Have you ever had a custom bowl of breakfast cereal, especially one called “Unicorn Poop”? Or have you purchased a jar of gold-flecked preserves from a swanky department store? What about pressing into a crowd with your phone cameras raised high, just to gawk at a bunch of guards with fuzzy hats, marching in formation? If the answer is yes to some or all of these, then it is safe to say that you have been to London, England! Or more specifically, you’ve been to the Cereal Killer Cafe for breakfast, to Fortnum & Mason for your jam, and Kensington Palace to watch the changing of the guards ceremony.
My pregnant self went with my husband, our two girls, and our friend Alyssa, on a whirlwind tour through the city of London. It was an utterly fantastic and exhausting trip- and I can’t wait to go back! We arrived Monday and left Thursday evening, and managed to stay near the city center in an apartment I booked through HomeAway.com.
(quick tip: if it’s an MBD Apartment you are looking into- AVOID. Take my word for it or risk a lot of money. I rest my case).
We purchased visitor Oyster Cards for the tube station in advance. This I would recommend to anyone! It saves an incredible amount of money, compared to buying tickets at the counter. We flew in to Stansted Airport, and took the express train directly to London city center. The following two days were such an adventure!
A must do, though slightly out of the way, is to find the hole-in-the-wall, hipster, totally awesome “restaurant” called the Cereal Killer Cafe. They have two walls dedicated to boxed cereals from the UK and US. You can choose a bowl, and customize your own cereal concoction (complete with regular or flavored milks), or pick a unique blend (dare I say, recipe?) from their chalkboard menu. Alyssa and I had the “Cinnaman” blend, which was a mix of about three different varieties of cinnamon-type cereals. My husband had the Unicorn Poop, which was all sorts of a sugar overload- it came complete with crushed up frosted cookies! The cafe is such an unique place, I would recommend it to anyone!
We toured the Tower of London, which was much bigger than I realized. We went through the museums there that were dedicated to England’s history, royalty, and wars. We were entranced by the Crown Jewels (awe inspiring. So. Much. Sparkle), and got to try the London special: Fish and chips. The museums and so much more were part of the tickets into the Tower of London! Very easy to spend 4-5 hours there, but since we had tired tiny ones, we went through it fairly quickly.
On certain days, the Kensington Palace gate is where you’ll find hundreds of tourists gather to fight for a decent spot to witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony. It would have been very neat to see if we were able, but I did snap a few “ok” pictures. If you want to see this event, I would highly recommend arriving early to claim your spot!
We spent a fast couple of hours touring through Trafalger Square and Piccadilly Circus. On the way (sort of), we stopped by the popular Fortnum & Mason for a look at all the things we could not justify spending the price tag for (except for a bottle of wine. It’s our souvenir tradition). It was lovely, and fun to look at all the pretty items and decadent goodies. It would be the perfect place to buy special gifts for loved ones!
The London Eye was a wonderful (albeit touristy) stop, and something I would recommend doing at near closing time- or as close to sunset at possible! The view was incredible, almost all of London was to be seen from up there, or so it appeared. We could see Parliament, Kensington Palace, Big Ben, the Thames (we were right on it, so of course), all of it made more inspiring by the setting sun. Gorgeous!
We also managed to see Westminster Abbey, and would have liked to take a tour through it, but we managed to observe an evening service instead. It is beautiful inside, from our limited experience!
On our last day, we had the morning to do some adventuring before we headed back to the airport to catch our evening flight. If you enjoy the T.V. series, Sherlock, you would appreciate the fact that we went and had lunch at Speedy’s cafe! The location was brought to our attention by our fellow traveler, Alyssa, and I am so glad we took the time to go see it. In the show, Sherlock lives in the apartment next door and often frequents the restaurant. His address in the show is 221B Baker St., but if you want to visit, go to Gower St., the street’s actual name. We had a tasty lunch at the cafe, and then walked a few blocks to the (free!) British Museum. It’s huge, so plan accordingly!
Our trip through London was so fast, I live in fear that I have forgotten something that we did or saw…times like these I am thankful for the technology of cameras and phones! I want to go back at some point of course, but this time with better walking shoes and less things to carry (looking at you, strollers, diaper bags, and toddlers)! Also, perhaps a few more dollars to my name- London can be expensive if you want to visit all the touristy spots and eat out on occasion. Does anyone have tips to save money while enjoying the “culture”? Any random spots that are must-see’s and off the grid for the average tourist?
Tips for those with kids:
Most tourist destinations and public transportation have discount/free tickets for small children under 5 years of age! Take advantage of this! I would recommend NOT bringing a large stroller if you can help it. Sure, it may be helpful for all the walking you will have to do, but they would be a pain in the tube systems and most tourist spots. I wore our youngest in an Ergo, and we had a small umbrella stroller for our 3 year old that could easily be folded in a hurry. If possible, buy tickets in advance for almost everything (transportation and attractions), and print out a map for the tube system before you arrive. By the end of your touring, you will be a pro at taking trains, and will realize that avoiding them at rush hour is a must if you are carting kids and their bags/strollers!
Perhaps next time I will spot the Royal Family? Who knows!