I cannot believe it’s been one month since we started our crazy adventure that was London. I’ve had fun writing about it, and I want to thank my readers for sticking with me as I diverted for a long while from my typical “Quirky, Confused, and Curvy” -ness to share my travel experiences (and travel anxieties) in great detail.
I just wanted to share a few final thoughts about our trip before getting back to my usual posts ~
- I cannot say enough good things about our hotel, South Point Suites. They celebrated their first birthday while we were there, complete with complimentary snacks, wine, and cake, and for a new business, they’re doing a fantastic job. The staff was polite and helpful, everything was impeccably clean, and the vibe was super chill. Breakfast was fabulous each morning and well worth adding to the price of our room. They also offer unlimited coffee, tea, and water to all of their guests at any time. The bed and pillows were luxurious, as was the shower, and the room well-appointed and comfortable. If you’re going to be in the area, I highly recommend this one!
- There were dogs everywhere! I was pleasantly surprised to see so many pups in such a busy metropolis, but any city with dogs is a good city to be visiting in my book.
- The food was absolutely amazing. From the fresh breakfast croissants at the hotel and the chain Pret a Manger to the Shepard’s Pie at the Churchill Museum and The Admiralty’s mince pie, I was truly impressed with the freshness and flavor of everything I ate. After years of hearing how bland and horrible England’s food was, I was a bit wary, but everything was so good. It was refreshing to eat food that was obviously free of chemicals and preservatives and made with the best ingredients.
- The city was WAY harder to navigate than I thought it would be. Granted, I’m directionally challenged, and being lost gives me hyper anxiety, so that probably added to the stress. It was so bad that we never even boarded one of those double decker buses that are on everyone’s “must do” list for visiting London. Sad face.
- Nearly every single person I saw in public was stunningly attractive. Seriously. The women are all beautiful – make up or no, heels or combat boots, girl-next-door vibe or piercings and tattoos galore. The men are all smartly dressed and dashing, and somehow even the guys in construction garb looked like they were on a runway. This, of course, gave me a complex.
- I was shocked how little shopping there was when it came to souvenirs. Apparently we weren’t really in the right neighborhoods for it, but I was expecting to see Union Jack-plastered paraphernalia and specialty tea shops on every corner. Finding myself and my family back home some token of London was WAY harder than I thought it would be.
- The city moves FAST. Having been to New York twice, I thought I was prepared for a jet-set lifestyle, but London tops the Big Apple for sure. The speed at which so many people move – on the streets, in the Tube, at Tesco – made me feel like I was sloughing through Jell-O most of the time.
- I felt really BIG the whole time I was there. I mentioned above how gorgeous everyone was, and most of them were fit, too. (No wonder — all that walking)! But when it came to the local shops, restaurants, and even sidewalks, I felt like I was a giant in Lego Land or something. I know I’m a curvy girl, but add clumsiness to that trait, combine it with an old city and its tiny buildings and narrow spaces, you have potential disasters on your hands. I had no less than three giant bruises on my legs from walking into the corner of the bed frame a few times in our small hotel room, and I caught myself rolling an ankle on cobblestone or elbowing a stranger in a store several times a day. I even tripped over a signpost at Westminster Abbey and stumbled into an ancient column, making me feel like Clark Griswold in the scene from European Vacation where he knocks over Stonehenge.
- I was hoping that two transcontinental flights would cure (or greatly reduce) my fear of flying . . . but it didn’t. While the flight to London was relatively smooth and over and done with in less than six hours, the flight home was not so grand. Take off was a little rough and 30-45 minutes late. Then about halfway through our trip, the captain actually requested that the flight attendants take their seats, and I heard one attendant say, “Oh, you know it’s going to be bad when they tell us to sit down.”
I white-knuckled it for the next hour, but luckily nothing severe ever happened. Turns out our plane actually diverted from our planned route. While this spared us the apparent intense turbulence, it also added another 30-45 minutes to our flight. And when we landed at JFK, we sat on the runway for another 30-45 minutes, where I had to restrain myself from clawing through the fuselage with my bare hands.
Each way, I was also impossibly uncomfortable. I’ve heard other people talk about how much roomier and comfortable seats are on larger jets for longer flights, but unfortunately this was not the case with either of our planes. I could NOT settle in comfortably at all and certainly could not sleep, despite my exhaustion.
The only GOOD thing about our flights (besides the food), was the fact that on the way home, we flew over Greenland, which had some SPECTACULAR views. (see below):
- One part of our vacation I didn’t cover in my other posts is a new exhibit at Westminster Abbey called the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Collection. It’s an extra 5 quid, but well worth it in my opinion. Admission allows you to take an elevator (or climb 100-some steps) into what I can only describe as the attic section of the Abbey. Here, more fascinating treasures donated by the royal family can be viewed. There are giant crossbeams from the 1100s, ancient tapestries, funeral effigies, ceremonial robes, a tiny stained glass panel of Katherine of Aragon, Margaret Beaufort’s traveling trunk, stunning prayer books, and even a few medieval swords and helmets. Visitors also get an incredible view of the Abbey from above and an amazing glimpse of the grounds from the giant windows. This also allows you to get up close to some of the building’s architecture, which can’t be glimpsed anywhere else.
All in all, it was definitely an adventure. When I think back to my time in London, I will have plenty of fond memories. Among them ~
- Sipping the best sangria I ever tasted in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral at Borough Market
- Walking across Tower Bridge
- Feeling warm and cozy and enjoying amazing pizza at Franco Manca
- The calm beauty of St. James Park
- The unexpected peace I felt at the Church of St Peter ad Vincula, the on site chapel at the Tower of London and near the memorial for Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard
- Being in the presence of Elizabeth the I’s tomb in Westminster Abbey and getting teary-eyed
- Staring up into the bright blue sky in Trafalgar Square and feeling completely at ease
Thank you SO much if you’ve stuck with me through this crazy travel adventure! Give me another year or so and hopefully I’ll post another!