Ah London. I love London. It’s my home away from home. It’s my “if you had to move somewhere else in the world, where would you go?” city. It’s rich in history, but so modern. I first visited London in the fall of 2000, when my mom and I headed over for my cousin’s wedding. You see, my grandmother is English and came to the US as a war bride. She left her mother and younger brother at home to come here. When my cousin Julie married in 2000, we decided to crash the wedding in the small little town of Northampton, about a hour 2 train ride from London. We spent some time in the City and that’s when I fell in love.
And London was as wonderful as I remembered it. Hubby and I stayed at the same hotel near Hyde Park that I stayed at 10 years ago. It’s just such a great location and literally 2 blocks from the Park and a few blocks from Notting Hill. By the time we hit London, we were so thrilled to be in an English speaking country! After spending a week and a half in countries where we know “hello,” “good-bye,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome” it was fantastic knowing we could go anywhere without a problem.
If you have the chance to go to London, do it. It’s an amazing city with so much to offer. If you can get into the countryside, go! We didn’t on this trip, but I have every intention of going back and next time, we’re finding ourselves a castle!
Our first full day in London brought us to Westminster Abbey and then to the London Eye. I had wanted to do the Eye in 2000, but it was booked MONTHS in advance. I did book our tickets in advance, but it wasn't too crowded when we got there.
Westminster Abbey. An amazing cathedral. There are no photographs allowed inside the walls, so we just took our whispers and enjoyed the tour. It is a must-do in London, no matter what religion you are.
Slightly in front of and to the left of Westminster Abbey is St. Margaret's Church. It's a beautiful little church that the monks built hundreds of years ago when the common people intruded on their solitude at Westminster. They did a nice job on St. Margaret's. While not as ornate, it has it's own beauty and I'm glad we went in.
A view of Parliment and Big Ben from the London Eye. It was an incredible ride! So fun to see so much of London from the air.
Jubilee Station. I am slightly addicted to the site of this. I took a TON of pictures of Jubilee Station from the Eye. It just has great lines!
The London Eye. We lucked out and shared our pod with one other couple. I was a tad surprised, but it was nice. I thought it might be creepy, but they were a nice older British couple and it worked out. We likened it to the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier in Chicago, you get one turn around, but it takes about 30 minutes. So totally worth it!
Magnets. I decided I wanted to take pictures of things being sold while on vacation. I went into this little souvenier stand near the Eye and took this photo. I didn't buy any, but they were cute.
The London Eye is next to the London Aquarium. Completely worth a visit the aquarium. I did this on a rainy day in 2000 and loved it! I've read it's one of the best in the world. Hubby isn't a fan on going to aquariums in foreign cities (other than Baltimore), so we didn't go this trip.
A trip to London wouldn't be complete without using the Tube. We used it to get around all of London. Mind the Gap is so British, but I noticed that 95% of the stops didn't need a Mind the Gap sign. Wonder if they've been working on the Tube to make it safer?
We hit Covent Garden the same day as Westminster and the Eye. I love Covent Gardens. I find it funny though that there is a Disney store. So, I made us go in and I searched for Stitch (from Lilo and Stitch). I found him in this little car. I have a similar one at home, so I didn't not purchase, but I did get his picture!
Elephants! They were all over London. They were painted by various artists and put up around the City to bring awareness to cruelty to elephants. We didn't see all of them, but I did take photos of every elephant we did see. This little guy is at Covent Gardens.
This one is also at Covent Gardens. We sang "Pink Elephants on Parade" while we walked past. 🙂
We wandered around London after we visited Covent Gardens and ended up at the British Museum. It's really nice and free. 🙂 We found this sign amusing in the gift shop. Totally British!
Fish and Chips. How can you go to London and not partake in fish and chips? This is probably the largest fish I have ever seen. And no, I did not finish it. It was good though...
Our second day in London started at the Tower of London. We had both been here before, but I don't care how many times you've been, you go to the Tower of London. It's incredible to think that THIS is where so much of British history was made.
Following along with the theme of torture, we hit the Tower of London's torture exhibit. Since we saw the one in Italy, we decided we had to go this one. It was a small exhibit inside the walls of the Tower of London. No one was being made an example of while we were there, but some of the devices certainly looked painful.
No idea where this door goes. It is on the inside of the outer wall of the Tower of London. I took this photo because A. I love doors and B. it was the brightest color I had seen in all the Tower. I wonder who decided to paint it this shade of blue?
From the Tower of London, we made our way to Tower Bridge. This is a view of London and the Themes from the bridge.
When we bought our tickets for Tower Bridge, we were told the elevator was broke. Of course it was. So, we walked up these steps to the top. Totally worth the hike, but oh so tiring.
A view of London from the Tower Bridge. It is all enclosed at the top, which is probably smart. We learned all about it's construction and on one side of the walkway, they likened it to other bridges around the world. We were excited to see the Ponte Vecchio among them.
When the Tower Bridge was first designed at the turn of the 20th century, they used coal burners (these) to raise and lower the bridge. What struck me was how exact they look to the ones used in the Titanic. It was cool seeing them up-close like this. The bridge is no longer controlled by these furnaces, so I'm glad they kept them for historical purposes.
Love this picture! One of the many elephants in London with the Tower Bridge in the background. There were many elephants on this side of the Themes. Directly across from this area is the Tower of London. It's hard to believe how much British history just sits side-by-side with today's world. From the London Eye we couldn't even SEE the Tower of London!
The Champion pub in Notting Hill. This is a total recommendation photo. This place was great! They have Cider Fest 2010 going on now, so we had some cider. Bulmer's over ice. If you EVER see Bulmer's, order it! So good. We then got a delicious dinner here. It was such a great little place and not a chain (If you see a sign outside a pub that says "Great British Pub Food Served All Day!" it's a chain.). So worth checking out if you're in the area. Cheers!