For the second part of our vacation we took a short flight over to London (if you missed the first part of our vacation, Paris, you can catch up here).
We arrived at Heathrow in the mid-afternoon and hopped on the Heathrow Express which took us straight into Paddington Station. We grabbed a cab from the taxi queue and headed off to our hotel in South Kensington – The Kensington.
Our hotel was beautiful and was just a quick five minute walk from the tube station. Always full of surprises, the husband really outdid himself in London. When we walked into our room, I was surprised to find out that it wasn’t a room at all, but a suite! And sitting on the windowsill were a bouquet of my favorite flowers, alstromeria. Shortly after our arrival there was a knock on our door and there was a waiter with a tray of chocolate and strawberries and an anniversary card from the hotel.
After we got settled in to our suite and freshened up, we went out to explore the city. We decided to head towards the Thames and walk around the neighborhoods down there. We admired Westminster Abbey, Parliament, The Queen’s Tower and Big Ben, and the Central Methodist Hall. We even got to see the London Eye, though it was from across the river.
As we were walking through the neighborhoods we came across a little pub called Prince Albert’s and popped in for a pint and some chips. It was right after working hours so the place was jumping with locals and it was so neat to watch everyone just enjoying their lives!
Later that night we met up with a friend at the White Stallion for some dinner and drinks and really just had a great time. It was so nice to talk with someone who lives there and could suggest fun touristy things to do that wouldn’t make us look like ultra-tourists.
The next day we went down to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. I really didn’t know what to expect but when we arrived there were about ten thousand people there! No joke. The pomp and circumstance is truly remarkable. The guards taking over march down the street and in to the courtyard of the palace while the band plays. The mounted guard walks down the streets around the palace clearing the street of pedestrians. It is really an amazing show of force and tradition.
Just being near the palace was incredible. It is gorgeous and it just seems so crazy to me that you can just walk down the footpath and boom – there’s a palace. In the middle of the city!
After that we went up to King’s Cross to take a glimpse at Platform 9 and 3/4 (of course). They really have a pretty good setup there. You stand in a queue and two Potter people take your picture as you run into the wall. FOR FREE! There is a souvenir shop if you’re brave enough to enter – it was a mad house when we were there. I opted not to enter. The next time we go back to London though, I definitely want to take a Potter tour!
We spent the rest of the afternoon on Downing Street and in the Churchill War Room Museum, which is incredible. The artifacts on display are impressive but what was so interesting to me is that you actually get to walk through the actual place where Churchill watched the war progress. The maps he and his team used to track progress are still on the wall and you can even see the pinholes from where they were showing troop movements. There is a section of the ceiling that has been removed so you can see the six inches of concrete that Churchill had poured above the rooms because he found out that they weren’t very secure. If the building had been directly hit the building would have collapsed on them. The concrete was a little bit of a cushion. This museum is one of the best I’ve been to and the interaction you get to participate in really immerses you into the story.
That night we went to this wine bar called Gordon’s on the recommendation of our friend. The bar is below street level and is built inside of what looks like a cave. They only serve wine, but you can cheese boards, meats, and breads to go along with your wine. The place is really tiny and filled up quickly, but we were able to procure two spots to sit inside – they have outdoor seating as well. After our leisurely wine and cheese experience we walked to our restaurant, Simpson’s On-The-Strand, to enjoy our actual dinner. This place is incredible. We each order a beef wellington, because London. They had a piano player, and beautiful decor, and the service was outstanding.
We went back to our hotel and enjoyed some champagne and snacks by the fireplace in the lobby area and enjoyed some really fantastic people watching.
On the morning of our final day, I was a little frantic. We had packed the night before and everything was ready to go, but we had one more thing to do before we went to the airport. On our first night in London, in a moment of trying to be super helpful, I offered to buy our passes into Buckingham Palace. There are only six weeks out of the entire year that the palace is opened for tourists and we happened to be there during part of those six weeks! I want to go inside a palace! I’m a princess, afterall!!! So I bought the tickets and thought everything was good to go – until I received my email confirmation and realized that I bought tickets for the wrong day! I read the terms and conditions and it stated clearly, no refunds, no exchanges, sorry not sorry. I was crushed. I was trying to be so helpful and the one thing in London that I absolutely wanted to do, I messed up in a big way! After we watched the changing of the guard we actually walked over to ticketing area and explained the situation – I purchased tickets for the wrong day; we were leaving the day the tickets were for and was there anything at all they would be able to do for us. We tried to get in to see the palace that day during the last time slot, but it was full. They absolutely would not refund my money, but what they could do was put us in the very first time slot for the day we were leaving. We accepted their offer and went about the rest of our day, although I was still pretty bummed out because the first time slot of the day was 9:30 and our flight was at noon. I didn’t think there was any possible way we would be able to go through the palace and make our flight.
But, as I’ve said before, my husband is incredibly thoughtful. He is also a problem-solver. So, we took our luggage with us and headed to the palace – and you know what? THEY HAVE A BAG CHECK ON SITE! Which meant that we would be able to leave our bags, explore the palace and still make our flight! Unfortunately, there is a pretty strict no photography rule inside the palace so I can’t show you any pictures, but I promise however beautiful, magnificent, and incredible I say it is, it’s even more than that. I couldn’t stop smiling and was just so blown away by the fact that people live there. LIVE. THERE. It is amazing. If you are thinking about going to London, go when you can get inside the palace because it is sooooo worth it. Plus, you get to view the Queen’s gallery, the carriage and mews, and the gardens.
After we exited the palace grounds we hailed a taxi cab and went back to Paddington Station to take the Heathrow Express back to the airport. Thanks to some very kind people who let us jump to the front of the queue we were able to make our flight on time. When we got to the gate they hadn’t even started boarding so all of the anxiety I had that morning was for nothing!
We boarded our Aer Lingus plane and got ready to continue our journey in Dublin!