London is one of my favorite places in the world. I studied abroad there for a summer about 12 years ago (I’m old, y’all), and have been back a few other times. It’s that same feeling I get as when I go to NYC. It’s just so full of history, life, culture, and charm.
We flew out of Rome pretty early to London City Airport. Right when we arrived, we hopped on the tube to King’s Cross station (oh you better believe I saw Platform 9 3/4 while I was there) in order to catch a train out to the countryside. We were going to meet with some of my long time family friends who now live out in the UK.
The train ride was about 1.5 hours, but when we arrived it really was a breath of fresh air. It was such a different pace than Rome. No tourists, cool air, and so relaxing. Our friends, Colin and Susan, took us to this old tudor home called Oxburgh Hall. I love Europe… you can see things that were built in the 1300s and older!
We really loved touring the home, and we were probably the only Americans within a 10 mile radius. I love the English countryside because of this.
After roaming around some more, we went back to their house and they cooked us a nice meal and we spent a lot of time catching up. We were able to sleep with the windows open to the amazing cool air. Oh my goodness, it was so relaxing. We really enjoyed catching up with them, even if it was a really quick trip. The countryside was a good day of relaxation.
The next late morning, we hopped on the train back to London and made it to our hotel around 1:30. We stayed at the Rubens at the Palace hotel in London. My mom booked it for us as a birthday present / anniversary present for us. We loved it! The location was amazing – a 3 minute walk to Victoria station and literally down the street from Buckingham Palace!
I guess there is a theme here throughout our trip. Our hotels had the BEST locations!! Go us. We walked around for a little while and had a pub lunch.
Then it began to rain really bad. I booked the Original Sightseeing Tour for us to be able to see the city on a bus. It’s one of those hop on hop off kind of tours. It was a nice way to see the city, even if it was raining. We did end up getting stuck in a lot of traffic and got bored with it so we got off and headed back to the hotel.
That evening, we met one of Greg’s fraternity brothers for a drink, and then he and I headed out to dinner for some Indian food. We went to Punjab, which is close to Covent Garden and Leicester Square. Oh my goodness. BEST Indian food we have ever had!! Highly recommend Punjab.
After dinner we walked around, checking out Leicester Square, and Piccadilly Circus at night. It’s London’s equivalent to Times Square.
The next morning we headed to the Tower of London. We both really enjoyed this tour, and it wasn’t super crowded (nowhere close to Vatican Museum crowded). We toured the entire grounds and even saw the Crown Jewels. I think this was our favorite London attraction.
There’s also a great view of Tower Bridge while you’re at the Tower of London, so of course we had to take a picture.
After the tower, we headed over to Kensington Gardens to have high tea at the Orangery. Greg’s joke with me is that he didn’t understand why we had to pay $30 per person for someone to “pour water over leaves.” Oh, Greg.
As we were walking up to the palace, we noticed a lot of police guarding a green area. It seemed odd. Then we saw a helicopter land. It was a royal helicopter – the seal was on the side! We’re like “OMG WHICH ROYAL IS THIS?!”
Y’all, it was the QUEEN!!! We saw her get out but I couldn’t snap a picture of her. It was hard to see her but it definitely was her. The reason she was there is because of the whole Prime Minister resignation thing (that happened that day we were there), so I guess they flew her into Kensington and drove her to Buckingham.
Tea at the orangery was incredible, and it wasn’t just “water over leaves.” It is a full on experience and meal and is so filling!
After tea, we walked through Kensington gardens, checked out the Prince Albert Memorial, and did some more sightseeing. Greg headed back to the hotel for a little bit and then I bought ALL THE BRITISH DRUGSTORE MAKEUP!!! Haha.
Before dinner, we headed to see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. You get a great view of it on one of the bridges… it’s a must do.
We also walked over to Westminster Abbey. I’m sad we didn’t go in for a tour. I wish we had more time to do that. I think Greg really would have enjoyed it.
Dinner that night was at Nipa Thai. They graciously hosted us for a dinner and there are no words to describe how amazing the food was. I really love Thai food, so I had pretty high expectations. One thing I do love about London is that there are so many amazing ethnic food choices.
This place went above and beyond. Everything was fresh, flavorful, and full of life. The staff there was so friendly and accommodating. They asked us our preferences (we’re pretty adventurous) and brought things for us to try that they thought we would like.
We started out with soups, then an appetizer plate. Our main courses were a pad thai and a green coconut curry (probably the best coconut curry I have had in my life). Dessert was mango with sticky rice and homemade coconut ice cream. They also paired dessert with this special dessert wine that was incredible.
Thank you, Nipa Thai, for having us. It was the best way to end our European trip. I highly recommend you guys try it out if you are ever in London.
On the way home, we stopped in Montreal for about 18 hours. We had an amazing dinner downtown and walked around the Old Port. We ended up staying at the airport Marriott, which was such a smart choice because you walked down the stairs and you were at the terminal. Breaking our flights up was a great way to break up the trip home, and gave us a little more time to readjust to the time. Going back to the US has always been harder for me, and I always get so jetlagged. But doing it this way and getting a great night’s rest in between the flights really helped. Plus, Montreal was a great place to break the trip up! I have photos of that but felt it was a little too much for this post.
All in all, this trip was an incredible experience – one we will remember for the rest of our lives. Coming home was great, and we definitely missed our kids, but this trip holds so many memories and experiences I will hold dear forever. Greg is the best travel buddy (can you believe we never bickered the entire time?! hahaha) – we love traveling together. We are doing this again sooner rather than later. Okay, Greg?!