Going through all of my pictures from my adventure to the UK sparked up a million memories, and I couldn’t wait any longer to share them with you all!
Earlier in the year, I had gone to Mexico for my cousin Stephanie’s wedding. Shortly after we got back, Steph mentioned she was going to London with her new husband, Arthur, and my immediate reaction was to blurt out “I’m so jealous!” and to my surprise, she excitedly said “come with us!!!” So that is exactly what I did. Arthur had a business trip to attend in London (I was not crashing their honeymoon, I promise). After I decided I would be going with them, I anxiously waited for Arthur to confirm the dates he had to go. The minute, and I literally mean the minute the text came through with the dates I was booking my flights. I was in Chicago at the time for an annual training for my job, so it was a fun moment for me to be booking a trip while on a trip.
This was going to be my first trip to Europe, so I was ecstatic about it. Steph and I discussed plans non-stop for an entire month probably. Then one day I got a Google doc invite to edit “Londy Land”, and it was the first time I was seeing Steph in her teacher mode, formatting a detailed itinerary for us. It was the most beautiful itinerary I had ever seen, so now I use the same format when planning all of my bigger trips to stay organized. (Thanks for the template and this post title, Steph!) She included all of the plans we had made and even all of our flight information, so we knew who was arriving when. I planned to arrive the day before Steph and Arthur, so I had a whole day to myself before starting my adventure with them. Well, sort of the whole day. Arthur’s friend, Abe, who I had met in Mexico for the wedding, was going to be joining too, and he was going to already be there when I arrived.
Being this was my first trip to Europe meant it was also my first-ever transatlantic flight, and to add to the nerves, I was flying completely solo. It was also my first overnight flight, which was strange to me. I was so use to getting to the airport in the morning for an early morning flight. I boarded the flight and was completely in shock. I had never seen a plane with three sections of seats and two aisles. This was HUGE. My seat was in the middle of the middle section of course, so I made my way in, and tried to get comfortable enough to fall sleep. I figured that if I slept the duration of the flight, I wouldn’t be overly exhausted when I landed the next morning. Unfortunately, sleep was not in my cards. The man to my right was watching some show that he thought was the funniest show in the universe. He cackled for a few hours while watching. At that point, I was too aware of my middle-middle seat situation to get comfortable to sleep, so I didn’t get much in at all. When we landed, I jumped in a black cab, and headed to the hotel in the Barbican area. Since it was so early when I arrived, my room was not ready, so there went my fantasy of taking a nap before I started exploring for the day.
Abe and I planned to meet up around dinnertime, which meant I still had the entire day to myself since my flight landed at some ungodly hour before 8AM. As I walked out of the hotel trying to figure out what to do, my stomach started growling and answered that question for me. A friend had asked me to bring home some tea from Fortnum and Mason, so I figured I’d just grab a bite to eat near the store on Piccadilly. I went to an adorably decorated French restaurant, Aubaine Mayfair, and had my first cup of tea while in London along with a delicious sandwich, and of course some dessert. From lunch, I walked down to Fortnum and Mason, and was again in shock. I was expecting a tiny teashop, but this was much more. They sell literally everything you can think of when you think of tea. There are even little cafes in the shop! I spent a decent amount of time wandering around in there, taking in all of the beautiful and unique tea pots, looking at the delicious biscuits, and smelling the pleasant aroma of all of the different teas.
After I bought too many boxes of tea, I decided to check out the Sea Life Centre London Aquarium as it was one of the only things we didn’t have already etched into our plans for the coming week. Since it was only day one, and I didn’t have my footing yet, I hoped in a cab and made my way to the aquarium. The ocean and marine life are some of my favorite things in life. I have such a fascination with the ocean and the creatures that inhabit it. I spent a few hours in the aquarium, and along Queen’s Way taking in all of the sights in the area.
Later that day, I met up with Abe. It was something like his 10th or so time in London, so he knew his was around fairly well. He showed me around, and we made a few stops to grab drinks along the way. For dinner, we went to this incredible Thai restaurant, and he even convinced me to try the dish he ordered: duck. At that time, I did not have an eclectic palette, so this was very out of character for me. After dinner, I was absolutely drained, so I head back to my room early to catch up on that sleep I never got the night before.
The next morning, my phone started buzzing around 6AM. It was Steph, who had just landed and had a similar flight experience to me. “Can I come sleep in your room?” Arthur went to Abe’s room, so we could all sleep a while longer. We slept for the next few hours, and then decided it was time to start exploring. Arthur’s conference started that day, so Abe escorted Steph and me to the Borough Market, where once again, he convinced me to have duck confit for lunch. At this point, I have to say I actually enjoy it. Later on, we met up with Arthur and had some drinks and coffee by the River Thames before heading to dinner. After dinner, chaos ensued. We started bar hopping just enjoying drink after drink after drink. Arthur, being the responsible adult here, had another conference day ahead of him the next day, so he made his way back to the hotel. Abe stuck with us as our shenanigans continued. For whatever reason, Steph and I were determined to find a strip club to go to, but it was far too late, and everything was closing. You know what wasn’t closed? – The casino. Thanks to that coffee we had earlier and all of the drinks that followed, we ended up staying there until 5AM, and then watching the sunrise with McDonalds in hand on our walk back to the hotel. This was the only moment of the entire week we decided to take a picture with the famous red phone booths.
Sunday morning, we had planned on waking up early to watch the changing of the guards at the Buckingham Palace. As you probably imagine, we did not wake up in time for that. I had never been as hung over as I was that morning, and unfortunately Steph wasn’t feeling much better than I was. Determined to still stick to most of our plans, we got dressed and went to the Tower of London. Even in my miserable state, the Tower of London was astonishing. Walking through a piece of history and seeing the exact spot where Anne Boleyn lost her head was fascinating for history enthusiasts like Steph and myself. After we finished the tour there, we walked around and found exactly what we needed. Some greasy food, and some more drinks. We stumbled upon a cozy pub called The Minories. Arthur and Abe met up with us again, and we walked along the River Thames to find more of that coffee. I didn’t mention earlier that it had Bailey’s in it, so that’s probably what made it extra delicious! It was from a stand called Just in Bean Liqueur Café, which we frequented a few times during the week. If you need a little boost and have some spare time in you itinerary, I highly recommend giving this place a try. After we got our second wind, we decided we’d make up for waking up late and go checkout the Buckingham Palace. Although we didn’t get to see the actual changing of the guards, it was incredible to see the Palace. Nightfall made it that much more magical anyway.
The next day, Abe, Steph, and I went on a day tour called “England in a day”, which hit some hotspots we wanted to see. The first stop was Stonehenge, then we ventured to Bath, and the final stop was in Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon. Going into the details of the day would make this post impossibly long, so I’ll save the details for another time! Between the three stops and all of the driving, we were out for about 12 hours, but didn’t let that stop us from jumping on another tour bus when we got back to London. This time, Steph and I went on a ghost-tour around the city center. I have to admit, this tour was BEYOND cheesy, but the two of us laughed the entire time, and some of my favorite memories are from that night. Aside from the cheesiness, there were some interesting real-life tales we learned about along the way. After we went to meet Arthur and Abe at another pub, The Viaduct Tavern. After a few drinks, we were shown an area in the basement known as the debtor’s prison. Obviously this area is not in use anymore (we paid for our drinks) and is just storage now, but you can imagine what it was used for in the past.
The next day, Abe, Steph and I took a little too long at breakfast without realizing it, so our plans were shifted a bit. We had to squeeze in a trip to Westminster Abbey before our reservations for our Mad Hatter’s tea that afternoon. We were in a rush to get to Westminster Abbey as quickly as possible, and had Abe lead us there via the tube. Well, as well as he knows London, he did not know tube. In the moment, Steph and I were frustrated and annoyed, but looking back now, we have something to laugh about. (Shout out to the Jubilee line, which took us in the wrong direction). We made a mad dash through Westminster Abbey, which was breathtaking, and I hope to be able to go back one day soon. After, we had an Alice in Wonderland themed tea at the Sanderson Hotel. Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite stories/movies, and for anyone who knows me can attest, I even have a scene tattooed on my arm! Everything about this teatime was perfect. The treats were adorable and delectable, the teas were all unique and tasty, and the scenery was enchanting. This is an absolute MUST DO for your next trip to London. After tea, we made a stop at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, which is one of the oldest pubs in London. Another must do to add to your list. The pub was so charming, and you are quite literally sitting in a place where famous historical figures once sat.
That night we went to see Les Miserables. We got seats in the second row, and sat in awe during the entire performance. It was an astounding performance that I cannot recommend enough. After the show, we wandered back to the stage door and got to meet the man who portrayed Jean Valjean, and we totally fan girled. We then made our way to a late night Korean dinner at Jinjuu, and drinks at Cahoots!. Cahoots! is a charming speakeasy and perfect spot for anyone to visit looking for a comforting cocktail. The décor was endearing and the drinks were delicious. The menus were designed to look like the daily newspaper, which I personally loved.
Wednesday, Steph and I took another day trip but this time it was to Wales. We had a blast while we were there, and even got our noses pierced. Our dads were not thrilled about that one. I’ll keep this paragraph short – Wales deserves its own post, because it IS a country dammit.
Thursday was my last day abroad, and I was heartbroken to have to leave. Before I did, we checked a few more things off of our to-do list. In the morning, Steph and I went to the London Dungeon, which is a fun attraction that focuses on the grimy, gory past of London. My mom went when she and my dad were on their honeymoon and raved about it, so I needed to see what the hype was about. Safe to assume, things had changed there over the last 20 years, so it was a little less realistic when I experienced it, but still an amusing and educating experience! For my last London experience, we head to the British Museum to take in some art and some history. This is where the Rosetta Stone is located, but it is nearly impossible to get a really good, long look at it because of the crowd it attracts.
My week in London (and vicinity) had come to an end. I was sad to be heading back home, but excited to share all of the memories I had made with my family and friends. From this trip, London will forever hold a giant place in my heart, and I will be forever grateful I got to experience it with some incredible people.
If you’d like to see more pictures from my London trip, make sure to check out my instagram (@Nomadic_Neen) and/or the Snapshots section of the blog!