After spending five-ish lovely days in Munich, it was time to embark on the next part of our journey. Our journey was originally going to take us to Zurich, Switzerland for the day and night then off to London the next. We may have been over eager when planning the trip because after five days in Munich, we were exhausted. We re-booked our trip and decided to go straight to London. We booked a Eurowings flight that had a layover in Cologne, Germany leaving mid-morning. We didn't think much of it and thought we would be in London by mid-afternoon, we were wrong!
Our flight was delayed out of Cologne, then we spent a nightmarish 2 hours in line in customs at Stansted Airport in London. I 10/10 DO NOT recommend flying into this airport. With 100+ people in line they fluctuated between 1-3 agents working at a time. We ended up checking into our hotel after dark.
I'm a Hilton snob so I knew I wanted to stay at a Hilton. I book and un-booked basically every Hilton hotel in London because I was indecisive. I decided to use all my accrued points and stay at the DoubleTree in Kensington and I was glad we did. Kensington (yes, like Kensington Palace) is the most amazing area. The hotel was undergoing renovations, but nothing too drastic that interfered greatly with our stay.
After checking in, we asked the front desk where to eat. She recommended this Italian place called Rocca. We noticed it as we were walking to the hotel and it seemed like a lively spot, so we took her recommendation and went. The recommendation was spot on. It was a great cozy spot, with fresh Italian food and not overly priced. We stuffed our faces (since we hadn't had much of a real meal all day). After dinner, we ventured back to the hotel to grab a drink (PS according to my husband, the bartender makes the best White Russian he's ever had) and called it a night.
On our first full day in London, we venture to Kensington Gardens in the morning before stopping in to a Lululemon Sample Sale (coincidentally it was in it's last day that day). We racked up on some clothing. After shopping, we ventured back to the hotel to rest and drop off our stuff before heading back out.
We ventured back out where we explored Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. The weather was beautiful. We spent the day strolling around central London. After realizing how easy the Tube was to navigate we went back to our hotel to freshen up for dinner. We were hoping to find a rooftop bar for cocktails, but didn't have any luck. We decided that when in London, do as the Brit's do and grabbed a drink a corner pub in the Soho area. We chatted with some locals for a bit before grabbing a bite at a French restaurant and calling it a night.
The next day (Saturday) was rainy and cold. We got up and grabbed a traditional English breakfast at a place in Kensington. We then heading to Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guards. We got to Buckingham Palace and waited in the rain for 30+ minutes (with a crowd of people) only for them to tell us that the Changing of the Guards ceremony doesn't happen on Saturdays. (facepalm...but in my defense the website said it did). We ventured around the Buckingham Palace area and saw a ceremony involving the Queen's Calvary (horses). We then ventured back to Trafalgar Square. We had plans to meet my cousin (who lives in Oxford, England) for a play that afternoon in London. We had a few hours to kill so we decided to stop in and partake in the traditional English Tea. (Mostly because it was cold, we wet, and wanted a hot drink).
I had the Cream Tea and the desserts were delicious. We then headed to meet my cousin. She reserved us tickets for 42nd Street (the Musical). I've gone to a few Broadway plays so I knew partially as to what to expect, my husband did not. We grabbed some drinks and the show started. The play was good (I admittedly almost dozed off because we had a long day already, and I had a few glasses of wine).
After the play we went across the street to an Indian restaurant that came highly recommended. I am not a fan of Indian food (not a huge spicy food fan), but it was good. The service was excellent. After dinner, we had plans to do the Champagne Experience on the London Eye.
The Champagne Experience was actually quite awesome. It was nice to have a guide take and in the city lights with a glass of bubbly. We decided to do the London Eye at night because I love seeing a city all lit up. After the London Eye (which is 30 minutes all the way around), we stumbled into an arcade. There's something about an arcade, after a few drinks, that makes the inner child in me light up. We played for about an hour, spent about $40 on tokens, and I won enough tickets for a mug, which I later saw in a store for a dollar. Oh well, it's my new favorite mug.
Saturday was a long day, but amazing day. I was happy to see my cousin (who I admittedly only get to see once every couple of years!)
On Sunday, we were supposed to go to Paris, but our flight was at 6 am out of Luton airport (which was an hour plus away). We knew we weren't going to make our flight, so we decided to stay in London.
My husband read that there was a BodyWorlds exhibit happening in London so we decided to stop in there and see if we couldn't book tickets for the exhibition. (Online it said it was sold out for weeks) We walked right in and tickets were available. This exhibit (although not "touristy") was the COOLEST thing I have ever seen. It takes you through the human body and (yes this sounds morbid) but you get to see body parts and full bodies of deceased individuals. They plastinate them (look it up interesting process).
As someone who works out frequently and knows a decent amount of the effects of toxins on the body, it was incredible. It showed you everything, (I mean everything!). Let's just say everyone was anatomically correct and there was even a section behind the black wall showing two people "in position" discussing the birds and the bees. Everything about the exhibit was intriguing!
After the exhibit, I decided I may need to eat healthy. We opted for an Italian joint in central London. I had a salad and regretted it by the end of the day because I was starving. After the exhibit we rested. It was about 6pm London time, so 1pm back home and we knew the NFL games were about to start and wanted to catch some of them. I googled sports bars in London, and one appeared close by. We hopped the tube towards Chelsea and followed our directions to the "sports bar". Well the "sports bar" was next to the Chelsea soccer stadium. We quickly realized this "sports bar" wasn't going to be showing American football.
We walked back to the tube and headed towards Piccadilly Circus in central London knowing that we saw banners hanging advertising NFL. Surely there would have to be tons of places showing the game around there? Wrong! After walking forever we found no such sports bar. We asked the door man at the Ritz where we could find NFL (as we soon realize they call it). He pointed us to a sports bar. There were giant inflatables outside advertising NFL and tons of people inside. We thought we finally were in the right spot. Well, we waited and waited and waited some more for someone to seat us at a table or to just be able to sit somewhere. We tried grabbing a beer at the bar but it was packed. They had two other bars so we ventured towards those bars only be to be told they were "closed". Confusing, given the games had just started. The place was kinda gross inside and I was frustrated. We decided to give up on watching the game and try to get some food.
We ventured to another restaurant in Central London, but the service was awful so we left, again. By this point I am starving. Like I would have eaten dirt. We headed back to Kensington hoping to just grab a bite at the pub near our hotel. We ordered a drink and our food and sat down. By this point, I was wondering if I was ever going to eat again (a bit dramatic, but that was my level of hunger). My fish and chips arrived, complete with mushy peas. I'm glad we ordered when we did because we learned basically all restaurants quit serving food around 7-8pm on Sundays. I devoured my food and called it a night.
The next day we were due to fly back to Munich to begin our long perilous journey home. We had some time to kill before leaving on our night flight to Munich. We decided to venture back and try to see the Changing of the Guards again. We made it about 15 before the Ceremony and it was packed. We couldn't see much due to the crowds. The only glimpses of the ceremony were through people's iPhones and iPads (very frustrating!). After the ceremony at Buckingham Palace we grabbed lunch at Shake Shack (my fave) and headed towards Kensington Palace. We stopped at Kensington Gardens again and took it all in. We made it to Kensington Palace. We opted to sit out the tour (it was expensive and we were tired) and just explore the grounds. The gift shop inside is INCREDIBLE! So many royal gifts!
After Kensington, we headed back to the hotel and then to Stansted Airport to make our journey home. Our flight was delayed to Munich, so we didn't get into Munich until about 1 am. Our flight the next morning was at 7 am so we opted to try the whole "sleeping in airports" thing. It was okay. All the food sleeping spots were taken so we had to sleep in a little booth in the arrivals area. Our travel hack to not smelling awful? Bathe in the free perfume and cologne in the Duty Free shop....hahahaha. It worked. We boarded our flight and made our journey home (after another stop in London).
The trip was amazing! Everything I hoped for and more (even given all the changes in our original travel plans). I feel in love with London. Absolutely, 100% in love. Clean, beautiful city. I am already planning my trip back to London.
Here are some pics from our time in London.
Haley Parler Moore
Charleston resident. Digital Marketer. Crazy Crossfitter. Bulldog Mom. Gamecock fan. Constantly clad in Lululemon.