Monday, March 10, 2014

Guide to London: Sight to Be Seen

I could honestly write endlessly about London. It is, hands down, one of my most favorite trips ever. 
Before we left, I reached out to a lot of people for advice on what to do and where to eat & drink. I thought I would pass along where we went and all the tips I received. Since I have so much to share, I am breaking it up into 2 posts. Today focuses on all the historic sights in London. 
My friend, Hadley, passed along a great walk where you can see many of the sights via foot. Our weather was insanely beautiful - like low 60's and sunny every day, beautiful - so walking was exactly what we were looking for. 
Hadley's Tour De London: 
Begin at the London Eye (Hadley recommended taking a trip if the line wasn't too long. I personally am way too antsy and anti-social to be in a glass bubble with strangers for an hour, so I passed.)
Walk along the Westminster Bridge which crosses the River Thames. From the bridge you can get beautiful shots of Big Ben & Parliment
Walk past Parliment - while checking out all the super tinted Rolls Royces heading in and out - towards Westminster Abbey
Sadly, the line to Westminster Abbey was really long, so Mr. Fonty wouldn't let me go in. Next trip... 
After visiting Westminster Abbey, continue towards the Horse Guards Parade (Olympic beach volleyball site and where Henry VIII held all his sporting tournaments)
Walk through the Horse Guards Parade, and cross the street to St. James Park. St. James Park is beautiful. All the daffodils were blooming during our visit.
 The maps are easy to follow and the trails will lead you to Buckingham Palace. During the winter, the changing of the guard happens every other day, so be sure to check the days before your visit.
We actually did Hadley's tour in reverse (beginning at Buckingham Palace and making our way to the London Eye). From the Big Ben side of Westminster Bridge, we continued our journey towards Trafalger Square and Covent Gardens
Trafalger Square is home to The National Gallery. Covent Gardens was one of my favorite neighborhoods.The area feels quaint with its cute square and tiny one way streets, but don't let the quiet streets fool you. They are brimming with shops, both small, local boutiques and large, luxury brand stores. My favorite stop was Cambridge Satchel Company where I picked up a custom embossed little number.  
 The next day Mr. Fonty had some business in Nottinghill. Portobello Road is just as adorable as Hugh Grant would lead us to believe. Some parts of the market are run of the mill street fair selling cheap clothes and incense, but the blocks with the fresh produce and breads are worth a visit. The shops gear more towards antiques and cheesy tourist memorabilia. 
From Nottinghill, we wandered our way through town, and found an entrance to Kensington Gardens which borders Hyde Park. There are maps throughout the city which make navigating pretty easy - even for someone as directionally challenged as me. From Kensington Gardens, I abandoned Mr. Fonty and toured Kensington Palace. I thought Kensington Palace was great. I had a waiting husband outside and was given only 25 minutes to tour, so I had quite the abridged version. I noticed some people who seemed to have tour guides. If I could do it again, I'd either get a guide or a tour book. There isn't much British history explanation in the exhibits. 
 The rooms are so beautiful. I think the King's State Apartments was my favorite area. 
In addition to hundreds of years old palaces, London has tons of shopping. I had a lot of fun exploring Liberty and all the shops on Carnaby St. 

Regent St. and Sloane St. are mainly filled with deisgner shops. The windows are beautiful, but the price tags are a little out of my reach. These streets are also big and busy. If you enjoy shopping on 5th Ave or the Magnificent Mile, you'll like these areas. I've always preferred smaller shops, so for me, this ended up being pretty skippable - with the exception of H&M's big sister & Other Stories on Regent St.  
Mr. Fonty's one requirement was to see a soccer game. He is a huge fan, and spends most lunch hours watching dvr'd games at home. We lucked out with an England vs. Denmark friendly at Wembley Stadium. We've seen games in Croatia, Turkey, and now England. 
The game was a ton of fun if you get a chance to see one. They also have the most delcious stadium snack - "Curry Chips" French Fries with a drizzle of curry sauce. What I wouldn't give for an order right about now. 
Since our trip was so short, there was a lot we didn't get to see. Here are some of the recommendations we missed:
The Tate Modern (optional activity: cross Millennium Bridge to St. Paul's Cathedral where you can climb to the top of the dome)
The Tower Bridge and the Crown Jewels
Churchill Museum
Kew Botanical Garderns

Is there anything you would add? 

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