The plane arrived at London Heathrow at around 7:00am. And after getting through customs, getting our baggage, having a slight freakout because the wifi at the airport wasn't working and our shuttle not being there right when we arrived as we were led to believe it would be. We were on out way to our hotel by about 9:00am.
The drive through London was fantastic. I was so excited to be back in one of my favorite cities. I cannot tell you how much I wish we would have had more time there. We were luckier then others in our group in that we got to London first thing in the morning and had pretty much then entire day to explore, whereas the others didn't arrive in London until noon or later. So yay us!
Our hotel, the H-10 Waterloo was in a fantastic location. Just a few minutes walk from the Waterloo tube and train station and with a fantastic view of The London Eye. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the hotel was very nice. It had a very contemporary feel to it and the room was spacious enough for all three of us. We didn't feel like we were on top of each other. And it had great air conditioning which compared to some of our other hotels was a blessing.
So, after getting settled in, meeting our Tour Director John, and making a game plan we set out to explore the city.
London Day 1
We started out by filling up an Oyster card. Which we used the entire two days we were in London. The Oyster card is what Londoners use to get on and off the tube and buses around the city. We filled it up with the maximum amount and actually ended up having to refill it on day two. The tube is so user friendly, at least we thought it was anyway. And once you get the hang of it it will literally take you anywhere you want to go in the city. Loved it.
Our first stop was the Westminster area of London. We wanted to see those iconic postcard pictures. Plus it was close to the London Eye, which we had reservations for at 1:00pm. We explored the areas for about an hour and half. Snapped a ton of pictures and just generally enjoyed being in hustle and bustle of the city. We decided we would come back to wander through Westminster Abbey after the London Eye.
Next up we walked up to the Trafalgar Square area to grab a bite to eat. Sadly the first few pubs we walked into were reservations only at that time in the day. (We found out later that one of the pubs we walked into is frequented by members of Parliament and is where they give their "off the record" quotes to reporters.) We eventually found ourselves in a restaurant that turned out to be an Italian restaurant and not a very good one. I was pretty disappointed in us. I mean it was our first night in London and I had mediocre pizza. Nuh-uh not cool.
After lunch we wandered over on of London's many bridges (sorry no idea which one) and made our to the London Eye. We had 1 o'clock reservations. I cannot stress this enough, BUY YOUR TICKETS IN ADVANCE! The stand-by line was ridiculously long and my guess about a 2-3 hour wait. But with our "fast passes" we waited probably about 25 minutes. So yeah, buy them in advance it will save you a ton of time and energy!
The ride took about 30 minutes total and gave some breathtaking views of the city. Jenny was exceptionally tired by this point so she spent most of her time sitting on the benches looking slightly miserable. It was pretty entertaining to watch. I spent the entire time snapping picture after picture after picture.
After the Eye we made our way back to the Westminster area via the Westminster Bridge. Where we encountered about 12 different groups playing this really weird gambling game. The men were basically trying to get people to "guess where the ball was" under three little cups. Jenny couldn't figure out why everyone was so stupid and not guessing the right cup. I had to pull her away several times and explain that the "game" was just one big scam. And that the people who were actually participating were part of said scam. (We saw them in Paris too).
We headed back to Westminster Abbey and purchased tickets to go inside. It was absolutely breathtaking. I'm a rule follower so I didn't take any pictures on the inside, and I have to say it was nice to just wander through the Abbey and really look at everything rather than look at it from behind a lens. I saw the tombs of some of my favorite royals, namely the Tudors and we marveled at the Coronation Chair and the fact that this was the place where Will and Kate were married and Princess Diana had her funeral. About half way through though the day started to catch up with us and we realized it was probably time to head back to the hotel and rest a bit before we had to head to our welcome dinner and meet the rest of our group.
We napped for about 2 hours (it was much needed) and then headed to the hotel restaurant to meet the rest of our group. There were 20 of us total and we were pleasantly surprised to find out that 3 of the couples were our age and around our age. The others ranged from my parents age, late 50s to late 60s. We had the best mix of people and we all ended up getting along fabulously! It was perfect!
After dinner were pretty exhausted and headed to bed to get ready for day 2!
London Day 2
We started day number 2 with a delicious breakfast at the hotel. Seriously, SO GOOD. Then headed off for our guided sightseeing tour of London. Our local tour guide, John was hilarious and so incredibly knowledgeable about the city. Most of the tour was a bus tour but we did stop several times for some great photo ops. We stopped at a great place to see the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, then we stopped at St. Paul's Cathedral (sadly since it was Sunday the church wasn't open for tourists), and we ended at Buckingham Palace to see the beginnings of the Changing of Guard.
After snapping a few pictures at Buckingham Palace, we headed to the Victoria Station to catch the tube over to Hyde Park and Kensington Palace. We ended up right at once of the entrances to the park (which happened to be the tube station I used 11 years ago to get to my hotel!) and headed in to the park. It was the best day weather wise, y'all. The temperature was perfect and it was slightly overcast. We wandered through Hyde Park and ended up at the Peter Pan statue and then finally at the Princess Diana Memorial fountain. Which was something that was at the top of my to-see list. I slipped off my shoes and wadded into the fountain along with tons of others. People were everywhere just lounging and little kids were swimming and splashing in the water. Such a fun atmosphere.
After that, we made our way over to Kensington Palace where I had made us reservations to have afternoon tea at The Orangery. I'm not going to go into details now because afternoon tea at Kensington Palace deserves a post all on it's own! :) Needless to say it was perfect! :)
By this time is was around 4 o'clock and we realized we probably needed to book it over to the Tower of London. Unfortunately however, I 'm sad to report that we did not make it in time to go into the Tower. We got there right at 5 and they close at 5:30. And apparently it's not one of those, "well we close at 5:30 but still allow everyone who was in by 5 to see everything." No it was, "Everyone MUST be out by 5:30 sharp." So we just go to see the outside. This would turn out to be the first of several missed opportunities on the trip.
Following that we decided to head over to King's Cross to see the famous Platform 9 3/4 which was AH-MAZING! It was so fun standing between platforms 9 and 10 (not the actual platforms obviously but still) and pretending we were off to Hogwarts.
We were starting to get hungry so we hopped back on the tube to head to Piccadilly Circus to find ourselves a pub and have some traditional English fare. We found just the right place, called The White Lion. The restaurant was upstairs on top of the pub and had about 10 tables. Jenny and I had traditional fish and chips and Katie had a traditional meat pie. SO. DELICIOUS.
Well that about wraps up our first two days! I hope you made through all of that. Hopefully the pictures helped! Man, it's hard putting this post together. I have to shuffle through over 1800 pictures to find the right ones and then remember everything we did! Luckily I took notes as we went to that is helping.
If you have specific questions about the hotels we stayed in, places we ate, or things we did please feel free to ask! I'm trying to be as detailed as possible in the posts and that's making them kinda long. But I'm glad I'm writing down all our adventures for future reference! :)
We really did have the best time ever and I'm so thankful to have gotten the opportunity to go on this trip!
Tune in Thursday because we're heading to PARIS!!
Linking up with Travel Tuesday! :)