Of all our destinations, I was most nervous about London. I was afraid I would hate it after the paradise that is Santorini. Funny how I was proven wrong.
Maybe it's because the cloudy 70-degree weather was a huge relief after the unrelenting heat and sunshine of Italy and Greece. Maybe it's because TONS of my most favorite, beloved books take place here. Maybe it's because I've always loved New York, and London is basically its classier big sister. Maybe it was all the warm pubs (I love cozy old-world pubs). Maybe it was because everyone was friendly and cheerful to the point that I suspected the entire population of London was on methamphetamines. Whatever the reason, I really, really loved London.
Due to time constraints and the sheer size of London, we didn't get to see nearly as much as we wanted. I could have stayed here for weeks exploring stuff. Of all the places we visited, this is the one that I desperately want to re-visit. Luckily, it's probably the closest to Tours, and there are flights from the Tours airport to London Stansted nearly every day. It made a huge impression on me. Want to learn how to fall in love with London like a Stevenson (ahem...like the female half)? Keep reading.
Where to Stay
1 // The Holiday Inn Kensington Forum // I have never in my life been so happy to be in a hotel than after our stint in Airbnbs in Santorini, so maybe that's why I loved this hotel so much. It was fabulous. It was clean and modern, and whatever perfume they use in the lobby smelled divine. The staff was friendly, the AC worked, and the bed was so wildly comfortable I nearly cried. I had three phenomenal and much-needed nights' sleep here. And although it might be because B is a platinum IHG member, we got a chunky KitKat and two bottled waters in our room every day. The location was also perfect for our itinerary. We were not in the main touristy areas (blech), but we were approximately two minutes from the Gloucester Road tube stop, which made getting around very easy. We would definitely stay here again.
What to Do/See
Where to Shop
2 // Slightly Foxed // I fell in love on Gloucester Street in London. On our way to a late lunch one day, we passed by this bookstore. I insisted on going back after we ate, and because my husband is used to my crazy by now, he obliged. And Slightly Foxed is the cutest little new/used bookshop you could imagine. I die. I love bookstores, but in America it's hard to find much of anything except Barnes & Noble. Not so in England - yet another reason I fell in love with London. Cutesy bookshops were all over the place. And because I could actually afford it, I bought a book at this one - The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.
Where to Eat
3 // For a pub meal // We needed a late lunch/early dinner on our last day in London since we had a 10:00 flight to Dublin. This restaurant was in our neighborhood, and I'm so glad. I again got fish and chips one last time before we left London, and theirs was crispy and light. The batter was done well. B got the Dorset leg of lamb salad with feta and pomegranate, and although lighter and less traditional, it was unique and delicious. We split some white wine and a sticky toffee pudding to say one last "Cheers!" to this delightful city. This is a don't-miss, and it's very near the Holiday Inn at which we stayed.
4 // For quick and tasty late-night dinner // By the time we landed in London, made it through border patrol, took the hour-long bus to the city, found the metro to our hotel, checked in and B undertook an hour-long conference call for work (with the Americans), it was 10:00 p.m. and our bodies, which had until recently been in Greece, thought it was midnight. We needed a quick but delicious bite to eat, and the concierge at our hotel helped immensely. He recommended an area with three restaurants on the corners, and Nando's was one of them. We were big fans. For starters, it was spicy - something we don't get much of in France. The chicken was great, but as per normal I preferred the side dishes I got: spicy mushy peas and spicy chips (what the British call fries). Nando's is a chain restaurant, but it's the best kind of chain I could imagine. There are plenty of locations, so if you need a quick bite anywhere in the city check them out.
5 // For a delicious lunch // After "flying" through the barrier at Platform 9 3/4, we had worked up quite an appetite. B found Pompidou Cafe, so we popped in for a quick bite. I had a tuna melt, which tasted amazing (although possibly because I haven't had one in so long). He got some kind of southwest chicken sandwich. It was inexpensive and tasty, and the service was quick. You can also get food to-go there, if you desire.
Tips and Tricks
1 // Don't just bring an umbrella to London - take it around with you. Every day. You never know when it's going to start raining. We got drenched leaving the British Museum because it wasn't "supposed" to start raining until later and we hadn't brought an umbrella or a jacket. Don't overestimate British weather. It truly can turn on a dime.
2 // Brace yourself. London is expensive. Because of the strength of their pound, things may not be priced expensively but once you do the conversion your wallet will be hurting. Everything we bought (be it food, subway tickets, books, etc) seemed to be the exact same prices we would pay at home...until we realized thanks to the conversion rate that the dollar cost is almost double the pound cost. Just know that going into it, and plan your trip accordingly.
3 // Go for the Oyster. The Oyster Card is a re-fillable pre-paid Tube card that you can get for any number of days. There is a 5 pound deposit on the card (which you get back), and you pre-pay 6 pounds per day worth of Tube fare. We paid 18 pounds for three days. Using the card, you can ride the Tube as many times as you want. Until you reach your daily maximum of 6 pounds, you'll be charged the standard price for fare, depending on your destination. After you have spent 6 pounds in tube fare for the day, all rides for the rest of that day are free. We easily exceeded our 6 pound daily maximum - usually by mid-afternoon our rides had started being free. We would have spent a lot more money buying individual Tube tickets for each of our rides, so this is a great way to save.
Sadly, that's all from Jolly Olde England. Only one more stop on our Eurotour to share with you: Dublin. Stay tuned!
xoxo and cheers!
E & B