One of the great things about living in Paris is that you can get to a lot of major European cities quickly and relatively inexpensively. For example, you can hop a train and be in London in 2.5 hours. That’s exactly what we did last Thursday after finding half-price Eurostar fares.
As you probably know, London is an extremely expensive city. To keep damage to a minimum, we limited our trip to two nights and three days. It was just enough time to leave us wanting more of this vibrant, global city.
As is true of most of our travels, this trip was centered around seeing the sights and eating the food. We managed to see many of the main attractions (Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Tate Modern, etc.) from the outside at least. Entrance fees were outrageously high for many (20 pounds per person, $30.34, to see Westminster Abbey!), so we mostly took pictures from the outside and checked them off our list.
The one sight we did decide to cough up our hard-earned cash to see was St. Paul’s Cathedral. While it is beautiful on the inside, we were most interested in seeing the view from the top. And we lucked out with the best weather we could have asked for.
Finally, if there are any Harry Potter fans reading this, these photos are for you.
One of our favorite things about London was the wide variety of cuisines readily available. In that regard, it felt more global than Paris. We stuffed our faces with all kinds of interesting, spicy foods (which are nowhere to be found in Paris because the French are worse than Minnesotans), including, of course, tons of Indian. To eat all of these things, we visited several markets (including the amazing Borough Market), local pubs, and Brick Lane.
The most exciting and rewarding place we visited in London was Camden Market. Camden Town is a strange and eccentric neighborhood that is essentially one giant flea market. Camden Market carries on the vibe, but adds in a mind-blowing number of international food stands. We wandered around for about an hour in a total daze unsure of where to start or what to try first. It took a woman offering a us tastes of her Filipino dishes to snap us out of it get us into action. If you make it to London and you like to eat food, please, do not skip this place.
Lastly, since it is December, London was exploding with Christmas cheer. The Hyde Park Winter Wonderland featured hot wine, ice skating and Christmas-themed rides. The Tower Bridge and the Tate Modern both had their own Christmas markets offering sweet and savory treats and handmade gifts. And of course, Harrods was decked out in holiday displays and packed full of tourists anxious to get their hands on anything that displayed the brand name. We stopped in to get an ornament – our traditional souvenir. What we thought would take 20 minutes ended up taking a good hour after we got lost and ended up in the Swarovski crystal section.
We had a blast in London and would encourage anyone who hasn’t been to check it out. (If you’ve been and think we missed something cool, let us know because we’ll probably go back.) The cost can be prohibitive, but we saved a little by using the Oyster card for the Tube and buses (it’s about half the price of using regular tickets, which can cost 4.80 pounds per one-way trip) and the money you don’t use up can be refunded at the end of your trip as well as the deposit for the card itself. We stayed in one of the Tune Hotels, a budget chain that gives you the bare minimum in a tiny room and charges for extras like towels, Internet service and windows. We got stuck with probably the worst mattress I’ve ever slept on even though they advertise five-star beds, and our bathroom had a weird funk coming from it at all times, but for a short trip at 70 pounds a night, we’d probably stay there again.
Now that we’re back home, we’re preparing for my family to arrive on Thursday for Christmas and New Year’s. Our Christmas tree is up and decorated, and Andy has Christmas Eve dinner all planned out. We are all going to Krakow together on Friday, so look out for a post on that in the coming weeks.
With 2015 coming to a close, we are starting to think about places we need to visit during our eight remaining months in Paris. We are already planning a trip to Norway, likely in March since it is one of the best times to see the northern lights. Morocco is high on the list, too, as well as other parts of France. If you have any suggestions based on your own travels, we are all ears!