london calling to the faraway towns

Drew and I finally took our long-awaited trip to Europe. We kept it simple by only visiting London and Paris. We wanted to see as much as we could (within our time limit and budget) and boy did I pack it in. I had spent months preparing. How did people plan trips before Google Maps and TripAdvisor?

We took a red-eye straight to London and tried to sleep on the flight. That didn’t happen. Too excited. We arrived at Heathrow, found our luggage, got some GBP’s and grabbed a train to our hotel in the Bloomsbury neighborhood (near Soho) – The Kingsley. The hotel was on Bloomsbury Way. Well, we found Bloomsbury Ct., Bloomsbury Square, Bloomsbury Place, Bloomsbury… ok I exaggerate. But we had a hard time finding Bloomsbury Way and then we realized we went in one big circle, dragging our suitcases with us the whole time. Once we checked in and cleaned up, we jumped back on the train to Regent’s Park.

Regent’s Park was beautiful. It has, among other things, Queen Mary’s Rose Gardens and the London Zoo. We walked through the park for a while and took a bunch of pictures of the roses.

Then we shopped around Soho and the West End. By shopping I mean, walking past all the hoity toity shops. Of course I had to snap pictures of the red phone booths.

We found a pub for dinner where Drew could get his much anticipated Guinness. I had fish and chips.

I ended up picking a pretty awesome location for our hotel. Our neighborhood was full of corner pubs and bookshops, but our street was quiet. The train was around the corner, which had 2 of the main lines. We were both amazed by the Underground tubes – they were clean and smooth. And we never waited more than 30 seconds for a train.

The next day was a busy one. We woke up to gorgeous weather. Clear skies in London? We started out at Trafalgar Square with our Starbucks.

Then through Admiralty Arch and down The Mall, through St. James Park, and finally to Buckingham Palace.

From there, we walked under Wellington Arch and then back around towards Westminster Abbey, the Parliament and Big Ben.

Hey look kids, there’s Big Ben!

That night, we had reservations at Bedford and Strand, right on the bank of the Thames. It was a neat atmosphere with a long bar and quaint little tables and chairs.

The next day we started at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

My great, great grandmother was raised right next to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Her father was a book seller and had a bookshop at #4 Panyer Alley, just off Paternoster Row. The bookshops are no longer there – they were leveled by bombs during The Blitz of 1940-41 and have long since been replaced by big office buildings. But I did find the street sign!

Then we came upon the Monument. That’s its name – Monument. It’s the tallest free-standing stone column in the world. I was the adventurous one that decided to climb to the top (not because it was tall or scary, but because it required you to climb 311 steps in a tight spiral staircase to the top). Was I nuts? I was going to be on my feet ALL day! Yet, I took on the challenge – the view from the top seemed promising.

It was much easier going down. I did get a certificate for making the climb!

We continued on to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, which required more stair climbing to walk across the top bridge.

We continued along the bank of the Thames, saw the Southwark Cathedral, Shakespeare’s Globe and stopped in the Tate Modern Museum for a bit. After we were both pretty exhausted, we headed back towards the hotel and hung around the bookshops. One of Drew’s favorites was the London Review Bookshop. And then much needed R&R (and in Drew’s case – another Guinness.)

Later that night we had dinner at Boxwood Cafe – one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants. It was fabulous. The soup! Oh the soup. It had sweet corn and lobster. I filled up on the soup, but somehow made room for the rest of the meal and dessert. Because that is what I do on vacation.

Stay tuned for the rest of our London trip replay!

See all my photos from London

*Blog post title is a lyric from the song “London Calling” by The Clash


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