A Day in London
We spent last weekend in London! We spent Friday night at a Christmas party with Luc's coworkers at a Gordon Ramsey restaurant, though we didn't actually eat there, just drank (we ate at Nando's, which is amazing, tribute post to come soon). On Saturday I wanted to see all of the major tourist attractions in one day, the idea being that from now on when we travel to London we can just enjoy exploring as locals. I convinced Luc to go on a 10 hour coach bus tour with me (yes, TEN hours long). I thought the tour was great! We met a lot of different people from different cultures, a really cool tour guide (who speaks like 5 languages fluently), had easy transportation around the city (which is huge), and access to all the attractions we went to. While we probably won't do many other big tours -we like to explore at our own pace- I'm glad that we knocked out tourist London in a day, though we were SO EXHAUSTED by the end.
London in a Day - Itinerary:
- Panoramic tour of London by coach bus
- Buckingham Palace
- Westminster Abbey, Parliament, and Big Ben (which unfortunately was under construction)
- Changing of the Horse Guard at Horse Guard's Parade
- Trafalgar Square
- Lunch on the bus
- Tower of London
- St. Paul's Cathedral
- River Thames Cruise from Tower Pier to London Eye
- London Eye
We started out the day by driving around London to see the different neighbourhoods, monuments, historical buildings, and lots of Victorian, Georgian, and Roman architecture. We drove through Westminster, which is beautiful, and by Kensington Palace. We also drove by Harrod's, which is HUGE! We didn't get to go inside this time but we will for sure the next time we're in London!
There was no changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace on the day we were there, which at first I was disappointed about, but that meant it wasn't too crowded which was great. We could step right up to the gate and peer through the rails, and though we didn't see the changing of the guard, we did see the guards standing outside the palace. They even did a few walkabouts (I only know it's called a walkabout because I heard a British chap say to his wife "oh he's 'bout ta do a walkabout"). It was nice and sunny (rare occasion in England) that morning so our pictures turned out great!
Westminster Abbey, Parliament, and Big Ben
We got back on the bus and drove across the river to see Westminster Abbey. We didn't go inside, but we hopefully will get a chance to in the future. The outside is beautiful. We also got to see Parliament and Big Ben, which are right next to Westminster Abbey. Big Ben was covered in scaffolding, and I'm pretty sure it will continue to be covered in scaffolding for the rest of our time in England. Bummer.
Horse Guard's Parade
Next we saw the changing of the Horse Guard! It's really just a bunch of men in funny outfits on horses staring at each other with lots of tourists gathered around, but it was cool to see. One of the horses outside the parade entrance was getting a little antsy, so we got to see him do a little dance in the crowd.
We walked a little further down from the Horse Guard to reach Trafalgar Square, where we took some photos and bought some lunch to eat on the bus. Luc got McDonald's (of course) and I went to Pret A Manger to get a sarnie (or as Americans would say, a sandwich), some crisps (chips) and a brownie (yum). We got back on the bus and headed to Tower of London.
Tower of London
Such a cool place! We were there for an hour and a half but that didn't feel like nearly enough time to see everything we wanted to! The tower itself is 1000 years old, a lot of history has happened there. Some of the highlights of our visit were the crown jewels (which we were not allowed to take pictures of), towers where prisoners were held (including Anne Boleyn), graffiti that prisoners carved into the walls of the rooms where they were held, medieval torture devices, and the Bloody Tower.
St. Paul's Cathedral
We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the cathedral (it's beautiful), but we were allowed to take pictures of the outside. We spent some time wandering around in the cathedral and had some tea in the crypt cafe. We saw the tombs of Lord Nelson, The Duke of Wellington, Sir Christopher Wren, Sir Alexander Fleming, and Florence Nightingale to name a few. You can learn more about the history of the cathedral here.
River Thames Cruise
Next we took a river cruise from Tower Pier to the London Eye. At this point we were excited to rest our feet and warm up on the boat, which was covered and heated. Our view wasn't great since we sat inside, but seeing the London Bridge and the London Eye lit up at night was pretty neat.
The London Eye
Last stop: The London Eye! For those who don't know, The London Eye is a giant ferris wheel offering beautiful birds-eye and panoramic views of London. It was fun to find all of the places we visited during the day from the top of the wheel.
After a long day of sightseeing, we finally made it back to our hotel!
By the way, our hotel was AMAZING and SO luxurious. Thanks to Luc's Marriott points, we were able to stay in a swanky downtown London hotel for only £5. Yep, £5. And we only had to pay that much because we ate 2 candy bars from our fully stocked in-room bar. The room also had an individual speaker with its own controls in the bathroom, a high-tech toilet, and nightly turn-down service. We stayed at the London Marriott Hotel on Park Lane. After resting our feet a bit and changing, we went for dinner at Maximini, a Chinese restaurant owned by Jimmy Choo. I had the crispy duck, Luc had sweet and sour chicken, we shared some dumplings. It was the best Chinese food I've ever had! Check out the menu, though it might make you hungry...
We went back to the hotel and slept in the next morning, then headed to the train station. The train from London to Bristol is only about 1 hour, 45 minutes. Not bad! Aside from taking the train and couch bus, our primary modes of transportation around London were either walking or via the tube. It's surprisingly easy to navigate the tube! Luc led the way, he's excited that the tube directions are in English (compared to when he was riding the subway in Japan).
Next stop, Edinburgh!