London Calling

London Eye
View of London Eye and Big Ben

My first trip to London this
summer far exceeded my expectations!  This is such a unique city that is full of both old and new and doesn’t conform to anything.  I spent 6 days here and a return visit is a must, I feel like I barely scratched the surface.

We arrived in London late evening and took a cab from Heathrow to our rented flat in the City of London.  I learned much later this is actually the Financial district, but we were really close to the Tower of London and Monument of the Great Fire and tube station so it worked out well.  Our apartment was really nice and well maintained with a lovely roof top deck which excellent views of the City!  We booked using City Marque which is no longer in business and I would say our experience was good, but probably wouldn’t book with them again.  You don’t really talk to anyone, all handled through email and your check in is with codes and key box in the lobby. I had read reviews that others had issues getting access to their apartments with this company and if there ever is an issue it’s 24-48 hours before you can get in touch with anyone as most of the staff is based in the Philippines.

On our first full day we decided to sleep in and walk around our neighborhood.  We found a small grocery a couple blocks away and picked up some breakfast items and drinks that were really reasonably priced.  That afternoon we visited the London Eye and had afternoon tea at a nearby hotel.  I probably should have researched the tea room a bit but while very pricey it was still fun and the highlight of the afternoon when my youngest daughter created some fun.  She reached for a sugar cube using the very dainty and fancy sugar cube tong, just as she had secured the cube and was about to place it in her tea cup the sugar cube flew out of the tongs and across the table, ricocheted off my husband’s water glass and landed into my son’s water glass.  It all happened so fast but sounded like a rock concert in this very stuffy and very quiet tea room, we all giggled and knew that we had brought a bit of our crazy family to the UK experience.

Our second full day we woke up early and took the train to Paris for the day, this makes for a long but very fun day! If I did this again I would spring for a higher class fare as the train was absolutely packed with not one open seat in coach and was a bit hot and sweaty in the heat of summer.  It was fun to watch as we entered the tunnel though and arriving at Gare du Nord we picked up an Uber and headed to the Louvre for our tour.  We used Paris Muse and our guide had designed a very fun scavenger hunt through the Louvre making it fun and historical for the kids.  From the Louvre we headed over to the Eiffel Tower and went all the way to to the very top, I am not scared of heights but the swaying elevator to the top had me a bit nervous!  The views from the very top are amazing, but it is enclosed so I very much enjoy the second level more since it is open and allows you to walk all the way around for magnificent views and a breeze which is nice on a hot summer day!

Our third day we met up with our tour guide early who walked us to the Tower of London where we saw the Armory, the Torture Rooms, Line of Kings, and of course the Crown Jewels! We also had some great pictures of the Tower Bridge and of course the famed Ravens of the Tower.  The legend is that the six Ravens at the Tower protect it and if Ravens depart then Britain has fallen.  From the Tower we took a private car with our guide for a tour of London, we watched the changing of the guard and saw Buckingham Palace.  We also visited Piccadilly and of course Westminster Abbey.  The tour and history through Westminster was amazing and seeing all the famous dignitaries, poets, writers, and more buried within – it was just wow and so much history!

On fourth day we ventured beyond the city to visit Stonehenge and Windsor Castle, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to visit Stonehenge but my daughter wanted to go and I was so glad we did.  The ancient math and science that was used to create this structure and the gorgeous drive out to the site was fantastic!  We again used a private tour guide, he was from London and very knowledgeable, not sure that I would recommend him as he always seemed in a rush to get done early.  It was a very convenient and comfortable way to visit both Stonehenge and Windsor though.

 

 

We ended the day with a tour of Windsor Castle, watched the guards, toured the Castle, viewed the doll house….there was so much to see here and the grounds are beautiful.  We even got a glimpse of Eton College through the trees!

Overall from the food to the history we had such a wonderful visit and I can’t wait to go back!  We packed so much into our brief stay and didn’t have the opportunity to visit any of the larger museums so look for more on London after my next trip!