The first time I visited London, my mom played tour guide for the weekend and showed me pretty much everything you can squeeze into two days. My parents were living in England at the time, and my mom knew how to hit all of the city’s highlights perfectly and managed to fit in a super fun show at the theatre as well (Mamma Mia!).
Since I had already seen most of the major sights, and since Chris didn’t have any specific wants for this trip (he was just happy to see and do anything in London), I elected to plan a few things on my running wish list this time around. We arrived on a Thursday morning and had plans for Friday afternoon and most of Sunday, so we had about two full days to spend on London things. Here is what we managed to accomplish on the wish list!
Take More Photos
When I visited London in 2003, I photographed everything with my 35mm film SLR. While I cherish those photos and I do love film, I was looking forward to taking more photos of the city with my digital camera. And not to toot my own horn, but my photography skills have maybe gotten a little better over the past 13 years.
Attend Afternoon Tea
I covered this one already in the previous post, but having proper tea in London ranked quite high on my wish list. Sanderson offered the perfect place to do so and with a cute theme to boot!
Ride the London Eye
I love any opportunity to get up high where I can enjoy a bird’s eye view of a location, so the London Eye appealed to me for a good photo op. Because we had such a limited amount of time in London with a ton of items on my to-do list, I purchased advanced Ultimate Fast Track tickets from the website with the option to visit any time within 3 months from the date of purchase. It was a little bit of a splurge to buy those tickets over the standard tickets, but in the end we appreciated the convenience of selecting a day based on the weather forecast and then walking right onto the first rotation without waiting in line at all. We arrived at opening time (10am) on a Friday and there was quite a long queue for the standard tickets line. I’m pretty sure if you ask Chris he’ll say the extra cost was worth not having to wait. I tend to get a little whiny in long lines.
Truth be told, I was a little bummed to see the Parliament building covered in scaffolding and tarp, but the Eye was still a fun ride and I’m glad we had a gorgeous day to check this off the list.
Drink at an English Pub
This one was on the list with Chris in mind, although we both love bars. We stayed in the Covent Garden area and we had plenty of options for pubs – we couldn’t walk a single block without finding one and I had fun photographing the various pub signs. Sitting in a pub with a pint and a steak pie or fish-and-chips this time of year felt especially cozy.
My mom and I didn’t fit much shopping into our London weekend because we prioritized seeing the sights and getting to the theatre. This time around I planned to hit Harrods, the Covent Market Garden, Neal’s Yard, and even umbrella shopping at the famous James Smith & Sons store. Note: I wanted so badly to ask if the umbrella shop employees felt it was bad luck to open the brollies indoors, but I resisted. The store has been around since 1830, so I suspect the urban myth does not apply here.
The holiday shopping crowds at Harrods totally overwhelmed me and we didn’t end up staying long, so I’ll probably need to put Harrods back on my wish list for a third trip to London. It was fun to see the beautiful Christmas decorations though! I bought a very sturdy, well-made umbrella at James Smith & Sons, some artwork from the Covent Garden Market, and we had a fantastic lunch at a cute pizza place in Neal’s Yard.
Eat at Borough Market
I don’t consider Chris and I to be true foodies per se, but we do love food (understatement), so the more I heard about the different food stalls at Borough Market the more I wanted to eat my way through this outdoor marketplace. We went into the market at lunchtime with empty bellies and a specific plan of finding certain vendors that I had read about online. We found gorgeous produce, exotic mushrooms, fresh flowers, sinful baked goods, giftable food items, and so many options for a well-rounded meal.
On that very rainy Saturday, it felt like everyone else in London had the same idea to visit the market. We expected the market to be busy, but perhaps not quite that packed! The massive crowds meant we had some challenges navigating the market and finding things, so we ended up just going with the flow of the crowd and trying whatever we stumbled upon and that was fun, too. We tried a fantastic sausage bap from Northfield Farm, a warm, gooey cheese toastie from Kappacasein, cookies of all kinds at Cinnamon Tree Bakery, and as much fudge as we could manage to carry from Whirld. It’s worth mentioning that the fudge was so good none of it even made it onto the plane ride home.
Try a New Food
In addition to all the goodies from Borough Market, we ate at some really fantastic restaurants in London. We were spoiled for choices in the Soho/Covent Garden area. One of my goals for each of our trips is always to try a new food, and I ended up doing just that while having breakfast at Bill’s in Covent Garden. I spotted “bubble and squeak” on a menu in my trip research and after Googling the definition (shallow-fried leftover vegetables and potatoes), I wanted to make sure I tried it. I absolutely loved it! One of these days I’m going to have to try to replicate it at home.
See (Another) Show/Musical
I didn’t technically have this on my London wish list, but I always want to go to the show. Always. I adore the theatre and will pretty much see anything, so on Friday when the weather forecast predicted a very rainy Saturday evening, Chris suggested we see a show and I pounced at the idea. Our hotel was literally less than one hundred feet from Cambridge Theatre where Matilda was playing, so we decided to give it a try. We were able to get great seats online, and the show was tons of fun. I’ve had the songs in my head since we returned home!
Photograph London at Night
Lastly, I love seeing a city lit up at night, and I welcome the challenge of low-light photography. I didn’t end up doing any nighttime photography on my last visit, so I figured this time we could carve some time out to see parts of the city well past sunset. The Tower Bridge looks particularly lovely at night and I think this photo turned out nicely. (Low-light selfies are tricky, though I like how that one turned out, too.)
Looking back, we managed to pack so many things into a short almost-four-day trip considering we also visited the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London and saw another super fun show at the theatre (posts coming up), but I still have a running wish list for London. I have yet to tour the Tower of London or the National Gallery. I’ve seen St. Paul’s Cathedral, but I haven’t been inside. And Chris didn’t get to see Buckingham Palace because we ran out of time. I guess we’ll
have get to go back!