I’ve been back from my Europe trip for a few days now — I got back to work immediately (even working some on the plane ride back) but really took the weekend to rest and hopefully feel ready to get back into a more normal routine this week (it’s been slow moving, that’s for sure).
But here’s a little recap of my trip…
Traveling to London
I flew out of Austin Wednesday evening and had a layover in Atlanta. I had just enough time to use the restroom and wash my face at the Atlanta airport before boarding the plane that would take me to London.
This was my first flight overseas, my first flight that was more than 4.5 hours. So, when I got on the plane and saw how big it was, I just couldn’t believe it! Even with just a backpack, I felt like I brought too much with me, but I made it work.
We were fed as soon as we got to the cruising altitude and the food was much better than I expected. I watched “Pitch Perfect 2” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” before I tried to get sleep, but it was the worst sleep ever (I can barely sleep in my own bed, so I wasn’t too shocked).
The flight went much faster than I thought and we landed at Heathrow just fine. The passport line was annoyingly long, but I made it through, and just as we had planned, I met my friend outside with a rental car, so we could head to Bath for one night.
Visiting Bath for a Night
We stopped at Castle Combe for a little bit of additional sightseeing along the way to Bath and were constantly getting a chuckle out of the driving situation. We saw some amazing sights, though, like straight out of a movie!
We checked into our room at the Harrington Inn in Bath and it was very cute, but like many things we came to discover, small. This is were I started to notice just how Americanized we were. Rightfully so, I mean we are Americans. But the ceilings were low and the bed was tiny – I felt really oversized.
Once we got semi-settled, we walked around Bath and found a pub for dinner. I had ham and eggs, along with a pint of local beer. We continued walking around and found another place to stop for a glass of wine and some board games.
That night, we both had trouble sleeping – is this jet lag? We wondered. The next day, we grabbed breakfast (I had porridge) and went to tour the Roman Baths. This was really interesting! We got the audio tour and it was set up partly like a museum, but partly just open so you could walk through it. I still can’t believe it’s standing today, and I’m amazed at how creative people were in the earliest of times.
Heading to Stonehenge
After checking out of our room, we were headed to Stonehenge on our way to London! I didn’t know what to expect from Stonehenge, but I got the audio tour, and there is a little museum before you can take a shuttle to the actual site.
The museum has a video and artifacts from the site, and then the audio tour provides information during the shuttle ride and at many points throughout the site. Honestly, I thought it was really impressive, and I’m so glad we got to see it with our own eyes.
Finally off to London
Then, we dropped off the rental car and took the tube (the Underground!) to check in to our room at The Strand Palace in Covent Garden. We headed right to Harrod’s for a quick bite and some exploring.
Harrod’s was impressively huge, but it’s organized very oddly and made it difficult to find anything we really wanted to see. The food hall, though, that was a sight to see! I had a squash pie and pea salad 🙂 The next day was a true sight-seeing day, with the first stop being Logan Place, the home of Freddie Mercury.
Seeing all of the London Sites
It was mostly how I imagined it would be, but it broke my heart to see all of the security measures that had to be taken – plexiglass, cameras everywhere, and multiple forms of barbed wire.
Next stop: Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and the London Eye. Buckingham Palace was quite impressive – did you know it’s 15 times bigger than the White House? Westminster Abbey is off a different train stop and the whole area has a different look to it – it’s all very ornate. Big Ben was under construction but the entire Abbey was very impressive — pictures don’t do it justice.
The London Eye was pretty cool — definitely worth it if you have the time. It helped me connect the Burroughs we were visiting via train and see the entire city at once. Plus, you can really get an idea of how big Westminster Abbey is, and the Palace.
After that, we headed to Trafalgar Square and ate at a pub — I got fish and chips with mashed peas and a local beer flight. It was delicious! There was a football game happening, so we got to see the locals really amped for a Whales’ victory. After dinner, we headed to Piccadilly Circus, which is basically London’s Times Square. I was pleasantly surprised to see Chinatown!
The next day, we headed to Camden Town to see the Amy Winehouse statue (which even has winged eyeliner) and headed back to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guards. After that, we had reservations for a proper afternoon tea at The Savoy.
The changing of the guard was PACKED, so we couldn’t see all of it, but I think we had a great vantage point for seeing the guards come in and out of the gates. The tea at The Savoy was comparable to the tea I had at the Plaza Hotel in New York, but we got so much more food!
The sandwiches were bigger (and very delicious) and we got a beautiful piece of salmon along with scones and cakes. I bought some of the tea back with me!
Our last sight that day was a stop at the famous Zebra Crossing and seeing the Abbey Road Studios. This is a hilarious spot to people watch! We went to bed early that night — or tried to — because the next day we were taking the 5:40 am train to Paris, which also meant a 4:30 am bus ride.
A Day in Paris
Once we were on the train, it was lots of French and I bought a croissant from the café car.
We got to Paris around 9 am and had to figure out their transit system well enough to get to the Eiffel Tower. We figured it out and immediately decided to walk so we wouldn’t waste time underground — we were taking the 8 pm train back to London.
We saw the Eiffel Tower (much more massive than I expected), grabbed some coffee and crepes, and stomped over to the Champs-Elysees. Sadly, many (almost all) of the shops had their windows shot out and some little shops were completely burned after weeks and weeks of riots and protests.
The Arc De Triomphe is at one end of the Champs-Elysees and wow, it was impressive. This was my favorite site in our short jaunt to Paris. It’s so pretty, and so huge!
Next, we walked over to a street market and found a place to grab more food — both my friend and I knew we weren’t going to be able to truly see all of Paris in a day, but we could eat and drink as much as possible!
I got a large glass of rosé and some fried goat cheese (served with mint yogurt and lettuce) and some fresh bread with sardines. It was fantastic. We stopped at a little corner store and I got a baguette, soft cheese, wine, and a chocolate croissant to stuff into my backpack. We also found a bakery where I got a box of macaroons and a chocolate eclair, which I’ll likely dream about for the rest of my life.
After coffee and one more long look at the tower, we headed back to the train station, where we had to wait in line so long we missed our train, but thankfully were able to get the last train out, putting us back in London around 10:30 pm and grabbed a pick at the famous Platform 9 3/4. A long day!
Back in London
The next day was our last day in London and it was probably a good thing because that day in Paris really did me in! We took it easy, but still saw The Crown Jewels, the Tower Bridge, Kensington Palace, and Neal’s Yard.
The Crown Jewels was much more than I expected — it’s a complete village surrounding the London Tower, which is full of history that I didn’t even know about. The Crown Jewels part allows you to learn about the importance of the Jewels and you get to see them up close!
We couldn’t take pictures, but I bought a coffee mug with the Queen’s Crown on it 🙂 The Tower Bridge is so much more impressive than I imagined! Definitely one of my favorite sites. We headed to Kensington, because I think we both were confusing it with the Palace, and we wanted to see all things royal.
Kensington Palace is where Kate, William, Meghan, and Harry live… and it is HUGE. It’s so huge you can’t even see most of it, but it’s very impressive. Legit, importable house goals. Ha!
After that, we headed back to Covent Garden for dinner at a pub — I had bangers and mash and a local beer (I really tried to each as much local fare as possible). Then, we went through all of the little street market booths near our hotel, and found Neal’s Yard, where I quickly fell in love with Neal’s Yard Remedies.
Traveling Back to Austin
The next day was a travel day, and I was dreading coming back! I truly had so much fun and I loved London. I went into it with very little expectations and was pleasantly surprised. I’m not going to say I could have done without Paris, because I loved the sights and the food, but I very much enjoyed London more.
One thing I noticed right away was that the people there are SO nice, and I was a little embarrassed at how American I found myself, but I suppose that’s part of traveling abroad and learning about new cultures. I hope I can go back one day and do more “local” things and possibly stay in one Burrough to get to know it more.
Until then, I bought some books by London authors at the airport, so I’ll have to live in those! Cheerio!