Four years ago, I took a trip with Doug to Europe. Now, finally, things have settled down around here for the time being, so we decided to take a big summer trip instead of multiple long-weekend trips like we did last summer. So, we booked our second trip to Europe!
Note: I wrote the majority of this post last week, and then as I was editing the copy… the Brexit results came in. It seems strange to publish a happy-go-lucky vacation post while the country is in crisis, but… We had a good trip, and I really did enjoy myself. For more information on the Brexit, the BBC seems pretty comprehensive. Oh, and on a related note… it’s relatively cheap to visit Britain now, after all this!
Our first city was London. Doug is a big Anglophile and he is really into British Premier League soccer. Also, London Heathrow is a fairly inexpensive airport to fly into, as far as transatlantic trips go. So, we started out– my first time to Jolly Old England! Parts of the city were jolly, but much of our three days in London were rainy! We saw the sun a few times, saw Big Ben a number of times, and had lots of good food.
The first day we arrived, we took the metro to King’s Cross Station (the Harry Potter nerd in me geeked out) and walked up to our airbnb. After we settled our bags and changed out of our airplane clothes, it was time to hit the city. I booked us on one of those cheesy hop-on, hop-off tour buses because I didn’t know much about London and wanted a guide to tell me stuff.
I would give the hop-on, hop-off bus a 5/10. Traffic in London is pretty bad so for a lot of the ride you are moving very slowly and listening to the guide’s rudimentary stand-up comedy routine (maybe it depends on the guide). We got a pretty overview of the city but it started to rain, nay, pour and the bus ended up getting, well flooded out. (We’d looked at the forecast and we came prepared with raincoats). It got really bad, though, so we hopped out with the intention of seeing Westminster Abbey, but that was experiencing a bit of flooding as well, so we got a coffee and sheltered until the rain let up a bit.
Since we were already wet, and it kept sprinkling, we decided to take the Thames river tour that was included in our tour bus ticket. For me, this was the highlight of day one. Old European cities are almost always built along a river for practical reasons, so seeing it from this vantage provides a good view of new and old buildings and some good history.
After the boat, we headed to Covent Garden which is like a fancy mall and dining area. Judging from the design, I’m thinking it probably used to be a train station? Correct me if you know. We ate pot pies at Battersea Pie Station, which I’d scoped out online before we left (I didn’t want to eat just fish and chips for three days). The pies were really good, and the crust was amazing.
The next morning, we had a full English breakfast at Cafe Oz a pretty short walk from our flat. I had bubble and squeak, which is like a potato pancake with veggies in it. From there we saw Buckingham Palace, which was beginning to get decked out for the Queen’s 90th birthday festivities, and then back to Westminster Abbey, which was open after the previous day’s rain. The Abbey was unlike any of the cathedrals I’d previously seen in France and Belgium. It was hundreds of years old and instead of preserving it in an ancient state, the royal family kept adding on to it– tombs and memorials, and paintings, and more! The entry fee included an audioguide which was extremely helpful. I would have been overwhelmed without it and wouldn’t have appreciated my visit as much.
The weather was really good and rain was predicted for the following day, so we went to the Emirates Stadium, where the soccer team Arsenal plays. This pilgrimage was one of Doug’s bucket list items, and listening to the audioguide certainly told me more than I ever knew there was to know about the storied history of the team.
For dinner, we went to another restaurant I’d looked up before our departure, BAO. This Soho shop is on foodie lists of “new, must-try” places to eat in London, and we had to wait in line to get in. I wanted to bail (my feet were so tired from a day of walking) but we persevered and were rewarded with yummy pork buns and a sesame-kale salad. After BAO we walked around Soho a while longer before heading in for the night.
On our final day in London, we went back to Soho to visit Carnaby street! I’d put Liberty of London on my itinerary but it was much more than I even imagined and I was blown away by the size of the store, the medieval tudor style building, and the beautiful items inside! We went to Kingly Court and ate at Le Bab where we had a surprisingly high bill and realized we were almost out of pounds.
We went to Monocle, a coffee shop, where we each had a coffee and discovered we had juuuust enough money for dinner. The rest of the day was an exercise in not spending money! We went to the Tate Modern, which was free, and walked around Shakespeare’s Globe and the Anchor, London’s oldest pub.
We grabbed dinner from a supermarket and headed back to our flat to watch soccer. It was the first day of a month-long European competition. Our train (through the chunnel!) was leaving at 6 the next morning so we hit the hay early.
My next Eurotrip post will cover Paris and my third will cover Madrid! Have you ever been to London? What was your favorite part, or what do you wish you could visit? I think I skipped some touristy stuff in favor of some hipstery stuff… but #noregrets!