Last week, we explored and enjoyed London!
After our week in Ireland, we popped over to London for a few days. Neither of us had ever visited London, so we were excited to explore some iconic London landmarks and historical sites.
Not very familiar with London’s neighborhoods, we resorted to our Starwood hotel loyalty account to help us find a good hotel. We ended up at the Le Meridian Piccadilly. Again, not really knowing where we would end up, this turned out to be the perfect location! Right around the corner from Piccadilly Circus and walking distance to many major sites in London, including Buckingham Palace! Piccadilly Circus is quite a busy tourist area, similar to Times Square. We really tried to avoid the heart of it due to massive amounts of bright lights and tourists. However, just down the side streets off the main square, it almost instantly quiets down and the crowds thin out. These little side streets are lined with cafes, coffee shops and other small businesses. Our location was on the border of Piccadilly and Soho, so we really got a good taste of both.
Upon arrival to our hotel, we dropped our bags and headed out in search of lunch on some recommended streets in Soho. We stumbled upon Dishoom, a casual Indian restaurant with comfortable dining and a quaint courtyard where we dined. I haven’t really experienced a lot of Indian cuisine, but I must say, this place was amazing! Small plates, comfortable seating and friendly staff. There were also many other great restaurants and cafes in this area, so we would definitely recommend Kingly Street and Carnaby Street for easy dining with lots of options.
Our first full day in London, we set out to hit some of London’s most popular sites. We headed straight for Big Ben, the House of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Since you cannot go inside Big Ben or House of Parliament, we just admired the two from the street level. Even from there, you can see the intricate detail and amazing architecture.
We then turned to visit Westminster Abbey. We decided to skip the large group guided tour and opted for the self guided, headphone tour – such a good choice! With about 20 stops and detailed, historic descriptions of the church, architecture, tombs and memorials on the tour, we were able to experience the church on our own and it was such an experience. I was so consumed with the architecture and beauty of the building itself, knowing its original purpose was to bring praise and glory to the Lord. The time, devotion, money, design and continued restoration that the building contains just shows He is alive and deserves to forever be praised. We were there also for a time of prayer. The way the prayers echoed throughout the building gave me goosebumps, knowing He was present and He was being glorified.
Tuesday, we took the Tube to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral. Same as Westminster Abbey, we were immediately awestruck at the size and beauty of the cathedral. Its intricate details and decor were equally amazing. We opted for the self guided headphone tour again and were not disappointed. Much like Westminster, St. Paul’s statues and memorials are beautiful. However, what I found more amazing and special about St. Paul’s was all of the detailed paintings and mosaics depicting Christ, Bible stories, the disciples and others on the ceilings and domes. Here, we were able to attend their Eucharist (Holy Communion) service.
As most of you know by now, Reed is a pretty big “foodie” (and I’m happy to follow along on all his food explorations and adventures) and he follows lots of innovative and creative chefs and/or restaurants. When we decided to do this round the world trek, we knew we had to take advantage of our destinations and experience the culinary culture – from world renown chefs to pizza stands and street food – we want to experience it all! We had lots of requests asking Reed to do a food blog, so his first report is about The Clove Club. To read his first food blog, click here.
Wednesday, we had big plans to explore Buckingham Palace and the exhibits currently open (The Royal Gallery, Royal Mews, The Queen’s wardrobe from the last 90 years, State Rooms in the Palace). However, we arrived to purchase our ticket, only to learn you are assigned a designated time for later in the day to tour the Palace state rooms and current exhibits. Sadly, we couldn’t come back at the later time, the only thing we could fit into our morning was the Royal Gallery. Not knowing a lot about art, Reed and I were initially bummed and only went to the gallery so our ticket wasn’t wasted. I am so glad we went! The Royal Gallery is always rotating exhibits, but the two exhibits available when we went were Maria Merian’s Butterflies and Scottish Artists from 1750-1900. The Butterflies exhibit was really nice, but what we loved was the Scottish Artists’ works. These paintings and drawings created a beautiful collection of commissioned family portraits, Scottish landscapes and drawings collected as mementos from vacations and other visits. No guided tours were currently available, so we happily took the headphone tour and it provided plenty of information regarding the artwork, artist and which royal acquired it. We enjoyed getting to observe the collections centuries of Royals have acquired.
That afternoon, we got to the part of the week Reed was most excited about – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Reed and I both enjoy any kind of live performance – concerts, street artists, musicians – but our favorite is probably live plays and musicals. Reed also grew up reading the book series, so this was something we were both excited about. Although we both loved the show, its music, actors, and more, they ask everyone to #keepthesecret for those who have not read the latest book or seen the show.
All in all, London was a great city! We both love New York City, but London might take over as our new favorite. From the history, royal family and traditions, beautiful churches, cathedrals and more, London was so fun to discover!