London Revisited

We traveled back to London for a long weekend full of fun, friends, and more sightseeing. Two of my good friends M and C, made the journey across the pond to London to meet us before continuing on to Italy.  We were also traveling with our friends M and W.  The original reason for the trip was the NFL game between the Vikings and the Steelers being played at Wembley Stadium.  We ended up getting tickets through Hubby’s cousin (really hubby’s brother in law’s nephew-if you can follow that) who plays for the Vikings.  So we went for the game but ended up getting so much more out of our trip!

Upon arriving in London we met up with M and C at their hotel in Westminster and started over to Buckingham Palace to try to catch the changing of the guard ceremony.  Unfortunately it was so absolutely packed that we couldn’t see a thing.  Travel advice recommends being there at least an hour early to get a spot on the fence to be able to see.  Honestly I’m not sure if it’s worth waiting there so long and fighting the crowds, maybe if it isn’t your first time to London.  But if it was your first time I would skip it and do something else with your time and come back to the palace at a different time when you can get a better look at it.

While we were leaving the palace area and walking down The Mall, the ceremony wrapped up and we caught some of the guards walking down the street to St. James’s Palace.

From the changing of the guard ceremony we headed off to tea!  We scheduled an afternoon tea at a quaint little tea room near the British Museum.  This was the first tea experience for all of us and I think everyone really enjoyed it.  I know I did!  It was a good introduction.  The setting was small, cozy, and relaxed so we didn’t have to feel intimidated by being in a big fancy tea parlor, not knowing what we were doing.  Each couple was given 2 tea selections, 2 sandwiches, scones with different jams and clotted cream, and 2 slices of cakes.  It was plenty of food to make a good lunch and held us all until a later dinner.

Even Little Miss enjoyed her first tea!
I would highly recommend the tea at Tea and Tattle, very affordable, good service, and great food!
Our finger sandwiches: crab/avocado/lemon, and parma ham/rocket/red onion marmalade.

After filling our bellies, it was time for M, W, Hubby, and me to find our flat that we had rented for the weekend.  We stayed in East London in an apartment that was in a very interesting neighborhood.  It was definitely out of our element and not what we were hoping-but we survived.

The lady who checked us in made sure to point out the lovely view of the Shard, London Eye, and Gherkin building.

That evening we set out again, taking a walk along Tower Bridge and the South Bank.  We even got to see the bridge open for a passing boat-Tower Bridge is also a draw bridge.  I honestly think it’s probably the prettiest photo spot in London, especially when it’s lit up.

The next morning we were up bright and early to take our tour of the Houses of Parliament.  The tour was wonderful, we had a really knowledgable and entertaining guide.  It was one of the best tours we’ve had in Europe.  It didn’t hurt that our guide Andrew said that our baby girl was “terribly well behaved” and the best child he’s ever had on a tour.  Proud parents 🙂  I imagine she had a good time looking at all the different ornate ceilings inside as she was wheeled through the building in her stroller.

Outside the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.

Our next stop was Notting Hill and the Portobello Road market.  We must have been too enthralled in the shopping because we didn’t take any pictures!  Notting Hill is a charming neighborhood and on Saturdays Portobello Road is blocked off for street vendors selling clothes, antiques, books, jewelry, food, produce, and anything else you can think of.  I found myself wishing I lived close by because I would’ve loved to buy a number of things as home decor items but there was no way I was getting most of it back in my suitcase.  This was another highlight of the trip and I would gladly go back to that market.  We stopped for lunch at a pub and most of us ordered the traditional fish & chips, which I’m happy to report, was excellent!

When we travel I can’t resist finding a Starbucks because there aren’t any in our local area.  London is littered with the coffee chain, and so while in Notting Hill, I ducked into one to get my fix.  Though it wasn’t advertised on the menu anywhere I decided to just ask if they happened to have pumpkin spice latte.  The barista gave me a quiet nod and asked how I knew they had pumpkin spice, haha!  They were so intrigued that I knew this little secret.  I was so happy I asked!  It was a great taste of home.

That evening we met up with Hubby’s cousin.  He plays for the Vikings and was able to help us out with tickets to the game.  We were so happy he was also able to come out to dinner with us so we could spend a little time together.

Go Vikings!

The next morning before the game, we decided to visit Kensington Palace in west London.  It has been the home to various members of the royal family throughout the years such as Queen Victoria, Princess Margaret (Queen Elizabeth’s sister), Princess Diana, and now to William and Kate.  The palace had an exhibit about Queen Victoria which was very insightful for me because I had never really known much about her and she is (so far) England’s longest reigning monarch.  They also had a small exhibit displaying dresses worn by Queen Elizabeth in the 50’s, Princess Margaret in the 60’s and Princess Diana in the 80’s.  I really loved seeing the dresses up close and seeing how the fashion changed through the years.  There were also insights as to why certain dresses were chosen for certain events and the role royalty played in selecting wardrobe.  The palace itself, in comparison to other palaces we’ve seen, was not all that impressive.  And if you’re expecting to go and see the actual building where Will and Kate live, think again.  They live in the Kensington Palace compound, not the actual building open to tourists :).

Next it was on to Wembley Stadium for the game.  We were running behind schedule so we missed all the pre-game festivities and crowds.  We walked right into the stadium and down to our seats (which were amazing seats)!  We were able to snap a couple pics before the meltdowns ensued.

Shortly after this, Baby Girl had had enough.  It was so loud in there, there was no way she was going to be able to fall asleep and it was her bedtime.  So after several attempts at calming her down in the seat, I spent the rest of the game walking the concourse corridors.  She ended up falling asleep and everything was fine, but each time I would try to go back to the seats, she would wake up. Apparently it was a good game and the Vikings won!

The next day we said goodbye to M and C over more fish and chips at a pub.  Then we wandered around looking for cheesy tourist shops where I could find a Christmas ornament and a trinket for our daughter.  We had time for one last photo op before it was time to hop on the tube and head back to the airport.

She enjoyed her first trip to London and got a little teddy bear to take home 🙂

London is such a wonderful city.  We did some repeat sites, and some new experiences and I would still be happy to go back for more.  It’s one of those cities where you can go 10 times and still find new things to do.  I hope our friends had as much fun as we did, and I hope we are able to get some more friends and family over here soon.  Our time is winding down, we are on the back half of our time in Europe which is crazy!  I can’t believe how fast it’s gone, but we still have roughly one year left, so if you are on the fence about coming-you should!