London, February 2015
Jo and I went across the pond to London recently. We hustled and saw as much of the city and surrounding areas we could in a short window of time. Below are some highlights of the vacation.
The flight(s) over went from New York City, to Iceland, and on to London. Iceland was a nice layover. Their commitment to cleanliness was vastly superior to any airport I’ve been to in North America. They had individual bathrooms (not stalls) for people to use, and they shimmered in clean, white marble. Our good friend Jenny took the trip over with us, and she joked that the airport must be sponsored by IKEA.
Right, onto London.
Once we got to London, we stayed at a Hotel Indigo in the town of Kensington. We enjoyed it, might be our go-to for future trips. We had a tube station a few steps away, and there were lots of pubs/stores along Earl’s Court, which was perpendicular to the street our hotel was on. Our favorite pub was called The Blackbird, where we had authentic fish and chips, meat pies, and plenty of pints.
It also had a Tardis, where we took awkward American-tourist pictures. It wasn’t bigger on the inside, which was unfortunate.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was walking the grounds at Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea F.C. Chelsea is the team I root for in the EPL, much to the chagrin of my buddies. Having the chance to see live all the spots I usually watch on Saturday/Sunday morning matches was a check-off on the bucket-list. Tons of credit here to my wife Jo who booked the tour, and took care of all the arrangements.
We saw the locker rooms, the press rooms, and got to walk on the field. We tried to get tickets to the match against Manchester City that Saturday, but scalping outside the stadium is illegal. I’ve seen too many “locked up abroad” episodes to take any chances, so we watched from a nearby pub instead.
Trafalgar Square was filled with incredible architecture, monuments, and tourists like us. It was the starting point of our bus tour and easy to get to via the tube. We took way too many pictures of lion statues and a big blue Rooster.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s cathedral was nice, but a quick stop. It looked like a bank from the outside instead of a church. They didn’t allow people to take pictures while inside, but it didn’t matter because we were cheap and didn’t pay the admission price to get in the place.
Very iconic landmark. Tried getting some photos as we were driving across the bridge in our tour bus, but it was pouring outside and nothing good came out.
Tower of London
Tower of London was another highlight of the trip for us. It was like traveling back in time, walking on the cobblestone streets and going up and down the castle stairways made for much skinnier people. There was a protective moat, and the prized Crown Jewels. We spent a few hours here taking in the exhibits and museum’s within the city.
Regardless of how heralded a place is, I get very anxious when packed into a small area with thousands of other people. Once I got over kids running around my ankles and people stopping abruptly mid-walk, I enjoyed the heck out of Westminster. Jo and I were blown away by how far back the buried deceased originated from (some all the way back to Rome). This stop on the tour was well worth it, and I didn’t get arrested for knocking small children out of the way.
After walking around downtown all day, we stopped in at Covent Gardens for some shopping and photos. Covent had a Faneuil Hall type feel to it; shops, restaurants, tourists, etc. The area surrounding Covent had some very traditional London side-streets and shops that felt Harry Potter-ish, which were fun to walk in and out of..
You’re in the danger zone when you hear from your Wife, “OOOOH, they have a floor called ‘Shoe Heaven!!’….”.
Now, I thought Macy’s in downtown Manhattan was an experience I only needed to live once, but Harrods blows that away. The food court itself was worth the trip: pies, fresh meats, fresh fruits, and tons of chocolates/candies.
In all seriousness it was a very nice store, and we still had money after, so, win. That, money, is a nice segue into our next stop.
Harry Potter Studio Tour
This should be a blog post in itself. We nerded out for five hours at the Studio Tour. We spent way too much money on souvenirs. Going to post a bunch of photos instead of describing each part of the tour.
Frommer’s Fun Fact: Jo rode a broomstick across Hogwarts. The video content has not been OK’d for general distribution (her orders) but contact me if you are interested. She was a pro.
The London Eye
I was initially skeptical of this over-priced ferris wheel, but once we got in the air and were able to see the entirety of London it was well worth it. We got some of the best photographs of the trip while at the top of the Eye.
The Palace was just as luxurious as we expected it to be. We kept our eyes on the windows, but didn’t see any movement inside. Crazy to think that a family lives in here year round.
One of the last stops on the vacation was Big Ben and the surrounding area. Big Ben was much bigger in real-life than I had imagined. The streets below were filled with vendors selling the “Joey” hats from Friends (“London Baby!”). There were some street hustlers blatantly trying to pick-pocket those who thought “guess which cup it’s under” was a legitimate game of chance. Despite that, it was a great area that ended our site-seeing for the trip.
We saw a lot while we were in London. Yes, I had to be dragged to some of these attractions, so credit to Jo for making all the plans and seeing them through. We have a lot of great memories and still have a lot more of the city to see when we return.
Thanks for reading along!