Are we finally in London?! Yes, we are!
We arrived in London on October 31st (yay Halloween!), after just 2 hours of sleep, and then a two hour train ride from Cheltenham we walked out at the London Paddington station (no, I still have not seen the Paddington bear movie). From there we grabbed a taxi, which took us to our hotel in Westminster. I got a great deal at Park Plaza Riverbank hotel on Priceline. The hotel has some amazing views, but don’t expect to get a view room when you get an express deal on Priceline. Also, all of their double bed rooms (2 twin beds) look “inside” the hotel, so there are no real windows.
It was an eventful weekend for London: World Rugby Cup 2015, Halloween, Regent Street Motorshow, Oxford Street Christmas Lighting ceremony, U2 concert were some of the biggest events (Rugby Cup being THE biggest! There were Australians, Argentinians, New Zealanders, and South Africans staying at our hotel.)
After a quick nap at the hotel, we hopped on the bus (yes, the double deckers are everywhere!) and went to the Piccadilly Circus, which was packed with people! My first impression of London, especially after the small and charming Cheltenham, was not so positive. It was extremely crowded and overwhelming!
(Sidenote: tip for using the bus, make sure your credit card has a chip and is (of course) activated for international use, or buy an Oyster card at any metro station. The buses no longer take cash. A credit card with a chip works just like a bus ticket, you tap it on the reader and you go sit.)
Navigating through the crowd, we made it to Chinatown where we stopped at a dumpling place to have some… drum roll… DUMPLINGS! At Dumplings’ Legend all dumplings are made to order, very authentic and fresh!
After lunch we came across a really cute street market at St. James Church. I bought some delicious teas to take home. And yes, you can haggle.
It got dark really quickly and we decided to buy a ticket to hop-on-hop-off bus to tour the city at night. If you can, buy the tickets online ahead of time, you can save up to £6. We got on the last bus, which worked out great because it meant that we didn’t have to stop at every station to pick more people up. The tour lasted about 2 hrs. Most busses have open tops, great in the summer, but it was quite called at night on October 31st.
When we got done with the bus tour, London Eye was about a 10 minute walk from the hotel, so we took a night stroll.
That area actually turned out to be really fun. There were a lot of street performers, skate park, and a smoothie bar with awesome LED display and alcohol options for adults (although, a bit too cold for smoothies.)
For dinner we stopped at a place called “Love”, which sounds cheesy, but it had very simple and delicious burgers and french fries, which at this point I was missing!
This ended our first day of adventures in London… or so we thought! On the way back to the hotel we saw a bunch of police cars, smelled something burning, and saw broken glass everywhere. I panicked and thought that our hotel was on fire, but turned out there was a Halloween rave on our street that got a little out of hand.
The next morning was gorgeous, nice and sunny, but foggy!
Another short walk and a bus ride and we ended up at the Jubilee Market Hall, a beautiful plaza with live music, plenty of restaurant options and outdoor seating. We settled on Tutton’s, but unfortunately we just missed the breakfast menu (I really wanted some poached eggs), so we picked a few other options from the menu.
After breakfast we just started walking towards the Trafalgar Square and on the way there we stopped at The National Gallery, which is free (in-kind donations are welcomed) art museum, where we got to see van Gogh with our own eyes in person!
The Mall street, opposite the Green Park is closed on Sundays and public holidays. It was amazing to be able to walk in the middle of this road!
Of course, you can’t go to London and not stare at the Buckingham Palace.
Street light for the horses.
Our hop-on-hop-off bus was active for 2 days, so we hopped on and went to South Kensington. This was probably my favorite part of London! It’s a bit quieter and very peaceful.
Oh yeah, this is where Kate and William live.
What a magical and beautiful place! Words cannot describe it!
It started getting dark and we made our way over to the Oxford street, where the Christmas lighting ceremony took place. We missed the Kylie Minogue performance, but I did find an awesome tea store, T2, that has hundreds of teas to choose from! They also have the cutest and coolest tea pot and cup sets! I wanted to buy one, but I was already limited on space and weight in my suit case.
It was already 9 pm on a Sunday night, but the street live was not stopping. We decided to re-energize with some tea and cake at Richoux. Tea was good, cake, meh, not so much. And then we walked out to these lovely ladies.
Oh, and apparently there is a Walmart in England, but because Walmart has such a negative reputation, they changed the name to ASDA.
At this point our London adventures came to an end and we headed back to the hotel trough the foggy dark streets of the city.
We felt safe all the time. I think the most dangerous activity we did in London (and England in general), was crossing the streets. You have to look the opposite way and after a week in UK, I still didn’t quite master that skill! Proper good byes were said and I hope to visit England again!
And a short video to summarize my trip: