato. – Find a more local dessert spot! We walked back to Picadilly Circus to walk off those waffles and then took the tube back to Kings Cross.

Day 4

Off to York to see our family friends!!

We happened upon a street market near Kings Cross station where local food vendors sold yummy delicious treats! Lots of carbs but its vacation so try a few things! We took the train up to York. The trip was beautiful, I could stare at the landscape for hours. We arrived at our friends house and ate a nibbley lunch! After lunch we had some tea and just caught up. Then we took a walk through town to get the lay of the land. York is so scenic and stunning. The landscapes, the small town, the cute shops, the tiny little restaurants, and trinket shops ahh Im obsessed! We stopped for a pint and then continued home. Had a spot of tea and then made dinner. – YES David’s cooking is life changing! After dinner mom did their Myers Briggs to determine their type. (If you know my mom, you’ve already been assessed!) We had dessert and a lot of laughs which was nice because its been rough for me lately. We spoke a bit about where I’m at and where I’m going and it was nice to get some reassurance that I’m on the right path. David and Anne are truly two of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. They have such a great outlook on life and truly offer the best advice. (I won’t tell you too much about them but you will find out more about them soon- hint hint)

Day 5

We woke up to a quick breakfast followed by coffee at this quaint little coffee house with Anne. Its hidden within the wall protecting York. It has outdoor seating and the coziest area to drink coffee, relax and chat. After coffee mom and I roamed around York popping in and out of shops. York has some of the cutest little shops you can imagine. In the middle of the day we walked along the wall overlooking the Minster which was neat. You cannot walk all the way around but there are still parts available. We stopped for lunch at a little café and had cheese toasties with chips! After buying a hundred chocolate bars and walking through every charity store we found our way back to David and Annes for afternoon tea. We made reservations for dinner at a small Thai restaurant in town. OH WOW! I am not one to usually like Thai food but this was fabulous! They were very accommodating with food allergies and everyone enjoyed their meals and you cannot beat the company.

Day 6

We woke up a little early and went into town for some coffee and breakfast with Anne. It was scrumpcious. I had banana chocolate chip pancakes with nutella…. I mean come on! You cannot beat that. After breakfast we popped into the charity stores to try one last time to find mom a wool coat – shockingly VERY hard to find. We then went to Lakeland Leather, which is a local leather shop and hit the jackpot! I found a few poncho sweaters, the softest scarf in the world and a leather purse, which is divine!! Even mom and Anne were loving the store! After spending wayyyy too much money we headed back to the flat to catch our taxi to train! After a sad “see ya later” we headed to the train. I really can’t get over the train, it was extremely comfortable and seeing the countryside is just fascinating.

Once we arrived back in Kings cross we grabbed a quick sammie and headed for our hotel. We decided to stay near the airport as our flight was earlier in the morning. – Couple tips and FYI’s – hotels near the airport have SMALL SINGLE BEDS and there is NOTHING close! Well restaurants in the hotel are about your only option. There is a free bus, so we hopped on and found a little restaurant not too far away. Green man is this quaint little authentic pub. The mismatched tables and chairs and the random paint colors. The short height of the ceiling it was just so great. I love the concept of English Pubs, you seat yourself and order from the bar. A waitress/bartender delivers your food and then checks in to make sure all is good as well as clears your table. It’s a neat concept that really would be a niche for the states. – Hmm.. What am I thinking next?

Day 7

We woke up early and hopped the free bus to the airport. Heading home!

Couple things to keep in mind… the airport and security are way different than the states. To get your boarding pass and check your bags you use an automated machine. You put your own luggage tag on, scan the tag and then press the button to move the belt to drop your bag. Once you get to security – you scan your boarding pass and stand to get your photo taken or face scanned. Then you proceed through security – They are strict with electronics and any type of liquids! They do provide small clear bags so be sure all your makeup, small liquids, lotions etc are in the clear bags and remember to take your laptops and ipads out of your bag!

Once through security we went to find our gate, come to find out they do not post the gate location till about 20 minutes before boarding… slightly stressful but luckily we made our flight!

We had a short layover in Shannon Ireland, which was even shorter as we were delayed out of London. When we de boarded the plane in Shannon we had to rush to get to our new gate which was a process. First you have to get off the plane go through customs, rush to security (again) yes you have to take out your electronics, your shoes, sweaters etc. Once through security you have to walk through the gift shop – which is great by the way if you have time really walk through and look at all the goodies. We had a few extra minutes so of course I bought all the chocolate I could! – Almost 50 Euro worth (EEEEKKKK)

Once our gate was posted we headed over which you have to go through customs (AGAIN) and then head to the gate. It was definitely a process. Our flight back to the states was fairly uneventful.

Best Sites to See

Kensington Palace

London Tower

Westminster Abbey

Churchill War Rooms

Calvary Museum

Food Allergies – So as most of you know, I have an allergy/intolerance to eggs/dairy/corn and soy. Overseas they don’t process the food like they do here and they feed their animals differently. Therefore I tested the waters and I was able to eat EVERYTHING!! Well not actual eggs, but everything else and it was the best week! Being able to eat Milk Chocolate, croissants, cheesecake, pasta,, ice cream and CHOCOLATE CAKE!!! Oh my god. Take me back now so I can eat everything again!

Overall London was truly the best experience and I am incredibly lucky and blessed to have gotten to go on this trip with my mom! We made lots of new memories and I am so looking forward to returning to visit soon!!

Xoxo

Meg

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