My 36th birthday was June 15th, so naturally we booked a birthday trip. This year, I decided to spend my special day in London. Herbie lived there about 17 years ago and this was my first time in the U.K. And thanks to my awesome cousin, Minnie’s recommendations we had a wonderful time!
We stayed at the Pestana Chelsea Bridge hotel. Although it met our comfort level, it was not near a metro stop. There is not much to see within walking distance from the hotel, I think it’s more for conventions. We ended up using Uber most of the time we were there. London is train friendly, and the best way to get around is to buy the Oyster Card. You can purchase them at any train station (or tube as they call it in London).
After checking in to our hotel, we went out looking for food. We found a spanish place called Boqueria and their tapas were delicious!
That night we had reservations for a Mad Hatter’s Tipsy Evening Tea. It is a summer rendition of the traditional afternoon tea in celebration of the Chelsea Flower Show. Instead of the tea normally served, we each received four cocktails with tasty treats to spend the evening. And Tipsy Evening is right!
The next day was a busy day. We woke up early and headed over to the Buckingham Palace for Changing of the Guard ceremony. Sadly, there are no tours of the palace until July, so watching this ceremony was as good as it got. We managed to get a good spot and were able to witness the ceremony with no obstruction.
On our way to Buckingham Palace, we found a breakfast restaurant that was poppin’. It was busy with construction men, so we took it as a sign of good food. If it’s good enough for the locals, it’s good enough for me. Their English breakfast was on point and we left full and glad we found the spot. The restaurant is called Vale Victoria so if you are in the area, this is a place to eat.
After the Changing of the Guards ceremony and a great breakfast, we went to Westminster Abbey. It is important to buy tickets online if you want to visit this church so you can skip the long line. The church belongs to the religion Church of England and has many notable people buried there or remembered there. One of the notable people buried in this church is Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. If you’ve seen the Tudors or the movie “The Other Boleyn Girl” then you are familiar with their fascinating story.
As soon as you come out of Westminster Abbey, you see Big Ben. You cannot miss the big clock as it is impressively situated by the river. Stop and take pictures, then head out to the bridge and take a picture by the London Eye ferris wheel. I am not too fond of heights, so we decided to skip the ride, but we were able to take pictures with the wheel as our background.
One of our meals (well more than one) was at Nando’s. They serve the best chicken, hands down. It’s Peruvian style chicken and their sauces…omg! The best. They’re so good, they sell the sauces and you better believe we brought some back. Too bad they haven’t expanded to the United States. They would make a killing.
Soho is the place to go at night. It is lively and China town is nearby. There are a lot of bars and stores and so much to see! We went to a bar and had some cocktails while we listened to 80’s music. It was a nice way to end our day.
We made it out to the Borough Market. It is a market where you can find local ingredients as well as imported goodies. We bought some French cheese and local gourmet mustard that takes our sandwiches to a whole ‘nother level. Outside the market (right next to it) is a Spanish restaurant called Brindisa. It has awesome breakfast and I hear their lunch and dinner is great as well!
After the market, we headed to the Tower of London by crossing the London Bridge. It was a nice walk and the day was beautiful so we stopped to take a lot of pictures (but of course).
The Tower of London is another place we bought tickets online for. Just follow the link in the paragraph above and buy tickets in advance to skip the line and even save money. The Tower of London was the highlight of my trip. I’ve followed King Henry VIII’s story and was very excited to see where that part of history took place. It is situated next to the Thames River and has a beautiful view of the Tower Bridge. At the Tower of London, a Tudor building still stands to this day and is guarded 24/7.
It was a day well spent and that night we went to see a play. We picked the “The Book of Mormon” play and bought tickets here. It was a great and funny play. We were entertained from the moment it began until the end. Another show I hear is great is Les Miserables, but we decided to go with a funny play instead.
We left London with a bang (Pagan style). We made reservations for Saturday brunch at Sea Containers located in the Mondrian Hotel. We chose bottomless mimosas (for two hours) for 16 pounds each. We arrived at noon. When our waiter came to take our orders, we found out he was an italian from Rome. We soon became friends 🙂 He kept bringing us drinks, including mimosas, bellinis and bloody marys. At 1:30pm, we knew we had 30 minutes to go before our bottomless fun was over. He came over and said “you just arrived at 1pm, no?” so we got more drinks past our two hours. Needless to say, we got our money’s worth.
Following a fantastic brunch (and feeling tipsy), we went over to the British Library (take the King’s Cross/St Pancras metro stop). The entrance to the library is free and they have a “Treasure’s Room” where you can see actual notes and writings from Bethoven, Shakespeare and the Beatles. You are not suppose to take pictures, however Herbie struck up a conversation with the guard telling him he lived in London almost 20 years ago. And while he was keeping the guard distracted, I managed to take a couple of pictures.
We couldn’t leave London without visiting Abbey Road (metro stop: St John’s Wood Station). This road is where the Beatles took their picture for one of the most iconic album covers of all time.
London was a fun time! I suggest you take walking shoes. We were there for 5 days and walked 29 miles. Also, an umbrella is a must because it rains a lot. I am glad we picked London for my birthday trip. It is a metro city and, although not my favorite, it still has a lot to offer. My cousin goes to London for work, so I’m sure I will meet up her there before we leave back to the states.