London, England

Ah London, my third trip to the capital of the British Empire. I won't bore you with the details of the history, as it's all here in this trip -> London, 2010.

The Arrival

Flying in to Heathrow with the family, taking up half of the first class cabin on a British Airways 747, and annoying many pomey (aka 'I am proper and I went to OXXXXFARD') speaking British people, it was a nice ride for me. The kids didn't really sleep because they were so excited.

We went to the arrivals lounge after clearing customs and had breakfast and showers. I quickly took the bus from the airport to the hotel, where I had picked up my pre-ordered Oyster cards for the bus and subway. It felt great getting there and asking "Are there any mail or messages for me?" and there were!

I returned to the airport and collected everyone, and we retrieved all the luggage and used the travel cards to get back to the hotel and check in.

I had booked a junior suite with 3 beds and when I got there they put me in one with only 2. I said wait a second, this was guaranteed in the reservation, and they said "Sir, that we don't guarantee". I pulled out my reservation, which I had printed out for every hotel on the trip before hand, and right on it was "Guaranteed. King bed, 2 sofa beds". Tip, print out your reservations and bring them with you, always. Although you don't need copies to check in, situations like this make it worth the extra effort.

Airline mile upgrades are the best!Bougie for sure, this one is I don't even know
So much wasted spaceI think they all fell asleep at least once
Well, we got to the room and I said "Ok, we're not going to go to sleep now, we are going to adjust our clocks" and off into the city we went! We started with Regent Street because it doesn't require a lot of mental energy and kept everyone moving.
A toy store older than the United StatesFor sale at Fortnum and Mason grocers

The Next Day

Everyone slept pretty soundly that night! The next morning, I realized that I didn't have international adapters for my Macbook, apparently forgot to pack them, so first stop was Convent Garden and the Apple store. After that, it was down to the Strand for Twinnings Tea; their "pick your own loose tea" is just great.
Into the city Another place a couple hundred years old
Next, it was off to shopping, TopShop (teenage daughter, I was powerless to stop it) and Harrods. Harrods is huge, and wow does it really have everything a department store could possibly carry. Wine cellar, gold exchange, 20-30 salons of European jewelers with their one-of-a-kind creations, watch gallery, clothes, clothes, clothes. And the most amazing toy and "spoiled little girl" area I have ever seen.
Encompasses an entire block
Gratiutous, classic, and was literally exceptionally tempting
For your princess, and literally royalty shops here from all over the world
Then we walked south into Chelsea and past many embassies.
Malaysia, Turkey, Trinadad & Tabago, and Italy (I was trying to find Iran)Bolivians were upset about something that day
And then down the way towards Westminster and House of Parliament.
I don't know much about this, but it being that old just seemed cool
The Albert pub
The Abbey, costs to get inSomeone got special treatment Royal entrance tower to Parliment
Outside Parliment
Off down Whitehall to Trafalgar Square
Lots of war memorials around What this has to do with the war of 1812 I have no ideaLord Nelson, the man of the hour
I have no idea who Spencer Compton is
Then off to see the Queen!
They have a barracks here, 3 divisions switch off with guard duties.  If you count the # of buttons on their uniform groupled together, you know what division it is.  The 5th was on guard today
Admiralty Arch.  While historically the backbone of English Power, they do no swear fealty to the monarch, but to the Admiralty Nice townhouse, the flag is up, Her Majesty is here today
For Canadian sacrifice.  Seems a bit strange for a memorial to those who died in war.  This is in Green Park next to Buckingham
Then off to the surprisingly difficult to find, down a street, down a side alley into a dress-code-required, 24 British Pounds per drink, martini house of worship called Dukes.
Ian Flemming used to get so drunk here while writing about some obscure spy

Day 3

Today was the One Direction concert and my teenage daughter's English pen pals came up to London to see it, so we went off to Wembley so she could meet her friends face-to-face. While she hung out with her friends, we ate at Nando's Chicken. They are quite good, and there are some locations are in the States now.

After they met and chatted and cemented friendships, we took the overland train to Kew Gardens. This was amazing. Managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is said to house "the largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world" according to their website (www.kew.org). The 300 acre World Heritage site houses numerous conservatories dedicated to different types of plants, several ornamental buildings, Kew Palace, galleries, museums, a laboratory, herbarium, and center for forensic horticulture.
The Temperate House, full of tropical and fragile plants from the ends of the Empire
Kew Palace, where they kept King George as he went crazy during the Revolution
Almost countless (ok, someone there counts them) varieties of plants The Canopy Walk, where you can see the tree line from above.  Lots of great hot weather plants given the unique climate of London
Oriental pagoda from a distance which are in the Japanese Gardens
Then we walked around Kew for a bit, went to a grocery and got some food. Tip: this is a very cost effective way to eat in Europe, where constantly dining out can significantly increase the price of your vacation. That tied up that day.

Day 4

So I just shot from the hip and decided we would go to Notting Hill as I heard it was quaint. It was, but also on weekends, it's home to a massive market street of collectibles, crafts, and food. This was a very lucky occurrence for the entire family. Seriously, go to this - it's a very English experience.
All over between Pembridge and Ossington roads Mostly down Pembridge
Well, it is England, it rains a lot
After enjoying the market, we went back into the Tube to the British Museum. Established in 1753, largely from the collection of an Irish (gasp!) physician and naturalist named Sir Hans Sloane, it's the first public national museum in the world. It's permanent collection of eight million pieces is among the largest in existence, although the ownership of some (okay, many) of them is controversial since they were collected during the era of the British Empire. In the early 19th century, beautiful or historically significant items rediscovered around the world were removed to England where they became part of the collection of the British Museum.
Near Oxford Circus, but down a street down a street...  These road planners were drunk Not THE Cleopatra, but being the Brits, I wouldn't have been surprised

Travel Day

So having experienced some smatterings of London, it was now time to get ready to go to the next stop, Paris.
St. Pancras Station, home of the Eurostar

Summary

London, even on my third trip, still has new things to see and do. It really speaks to me as a person and I feel a connection to the English ways.

Pre-buy a certain tube zones (I did zone 4, and used the bus outside of that as it's covered in all zones) for a few days travel card. This is crazy cost effective especially if you feel like jumping about a lot.


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