After planning our trip to the United Kingdom and Europe, the day finally came when I picked up the 12 hour flight from Los Angeles, CA to Heathrow Airport in London. I was so excited. It was hard to believe I was actually beginning my 5 month travel journey. Trying to sleep was near impossible with so much excitement. I passed the time by making friends and trading stories with my seat partner. We landed at half past 3 and I reunited with the Aussie boy and we made our way to the tube station. I could not get over how clean and easy the tube was to use. Filled with people of all different cultures and languages it finally hit me, my journey has just begun.
We make our way to Chelsea Cloisters (www.chelseacloisters.co.uk) which will be home for the next week and a half. Situated in South Kesington and just a few minutes walk to the tube, we start to plan our first day. I knew it would be cold, but after spending a week in sunny California I started to remember what the cusp of spring felt like.
The next day we woke up and decided to head to Hyde Park to check out Kensington palace. I could not help but be distracted with Liam taking photos of everything. The architecture is incredible – like nothing I have ever seen. We get off the tube at Hyde Park Corner and end up going the wrong direction and literally stumble upon Buckingham Palace. A great stone manor with a golden statue and fountain in front, red coated guards patrolling and the flag on top telling us the Queen is in residence, we are in awe of how royal it truly looks. Spoilt for choice on where to head next, we spot the London Eye in the distance and continue exploring towards the river edge. We stop at Somerset House for lunch in Tom’s Kitchen (www.tomskitchen.co.uk/somerset-house) and bask in the sun on the balcony. Walking along the river’s edge we head to see Big Ben and the Churchill war rooms (www.iwm.org.uk/visits/churchill-war-rooms), hidden below the Treasury Buildings in Westminster. Following the war, the hidden cabinet rooms were abandoned so entering them was like stepping back in time. It was fascinating to hear the history of Churchill was well as how he stayed in contact with the US president from a room that everyone assumed was a toilet.
With so many touristy attractions on just day 1, I was excited to learn about some locals’ favorites as well. Old Spitafield Markets and Brick Lane were the place to be on a Sunday. Shopping, people watching, sampling the street food, I was so excited to just be one of the fashionistas roaming around. There is no need to rush through the vendor walkways so we strolled along past the jewelry and trinkets and followed the music out to Brick Lane. Hard to believe its like this every weekend. A spot not to miss for those who like this scene.
With so much history just around London we knew the best way to capture it all without running a marathon would be to do the infamous Big Red Bus Tour. I was so excited to just be able to sit and take in the sites; not to mention our guide was full of enthusiasm giving us the rundown. We saw everything from the Financial District, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, to the Cheshire Cheese Pub. The architecture along the River Thames feels like we are in another time altogether, even a Pret A Manger feels more luxurious within the original architecture- we hopped off at the Tower of London; the largest prison in the world.
The Tower of London, the original keep built by William the Conqueror in 1078, is on the Northern Bank of Thames. An imposing structure, surrounded by walls and a moat it served as the perfect prison and is now home to the priceless crown jewels. We arrived just in time for a warden (known affectionately as Beef Eaters) to take us on a tour of the castle and teach us the rich history of the complex. Most interesting was the chapel with many historical figures interred there and the presentation of the crown jewels. The history of the jewels is explored and seeing them is one thing I will never forget. The crown jewels collection includes the worlds largest diamond, the Cullinan diamond, in the royal scepter, as well as many crowns, swords, and solid gold dinnerware like a salt holder in the shape of a castle.
My mom mentioned one thing that I must do while in England, High Tea. An afternoon filled with decadent cakes, scones, small sandwiches, tea, even champagne. A perfect afternoon to sit, relax and chat.
One of Liam’s friends invited us to dinner that night and we ended up meeting her around Leicester Square. London’s a bustling place — even at night it has a New York city feel with the streets so packed. We pass a few restaurants and turn the corner and are standing in front of a door which says Peep Show, a little unsure where she is taking us we follow her inside. La Bodega Negra. A underground tapas restaurant known only to those who have been told about it. Margaritas, tacos, amazing cuisine. Looking around, the restaurant itself is decorate like a cardboard box city. Small figurines in cut out holes depicted as city people.
Saturday mornings the place to be is Portobello Road – another bustling market with just about anything you can imagine. Again so much fun to just stroll and see the people – we even indulged and got the most popular item on the menu – crepes with Nutella and bananas. Amazing.
I was lucky enough to get some work in London and spent my last Saturday night here shooting for a local jewelry designer. It was very fun and creative and a perfect end to our time in London.
Next stop: Cornwall, Bath, and Stratford Upon Avon