When we were planning our trip it seemed natural to start in London. We figured we would have some culture shock, maybe a bit of homesickness at some point, and to be honest, we were a little bit scared when we left, simply because we had never attempted anything of this magnitude before and we didn’t really know what to expect over the course of our adventure and what pitfalls we might encounter, so starting in the place most like home seemed safe and like a good way to ease ourselves in. We knew there were a million things to see in London, so we planned to stay for 8 days.
We departed from LAX at 5pm on a Sunday, and arrived in London at about noon on Monday. After reading up on jet-lag we decided it would be best to try and catch a few minutes of sleep on the plane and then hit the ground running once in London and try to go to bed at a normal time that night. Easier said than done. 😉 We splurged and flew Air New Zealand in their premium economy class. I had read about a LOT of airlines and this one consistently had the best reviews. It was SO worth the extra money in my opinion. That made the flight incredibly comfortable, but with the amount of stress and anticipation that was running through my veins, sleep, no matter how comfortable the flight, was not an option, though we did try! Upon arrival we all got a shot of adrenaline and were feeling pumped to be on the ground and go explore.
We chose to stay in Marylebone on the recommendation of a good friend who lives in London, and she was spot on as far as location is concerned. We were close to everything, had easy transportation options in every direction, and it was a beautiful neighborhood. Marylebone Highstreet was a super quaint spot with great shopping and restaurants just a few blocks away. It’s a great place to stay if you are looking for a nice, central, London location.
Because in our initial planning stages we had discovered that hotels would be incredibly expensive, especially since we needed two rooms and the exchange rate was quite bad, we opted to try our hand at renting a flat. One of the things I wanted to accomplish on this trip was to live less like tourists and more locals, so this was a perfect way to ensure that was happening. You can read more about our experience with renting a flat in London here.
Our first morning we met our dear friend Shannon, a CA girl living in London for most of the last decade. That day we canvased her adopted city. Here are some of the places we saw that day that you want to make sure and see when you are out and about in London…
St. Paul’s Cathedral
We knew that we were going to see LOTS of cathedrals on this trip, so we picked only a few that we would actually pay to see. St. Paul’s was not one of them, because it was quite expensive. We walked around the outside, and peeked inside as far as we could go before we hit the ticket booth. It was beautiful, but I have no regrets for not paying the steep prices and going inside.
Shannon introduced us to one of our new favorites…Paul. It is a french bakery that we frequented in London, all throughout France, and even in the Czech Republic. We grabbed a few flaky pastries and ate on the steps with the pigeons, a la Mary Poppins.
For an awesome family photo op of the cathedral, head over to Millennium bridge and capture a shot like this one. One of the perks of seeing the city with a local friend who also happens to be an amazing photographer. 😉
Covent Garden, the West End and SoHo are vibrant shopping, eating and entertainment districts to walk through that you don’t want to miss…
Or course a walk from Trafalgar Square down to Big Ben and Parliament was also a must. While London is huge, it is also really easy to see so many of the famous sites just by walking around. Many of them are fairly condensed. The public transit in this city is incredible and it makes getting anywhere super fast and easy, however, when you are on the tube you miss seeing all the wonderful things above ground. I think that is why traveling by double decker bus became our favorite mode of transportation while in London.
The studio is still used regularly, so who knows who you might run in to here! 😉 The graffiti on the wall is always there, but they re-paint regularly to make room for new artists and visitors. Of course, don’t miss the obligatory “crossing the road” shot. Just make sure to time it so you don’t get hit by one of the locals who are clearly not amused by all the tourists waiting to get their picture taken here! 😉
There is so much history here. For dinner this first night we went to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a dank and dirty, yet lively and fun pub frequented by Charles Dickens. While the food was not our favorite, the fact that I was dining in a space that had been there for hundreds of years was pretty remarkable!
There is SO much to see in this city! Add these things to your list of things to see in London! Next up we’ll cover Notting Hill, Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court, Tea at the Orangerie at Kensington Palace, great parks in London, Bucking ham Palace, the Tower of London, Burrough Market…the list goes on! You can check out our visit to Primrose Hill here… home of Paddington Bear.
Looking for more help planning a trip to London? Check out these posts:
Things to do in London: Visit Borough Market
Afternoon Tea at the Orangery at Kensington Palace
Tips for Using Public Transportation in London
Primrose Hill: Home of Paddington Bear
What it’s like to rent a vacation flat in London
How to Stay Connected While Traveling in Europe
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