72 HOURS IN LOVELY LONDON
How lovely! Just say it in a British accent. You know it sounds charming. And that about sums up our entire experience in this city. The tiny cars, the tea, the fashion, the small walkways, the people - all just lovely. Whenever I was asked where I was from... Oh how lovely! They'd beam. What's your name? How lovely! And I loved it.
Now don't be fooled by the cloud coverage and every local here walking around in long pants in this picture. It was 93 degrees and f*cking hot. The humidity is what took me by surprise, and probably most Brits as well. The UK was having a horrendous heat way in June 2016 when we were there, and we were obviously not prepared for it.
I think I've sweat more in London from intense heat and humidity more than I have in Greece, southern Italy, and Mexico. Yeah.
Nonetheless, we headed to the center of London, Piccadilly Circus and Regent Street, for some of the best shopping (and honestly to buy a couple more pairs of shorts).
One of the must-do foodie things to get here is, of course, fish & chips. We ate at London's best and oldest fish & chips shop, Rock & Soul Plaice, established back in 1871. If you're into fish & chips the size of your arm, eat here. It was truly amazing.
After lunch, we headed to St. James park, luscious and peaceful 42 acre grounds surrounding Buckingham Palace. To our surprise, the entire city was officially celebrating the Queen's 90th birthday. We were met with fleets of ornately decorated and synchronized horses and riders, roaring cannons, parades of marching bands and expensive, classic cars. We had no idea, but grabbed some ice cream and made our way to the palace grounds to catch a glimpse of the Queen.
One of my favorite things to do when in a new city, is just to wander the streets. Find interesting land marks, picturesque alleys, cozy cafes. In London, you can't miss the iconic red phone booths (officially called red telephone boxes) that are dotted around the city. Westminster Abbey also tends to rise from the ground out of nowhere as soon as you turn the corner.
We always do plan/reserve/arrange for a few organized activities wherever we go. My husband and I are both fascinated by World War II history, and so going to the Churchill War Rooms was top of the list. This historic underground complex housed the British government and command center during WWII. This complex, built beneath the Treasury building, was fully operational by August 1939, just a week before Britain declared war on Germany.
You can still see the small rooms where these commanders slept and lived; where the massive computers and map rooms still stand. It was incredibly claustrophobic, but incredibly interesting. Book tickets in advanced, though, to walk right in during your time slot; otherwise, you'll wait in line for an hour+.
Our planned splurge of the trip was experiencing some sky-high fine dining at the famed Aqua Shard restaurant. Home to London's tallest building, the views can't be beat. Would 100% go back for the beautiful and fancy food, drinks, and pampering.
On another food note (and another day), we set out to find the best Indian food in London. And based on some research, we landed at Punjab, seen in the left of this photo, and it did not disappoint.
Mind you, if felt like there was no AC in this restaurant and we don't shy away from ordering that 5 star level of spice. Worth it, though.
And as a bonus, look at the street it was on - Neal Street, in the Covent Garden region in the West End known for its lively and colorful bars, restaurants, theaters, and other fun shops.
Despite all the cool things we did (and still so much left to see on a future trip!), I am still most giddy about visiting the Harry Potter Studios. There are too many pictures to post here, and just too much to see in one visit.
One of the guides cheekily said the longest record time for someone visiting the studio tour was 13 hours. THIRTEEN HOURS. It is all self-guided and you walk through on your own time, which is cool.
They filmed all the movies here, and have left many of the major scenes, and literally every prop ever created. We're talking every wand, wig, and potion bottle. It is honestly mind-blowing, and I think 13 hours may not be enough to truly observe and appreciate everything that is on display there.
We drank butter beer, sat in the Hogwarts Express, walked through the Diagon Alley and Forbidden Forest (which is actually just carpet and hand-painted fake trees). Weird. But also amazing. I interacted with almost every major scene and stage I can think of from the movies, even a miniature (yet still massive) model of the castle and grounds used for aerial shots. It was so cool to see some of the tricks they use to make these movies come to life.
If you are in London, this is a MUST DO. Whenever we do go back, I will visit this place again. It's about 40 minutes outside of London itself, in the middle of nowhere, but the crazy double decker bus ride that plays the first movie the entire trip really makes it that much more... cheeky.
Before we headed off to our next country, we couldn't miss making a stop at Harrod's - London's elaborate shopping emporium with rich and classic interiors, tea, treats, and everything else you can think of. You feel fancy just being in there, so go experience it!