I See London...and it's Love at First Sight

I've had a lifelong love of travel. I traveled a lot growing up, both within North America & the Caribbean, but always desired to visit Europe.  I'm lucky in that my job has provided the opportunity to fulfill some of my travel dreams. I work for a student travel company and in 2008 I took one of our tours to Barcelona, Provence, the south of France, Florence & Rome. It was thrilling. Compared to many people I know,  I haven't been to too many places, but many more people never get to Europe at all, so for that I'm thankful.

Jon & I, Venice, Italy 2010
In July 2010 I was able to cross more of Italy off my bucket list when my husband and I honeymooned throughout the country, stopping in Venice, Florence, Rome & ending on the Amalfi Coast. It was a busy trip full of "adventures," (often tiny mishaps along the way, but we kept it positive) but it was also amazing & unforgettable.

Recently I had the opportunity again to travel with my company, this time to London, a place I'd never been before. To be honest London wasn't at the top of my list, it was on it, but after places like Paris, Austria, Prague, Morocco and Peru – have you seen photos of Machu Picchu?? But I was thrilled with the chance to explore a new international city…and the upcoming Olympic destination!

Jon & I outside Parliament Square, London
When the work part of the trip ended, Jon flew over to join me & we began exploring together. I had not realized how much there was to see & do in London! You could seriously spend two weeks there and just scratch the surface. Being a travel whore I craved visiting another city too, so imagine my delight when I realized that Paris-one of my all-time bucket list cities-was only 2 hours away on the Eurostar. So we booked a day trip there as well. Although we missed a day in London as a result, the teasing taste of Paris was so delicious it was totally worth it. More about Paris later, but for now, here are some more pics of the places we saw:

Tower Bridge from the River Thames, London
Sunset in Trafalgar Square, London

Outside Parliament Square, London

Big Ben, London
London was pretty incredible. One of the main things I love about exploring a new city, besides eating and drinking my way through the culture is admiring the architecture. Everything is just so much older and the buildings are so gorgeous! People would be out for a run and I'd think how crazy it is to run past all this beauty and history every day, admittedly I also felt kinda lazy having not worked out consistently in months - whoops! So Jon and I spent tons of time just walking around and admiring our surroundings. Jon visited the Imperial War Museum, which he said was pretty cool, but otherwise we spent tons of time just walking around, taking photos, stopping in pubs, etc.

I won't bore you to tears with the drawn out details of our trip, but I will tell you about a few places I'd suggest visiting in London.

For Lunch, Try Pret a Manger
Ok so it's a chain, but it's SO good! Pret serves freshly made, natural sandwiches, wraps, soups, salads and other delicious goodies...and for cheap! The average sandwich is around £3. I grabbed lunch here almost every day. Try the hoison duck wrap, the curry lime pickle crisps and a ginger beer. If you can't make it to London, there are a few locations in the US you can try. Hopefully they'll open up a location in Boston soon!

When You're Ready for Dinner...

Head Over to Maggie Jones's
Such an adorable little place Maggie Jones's was! And the food was delicious. They brought over their specials on a tall blackboard lit by candle light - adorable! The lights were low and the atmosphere was  warm and romantic. We tried the tart of the day, which was spinach & almond - it was devine!

We actually ate at that booth in the middle of the photo!
photo via Maggie Jones's
For Dessert go to Kettner's; the Strawberry Pavlova is absolutely incredible. Probably one of the best desserts I've ever had...and it didn't even have chocolate in it!

If you do eat at Maggie Jones's, take a stroll around the block to The Churchill Arms for a drink. Try the honey brown lager on tap. SO good!

For a glass of wine, an adorable and unique spot you can sip some vino is Gordon's Wine Bar. It's on a roadway between Charring Cross and Embankment stations, down a narrow staircase. We didn't actually stay for a drink because it was happy hour on a Thursday and extremely crowded, but it was suggested to me by multiple people so I'd definitely go there on another trip. They had marinated olives, meats and cheeses to munch on too.

After Gordon's you can walk through Embankment station and up onto the nearby bridge for a beautiful view over the water.

In terms of the sights, of course visit the big ones, Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, Buckingham Palace, Parliament/Big Ben. I was actually planning to go up in the London Eye and was super bummed to find out that it was closed the week we were there, so I'd suggest doing that if you go.

If you like architecture like me, go to the Royal Courts of Justice to take some pics. I didn't try to venture inside, but the outside was so cool. I saw it on a bus tour and had to go back to see it up close and take some pics of my own.

Gate outside the Royal Courts of Justice

The last awesome places to tell you about are the bars in the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel in St. Pancras Station. This is the station where major trains come and go, including the Eurostar to Paris. There are two amazing bars in the station, Booking Office and the Gilbert Scott. They are both wonderful and need to be seen. The Booking Office is grand, with Victorian architecture, incredibly high ceilings and upscale drinks, including punches in immense copper punch bowls. The Gilbert Scott is intimate and has the most amazing chandelier made of bells. Also in the hotel is the actual staircase featured in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," for all you fans.

Staircase seen in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Chandelier inside Gilbert Scott. Isn't it awesome?!

And just for fun, me in a telephone booth...

Paris next...


Have you been to London? Share your tips below!

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