Day 1 – March 9.
We took a red eye to London, landing at 10:30 am, London time, at Heathrow on March 9th. After an awful wait in customs, we set off toward the Underground, our first real adventure. We’re believers in public transportation, and, apparently, confusion. The first time on any public transit system is an adventure, and London’s Underground was no different. We spent a solid 15 minutes at an Underground station staring at signs trying to figure out which direction we wanted to go. The Circle line was made to confuse, as far as I’m concerned.
We found our hotel, Hotel Indigo Tower Hill, which was beautiful, near the Underground, had chocolate and sodas free from the minibar and had a front desk staff that was absolutely amazing. I’d stay there again in an instant, if for no other reason than the fact that chocolate is the way to my heart. We popped into a pub nearby, had the best baguette sandwich of my life (turkey and cranberry FTW! It was like a Thanksgiving sandwich), and then we set off to explore and to try to walk off some of our exhaustion. We were determined to stay awake, to make solid use of our first half day in London and to get ourselves used to the six hour time difference.
We checked out the Tower of London, walked across the Tower bridge, stepped in pee while trying to get the perfect phone booth photo, checked out St. Paul’s Cathedral and drank it all in. We were exhausted and grumpy, snapping at each other and bickering over dinner when we finally realized we should give in, and just go to sleep. We lasted all the way until 9:30 pm.
Day 2 – March 10.
We had exactly one full day in London. One. The other days were half days, with incoming and outgoing flights, and I was determined to make the most of our lone full day. I might have almost killed us with a brutal and fast-paced schedule, but damn if we didn’t see a lot.
We started the day with a full English breakfast for Andrew at Fox & Anchor, called “The Fox’s City Boy Breakfast” complete with eggs, sausage, beans, grilled tomato, white and black pudding, hash browns, kidneys, friend bread, chicken liver, mushrooms and a pint of Murphy’s stout to wash it all down with. I kept it simple with an omelet, but damn if it wasn’t delightful to watch Andrew embark on his first true culinary adventure of the trip.
After breakfast, we waddled back to the Underground, and set off toward Westminster, determined to hit as many of the major tourist spots as we could. We checked out the House of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the Horse Guard, all in quick succession, thanks to their close proximity. We didn’t go in anywhere, mostly because we were strapped for time and trying not to spend all of our money in London. Entry fees for most tourist sites were around £20, or around $30, which seemed like a lot to us and given that we tend to be extremely thorough when visiting places, we knew we could easily spend half a day at one spot if we decided to go in.
We then walked through St. Jame’s Park toward Buckingham Palace and fell in love with the wildlife. There were swans and geese and ducks and even a pelican.
After hurling myself in the air for a few jump shots, we realized we were starving and headed toward Pimlico for lunch. My professor had recommended we check out a place called Chimes, and we weren’t disappointed. She had described it as being a neighborhood sort of spot, and sure enough, the bartender seemed to know everyone who came in by name. There was even a little deaf dachshund named Fred. It was here that we had what might have been my favorite meal in London – a ploughman’s lunch, basically just a plate with bread, cheese and garnishes on it. In real life, this is how I eat. Give me cheese and bread, some meats and a pickle or two and I’m the happiest lady in all of the lands.
Andrew went with fish and chips, his primary must-eat London meal.
Once our feet stopped hurting and our stomachs were full, we headed to the V&A Museum.
Let me just say that London does museum’s right and we were impressed with the treasures at the V&A as well as the free admittance. They have this brilliant display of jewelry with all manner of precious and semi-precious stones that is absolutely breathtaking. Like the cats, we’re apparently attracted to sparkly things and had a hard time pulling ourselves away.
After wandering, falling in love with a street cat and Italian for dinner, we called it a night, determined to hit a few more must-see spots before flying to Paris later the next night.
On our last, we crossed a few nerdy things: Abbey Road & Platform 9 3/4. Andrew is a HUGE Beatles fan and was hellbent on seeing Abbey Road and it really was an amazing experience. The graffiti that covers the walls outside of Abbey Road Records is amazing and creative. It’s a brilliant tribute. And Platform 9 3/4? Well, part of our love is founded on Harry Potter and it would have been wrong to skip it, especially since we didn’t even really need to leave the Underground station to check out.
Finally, we visited the British Museum, home of such treasures as the Rosetta Stone and Cleopatra’s mummy. This place is huge – six floors huge – and filled with amazing items. We could have spent a day here, wandering through the exhibits, marveling at mummies and Greek sculpture, but we had just under two hours to check it all out. If you go to only one museum in London, I’d say go to the British Museum – it’s free and the exhibits are amazing.
Then, we hightailed it back to the hotel, gathered our bags and set out on the underground toward Heathrow. Next stop, Paris!