“Mind the Gap”- London Underground
If I could write about all the things I did on my trip to London in one blog post, I would. Truth is, our trip was filled with many planned adventures but also a few unplanned adventures. It seemed like every corner we turned in London there was something new to discover. As a city with over 8 million in population, I guess I was expecting something like New York, but honestly, it was completely different. It seemed larger, cleaner and way less crowded. Obviously, during rush hour it seemed like everyone in London came out and took the tube, as the London Underground is so adorably called but otherwise it was an incredible, walkable, and explorable city.
I am always excited whenever I go to a new place, but England is just one of those places where things were just different. I watch a lot of British television and I had quite a bit of nostalgia during my trip because I was seeing things I had seen in my shows but also things I had heard about throughout my life. One of those things was afternoon tea. Imagine how I felt finding a cute little nook down the road from Buckingham Palace to have tea for two (wait did I really just say Buckingham Palace? Pinch me please). Travel is one of those things that allows you to absorb and learn about the culture in the area- central London has a mind of its own, a culture of its own that encompasses the cultures of the world and to me, hands down it is one of my favorite cities.
London is one of those cities I would fly back to in a heartbeat to eat more, learn more and relish in the history and while I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do- we did a lot and those are the experiences I to share with you all to not only hopefully make your trip easier but also more fulfilling when you go to London next.
When I was thinking about what to write I wanted to follow along the same lines as my recent city travel posts, but I realized for this kind of trip I would have to write more than one post. I hope that as you read through you will understand why. Between things to do, things to experience, things to eat and more I hope you will all be taken in by the photos, and live in the experiences until you have your own.
- Learn how to use the London Underground
By Tuesday of our trip, we had figured out that using the London Underground or the “Tube” was the most cost-effective way to get around the city. We were in a neighborhood a few miles outside of central London but it was still incredibly easy to get in and out each day. Learn the system, get a day travel card each day or do a week-long travel card depending on how long you will be there. You will get the hang of it. People are also incredibly nice and super helpful- something that was a breath of fresh air.
- Do visit Buckingham Palace
Sure its touristy, but do it. Its one item checked off the bucket list and honestly the palace is beautiful. I just stood there asking Roose all sorts of questinos (he is a major history buff) about when it was built, the royalty who had lived there and more. While there was no changing of the guard the day we went, we still saw them marching back and forth and honestly I felt like a little kid. As someone who really follows along whats happening in England to a certain extent it was thrilling to be able to see it face to face.
- Do have afternoon tea
It’s hyped up for a reason. Go somewhere where “afternoon tea for 1 or 2” is actually on the menu. We found this adorable little place a block from Buckingham and I fell in love. We did afternoon tea for two and had sandwiches, cakes, macarons, scones, clotted cream, jam and enough tea for like 3 servings each. Well worth the 26 pounds. Everything was delicious, the English know what they are doing when it comes to tea and treats.
- Do travel outside of the city
We had the chance to visit Bath (which is in Somerset England) and Stonehenge (which is in Salisbury England). We saw the beautiful English countryside, experienced some amazing history and ate some lovely food. We used a great tour company called Paddywagon Tours- they were brilliant. The guide Sinead was so knowledgeable and really let us explore on our own. We were able to be a Stonehenge for around an hour and a half and at Bath for three hours. I will be writing more in depth about what to do in those areas a little later on.
- Do visit the British Museum
Home of the Rosetta Stone this museum should be on your list even if you aren’t a huge museum-goer. It is huge with millions of artifacts and several floors of knowledge. The building is beautiful and we learned so much while we were there. We loved it.
- Experience the London Cocktail scene
I really wanted to go to more lounges and parlors while I was in London so I could experience more cocktails but the few drinks I had were amazing. Some were so incredibly inventive I was taken aback. Places I had some drinks at were:
- Drunch Regents Park
- Sports Bar & Grill Marylebone
- Grand Central
I will be writing about the food and drink more in-depth on a separate blog post so I can really showcase each restaurant as they should be.
- Do walk and explore the city on your own time
London is walkable, practically everywhere we were, we kind of went off on our own volition to see what was around. We found art, we found nooks and crannies and lots more. Its definitely a city with lost of twists and turns and explorable territory.
- Do try all the food you can
Eat all the things, try all the things. I mean you know me by now right? London is full of different cultures and the food makes you understand that. From Nigerian to Italian to Indian we tried so many different cuisines. Also try all the desserts…the English are known for their delicious pasties, pies, choux, doughnuts etc. I had my fill while I was there. Places we tried:
- Drunch Regents Park
- Spaghetti House Woodstock
- Enish Finchley Road
- English Rose Cafe & Tea Shop
- Do visit as many sweet shops as you can
Like I said above, the sweets in England are amazing. We tried so many different, lovely treats. I wish I could go back and eat it all again. Fresh, inventive and so delicious.
- Do visit the British Library
Two words: Magna Carta. Yes, the document that King John created and put that kingly seal on. The British library has two of the original four copies. Wicked cool to see that. They also have so many sacred and ancient texts including several different kinds of religious texts. The library also has a cafe, beautiful wide open areas and just a lot of cool stuff to peruse. It’s worth a visit and like most other areas in London it’s super close to an underground station.
- Do explore Kensington Palace grounds
What can I say about Kensington Palace other than you should go and take in the beauty? The gardens encompass a huge area of land and several tube stations make the area incredibly accessible. We saw the outside of the palace, the gates, several ponds, swans, the peter pan statue and had a good nice walk. Great to take in for a couple of hours and take some photos or go with picnic fixings and spend a bit of time there.
- Do visit the street food markets was glad we were able to go to Borough Market and then the Camden Town Market plus Camden Town Locks.
We wanted to go to many more markets, but its all about timing. Taking in the colors, the smells, the art (especially in the Camden area) was just so cool. We saw a Banksy, tried some delicious orange juice, tried some cheese, bought some amazing smoothies, shopped at the coolest retro/thrift shops and checked out the Amy Winehouse statue. It was simply a great time!
Finally saw a Banksy in real life!
- Do visit surrounding neighborhoods
We stayed in the Streatham (pronounced Streh-tem) Hill area of London and there was some neighborhoods kind of outside the more central area like Notting Hill, Brixton, etc that we checked out. I said it before how walkable of a city London is and while you do have to take the train to some areas it is still easy to navigate. We also explored a bit of our own neighborhood, found the local co-op market and saw some cool cafes etc.
- Do visit Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey was a dream come true. The history of this abbey, the people buried there, the majesty of it all was breathtaking. We both are huge fans of history so being able to check this place out and experience the history in front of us instead of on a screen was something I treasured. Seeing Mary Queen of Scots, Charles Dickens, Handel, C.S. Lewis, and others was a highlight. The architecture of the abbey itself is amazing, and I kept whipping my head around because there was just so much to take in. There is a ticket price to enter unlike many other attractions, but in my opinion, it was worth it!
- Do visit Picadilly Circus
Last but not least check out Picadilly Circus. Similar to Times Square in NYC but somewhat smaller. Lots of people, but it was beautiful. It also happens to be very near Chinatown which I loved walking through and taking photos and smelling all that goodness. Roose was chosen to do some dancing along with other people there by one of the street performers so that was great fun.
Our trip was incredibly busy with each day packed to the brim. I don’t think we ever got back to our lovely airbnb before 11 pm but it was worth it. I enjoyed exploring London with my love and I know you will too! Please let me know your favorite things to do in London if you’ve been and where you want to go on your next trip!
Always an Adventure,
Life as a Maven