It is my resolution each time I get a chance to go to Europe for work, and don’t have to be somewhere immediately after, I visit a new city/country.
I ended a work trip on a Saturday morning, had to be home Tuesday night, so we decided to make it work and pick a city “on the way home” and ended up with London. I think hitting another Warhammer store sold it for Joel, but for me, I looked up lots of two days in London walking tours and if you were ready to aggressively sightsee, you could hit lots of the iconic things in just two days.
It hit home later that we only really got to see the OUTSIDE of all of these things, when Joel expressed interest in going into the Tower of London, and we saw a queue wrapped around the whole thing, and I asked if that’s what he wanted to spend the day doing. London was one of the biggest cities I’d been in for a while, and the queueing showed it.
But anyhoo, let me back up and start before we arrived. This was the trip of lost luggage. Our first stop was Hamburg for work, and we both waited an extra THREE days to receive our bags. Luckily I had some extra clothes in my carry on backpack (and will always and forever now), but not 3 days and nights worth. I had jeans and shoes, just needed shirts and underwear and a real bra and just went ahead and slept in the buff which is fine, because Europe was hot and AC there is kind of a joke. Lufthansa reimbursed toiletries and half of purchased clothing items (full reiumbursal if you send the clothes back to the airline, but I was fine having a 50% off shopping spree).
Then, we headed to London, and thought surely, this couldn’t happen again, so I wasn’t super careful with my carry on bag. However, plane delays once more meant we were running for our connection, and sure enough, we were without baggage in London. I ended up in the same t-shirt, underwear, leggings, socks, and shoes for 36 hours, and more sleeping in the buff (which was MORE than fine because London was even warmer). We were assured that our bags would be there the next day, so I just purchased the barest minimum of toiletries and a new shirt so I could get out of my sweaty “Keep Calm and Use Mana” tee I’d been wearing for days and so many miles.
We didn’t let it keep us from seeing all the things though. When we landed, we first checked out the view from our room. It didn’t disappoint.
We were starving after a long day of travel, having not eaten since breakfast, and the first thing on the London bucket list to eat was proper Indian food, so we found something about a mile walk away that looked pretty highly rated – Red Chili. We started with a lovely papadum spread, a chicken pakora appetizer, and for mains, Garlic Chili Chicken (which was served sizzling hot on a fajita type plate) and Chicken Tikka Rezella (which was a little too sweet for us, but we still enjoyed it). We ate every bite and enjoyed it immensely.
After dinner, we walked around Tower Bridge and the surrounding areas along the Thames, checking out the sunset and the little shops and restaurants along the way. We saw also saw a very inebriated gentleman yelling random stuff at the top of his lungs, and people just shrugging like it was normal (this is not the last time this happened).
After sunset, we hit the Dickens Pub, which was supposed to be a must-see stop. It was quite impressive, with the entire outside covered in living, growing flowering plants. This was also very prevalent around town, many shops and restaurants maintained lovely live flowers outside, but not quite to this scale. We were told it was due to the queen’s passing because she loved flowers. It certainly made for a very pretty few days! The atmosphere outside the pub was great. Once they called everyone inside at 10pm, we were in a giant box of sweaty people with no ventilation. We left quickly and resolved to return when we hang out on the patio.
The second day we woke after some mediocre sleep – as I said, there was a heat wave and the room was not really air conditioned – but when you only have a few days you soldier forth!
We started with the Tower across the street and as I said before, we ended up just walking around it vs going inside. As would be the theme with everything, it was surrounded by lovely flowers and looked quite impressive.
Our next stop was the Monument to the Great Fire of London. We climbed the stairs to catch the view at the top, because that’s what you do in Europe.
After we grabbed a few shirts from TK Maxx (yes, just like TJ Maxx in the US, but in EU), we hit up a pub called the Hydrant and had some beer flights and split a giant plate of fish and chips. We both enjoyed both things immensely (especially since it was our first meal/bevvies of the day).
We dropped our new clothes off at the hotel (and checked on our luggage – not yet), and then returned to our aggressive sightseeing agenda. We checked out St Paul’s Cathedral (sadly, couldn’t go inside as they were closed), and wandered to the Borough Market. This was a pretty cool experience – this huge bustling crowd of people and hundreds of various vendors. I watched two chefs cook these insanely giant woks of Paia and peeked into a store that primarily sold types of (non-magic) mushrooms, and got a world famous Prosecco Spritzer, which was refreshing.
We had thought about grabbing some food there, but it was very very crowded on a Sunday, so we went back to the Thames waterfront and returned to this lovely bar that had so many flowers growing out of it and got another very pretty bevvie, a Pimms cup.
We almost ordered some pizza, but then got wind our luggage had arrived, so we decided to head back to the hotel right away to grab it and return to the patio of the Dicken’s Pub instead.
We had a pint, and split a steak and ale pie and a caesar salad (what, we wanted some greens!), and enjoyed the slightly cooler and overcast weather.
Since we had to stay around the hotel to retrieve the luggage, we were a little off and late on our walking tour, so in the early evening, we kicked it into high gear and hightailed it over to the Mall and Buckingham Palace.
It was closed off just to people walking and biking, which was neat, and between this and St James Park, I could probably share a full post full of pictures here. It was so very iconic.
Speaking of iconic, which could describe the rest of the evening, we then made our way to Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. Obviously, we didn’t have time to actually go into the Abbey and Big Ben was actually closed, but it was really cool to see them both in person.
After more miles, we needed more sustinence, so we stopped and got some mediterranean food. It wasn’t necessarily on the bucket list, but we were hungry and it was close. Then, we started the long trek back to the hotel, stopping to oogle the London Eye. A lot. It was probably one of my favorite things to take pictures of in the dark.
Google said it was about 2 miles to our hotel, so we figured we had enough oomph to walk it. However, for some reason, it must have thought we could fly or something, because the distance kept not going down as we somehow still had one mile left to go, we relented and flagged down a pedicab so we could go CRASH.
Monday, we had important eating to do on the agenda but some sights to see as well. We began the day meandering through Notting Hill and Portobello Market. Notting Hill is one of those adorable areas of the city where you can imagine yourself living for a little while like you’re in that Hugh Grant movie, and Portobello Market added to the charm – it’s blocks and blocks of their little downtown area with a permanent street fair, with kitchy stores that had cool vintage thrift finds and an old maps store, and cool places to grab a bite or a drink.
These are the kind of adorable things you can more fully appreciate when you don’t have just a few days to see ALL THE THINGS, so we walked a bit of it and then headed back to the Underground to zip to our first food appointment of the day – afternoon tea. Most recommendations said to just try to make it your lunch or dinner, which we did with a 12:45 reservation. Other recommendations we didn’t follow said to book well in advance, and we were lucky to find one place taking reservations just the night before – The Strand.
You begin your adventure with a choice of tea (I got this really lovely herbal to start) and a glass of prosecco. Then, they bring you this tower of ridiculousness – the top with savory finger sandwiches, the middle with assorted desserts, and the bottom with scones, clotted cream, and jam. About an hour and a half, two more pots of tea, and a groaning belly, they rolled us out the door and we moved on with our day. I cannot imagine having that a meal between lunch and dinner. Y’all Londoners are hardcore.
Obviously we had to go walk this off so we could eat another decadent meal later, so we headed to Hyde Park. This is yet another place I could have spent a full day wandering around, and if I lived in the area, there is no other place I’d go for a run, as we saw many of the locals did. We spent a good few hours strolling and looking at the statues and art pieces and gardens.
Our last two objectives of the day were to visit Marleybone (both to get a picture with something that said it because it’s in Wiz, and to hit the post office to get limited edition Warhammer stamps), and then go to the Warhammer store. It got really hot by the time we made it to the post office, and in traditional EU fashion we were kept waiting for quite a while before they would send someone to unlock the case, so we had to uber to the Warhammer store to keep on schedule.
My dogs were barking anyway. After 13 miles the day before, and approaching 10 already that day, I didn’t mind someone else conveying my tired arse. The Warhammer store was pretty cool, my first time in one, though I was disappointed in the lack of Bloodbowl stuff. It didn’t miss me that the deadline for Joel and I to play our last league game had elapsed right as we were wandering around the store, and also that it didn’t matter, because the pilgrimage gave me the luck to win my season (go Blodgeass Pitches!!!) a month later anyway.
After we got back to the hotel and got cleaned up, we hit early dinner reservations at the Shard. It was wild, you had to stand in line and show proof of your ressie, and then you got escorted to these high speed non-stop elevators to the 33rd floor where only this restaurant and a lounge exist, nothing else.
The sommelier was flattering and asked me if I wanted a job picking wines, the rest of the service was impeccable, and the view was killer. And the food… oh, yeah. Worth the splurge. We began with this delicious, crusty bread and butter. For apps, we got a shrimp cocktail with avocado salad topped with caviar and some crab cakes. The main course was filet in peppercorn sauce, truffle fries, and broccolini. I can’t tell you what the most wonderful things was, because it was all of it plus DAT VIEW. This might have been a little pre-celebration for my promotion that was confirmed the week before, because I was pretty sure I’d get busy and not have time later.
Folks – always celebrate early and often when you can. I didn’t understand how true this would be. Drink the nice bottle of champagne when you get good news. 🙂
We didn’t quite want to leave the view after dinner, and could not fathom one more bite, so we got one more glass of wine in the lounge on the other side of the floor and enjoyed that view for a while as we digested.
A short walk back to the hotel, and too soon we had to pack up to leave in the morning. We ended the night, in true EU fashion, buying a bottle of wine at the kiosk and drinking it at the park outside with one last view of the tower bridge.
In the morning, we had some drama with our first uber (it just didn’t show up!) and we were cutting it a little close for our flight (you would think departing somewhere in downtown London at 9am for a noon flight wouldn’t be behind schedule, but you’d be wrong!). However, we made our flights and twelve hours later we were home with our luggage this time(!!!) and just barely made it to our theater at 8pm for Hairspray. I may have dozed off a few times during the show since I’d been up 22 hours straight, but no regerts at all!
London was a really cool city, and I appreciated the ~60 hours I had to explore it. I would not be opposed to going back someday to experience more of it, but I don’t quite feel the calling to return like Paris.