It’s been more than a full calendar year since we took our trip to the UK, and I’m just now taking the time to write about it. I don’t want to call it a “spontaneous” trip, but we talked about it for a few weeks, and booked the trip in January 2018 with plans to leave just two short months later. And if we hadn’t done that, it’s possible we wouldn’t have gone at all since a week before our trip, I found out I was pregnant!
Now that my daughter is just a few months away from celebrating her first birthday, I want to share all of the awesome pictures and stories from our trip, both for posterity’s sake and also to help anyone who may be planning a trip of their own.
So, let’s break it down:
Day 1 (Travel)
We left for London on a Monday morning. I didn’t really know what to expect from a transatlantic flight with it being my first time. We had two layovers, one in Newark and one in Dublin. Just thinking about the time it took us to get over there makes me exhausted. I’m not much of a plane sleeper, so I was only able to snag like an hour total of shut eye during the entire 12 hour trip. We flew Aer Lingus and United, which overall was great. We didn’t have a bad experience except for the fact that we had to leave Newark to check in with Aer Lingus separately and go back through security which was a hassle.
Day 2 (Travel/Sightseeing)
Our flight landed at Gatwick which is about a 30-minute express train ride to Victoria Station, just a few tube stops over from our hotel. We stayed at the Chesterfield Mayfield and while the hotel was gorgeous, the room itself was tiny. I know that’s to be expected in any big city, especially a European one, but when I say tiny, I mean tiny. Like the hallway to get from the door to the bed area was the width of the door, which was just wider than Nick’s shoulders.
Even though it probably wasn’t the best decision time-wise, we both ended up crashing on the bed for a couple of hours before we decided to venture out and get lunch. I had remembered a friend (Hi, Caroline!) recommending the Mayfair Chippy for fish and chips, so we popped in for lunch just as it started to pour down rain. A couple of things we learned at this restaurant: 1) Coca-Cola is served with lemon, 3) “chips” are very thick, and 2) mushy peas are not our thing. I had the haddock and Nick had the cod and we both decided I won that battle.
We headed back to the hotel to get fancied up since we were heading to dinner after a short trip to the Tate Modern. Modern art isn’t really my thing, but Nick loves it. My favorite part was taking in the views from the top floor (which really is the best part in my opinion) and then made our way over to Duck and Waffle, our splurge dinner of the trip. We were celebrating ten years as a couple, so we reminisced about the past decade and giggled about the upcoming changes to our family that no one yet knew except for us and a few select family members. My advice? If you decide to have dinner at Duck and Waffle, get your reservation for about 5:15 (at least at this time of year). It’s early for a dinner, but the perfect chance to watch the sun set. We were able to see the city in full sunlight and also at night.
Day 3 (Sightseeing)
Our first full day in the city was full of culture. We tried to be strategic with where we were going, but I was really really nauseous so that threw a wrench into our plans a bit. We started off the morning at the British Library, which I highly recommend for their special collection that includes everything from lyric sheets with scribbles from The Beatles to the Magna Carta. A very cool and quick visit.
Next we ventured over to the National Portrait Gallery where I FINALLY started using my real camera for the first time. Nick and I always have fun looking at old portraits and paintings. I especially loved the Diana portrait and the one of Kate Middleton. We stopped in for a quick lunch at Honest Burger in South Kensington, which was quite good! We enjoyed having burgers and fries, which was a bit like a taste of home.
That afternoon we spent time walking around the V&A Museum, which was my favorite, and the Natural History Museum. We got through these in record time, conquering them both in about 3.5 hours. I loved the V&A because of the variety of things they had there: super old sculptures and paintings to memorabilia from West End and Broadway shows. If you can only make it to one museum in London, I highly recommend this one.
We finished the day with dinner at Dishoom Carnaby, which was quite a popular joint for young folks. We waited probably an hour for our table, and apparently that’s a short wait for this place. The food was amazing. We tried the chicken tikka, vegetable samosas, pau bhaji, spicy lamb chops, black daal and naan. If you have time, we definitely recommend checking it out.
Day 4 (Tour)
We woke up bright and early this day for our tour to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, Lacock, and Bath. A few folks told us that a bus tour wasn’t worth it but we couldn’t possibly disagree more. We got to get out of the city and see so much history. Going to Windsor and seeing the cathedral where Meghan and Harry would be married (!!!). Stonehenge alone was completely breathtaking… literally because it was so windy and cold there! It’s on the top of a hill with no trees nearby so the amount of wind is insane. Lacock was an adorable little town where a ton of movies and TV shows have been filmed including Harry Potter and the BBC miniseries Pride and Prejudice! Visiting the Roman baths in Bath was also completely stunning. It’s so incredible (and mind-blowing) to see things that are older than our country…
When we finished our tour we went back to the hotel and ordered room service because we had a credit since we booked direct. If you stay at the Chesterfield Mayfair, make sure you book through their website so you can do this too!
Day 5 (Sightseeing)
It turns out that one of Nick’s best friends from high school, Rachel, was in the UK the same time as us. We decided to do Friday together and sightsee! We started off the day walking over to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guards. We thought getting there 30 minutes early would be good…. no, y’all. It was PACKED. We could hardly see anything! Thankfully we saw the changing of the guard at Windsor Castle the day before, which isn’t identical but still sort of the same effect.
We ended up leaving early and heading to Westminster Abbey. This was one of the few sites where you have to pay to enter, but it was so worth it. Seeing the tombs of these famous authors and kings was surreal. My favorite part was Poet’s Corner where many famous authors and poets are buried or memorialized. My husband joked that it was like seeing his entire high school English career in one place.
Afterwards we headed over to Borough Market for lunch, which is a must-see. It’s a giant outdoor market with tons and tons of stalls selling different kinds of food. I grabbed a pad thai from one booth and Nick got a giant hot dog/sausage thing. We also had some amazing donuts that were enough to be a meal by themselves. (Side note: on the way over to Borough Market, we were looking at directions on our phone and Michael Sheen, the actor, passed me! I was totally freaking out but I’m the only one that saw him. I wish I had some composure to say hi.)
To be honest I don’t have any record of what we did after lunch. I know at some point we went back to Rachel’s hotel and took advantage of the executive lounge that she has access to… free snacks and drinks, yes please! We eventually ventured out to dinner at Paradise Indian Restaurant which is a bit of a hole in the wall but the food rivaled if not beat our Indian meal from Day 2. We got so much food for so little money! The restaurant is in the Victoria neighborhood.
After dinner we killed time while waiting to head to Euston Station. We were boarding an overnight train to Edinburgh! I’ll talk more about that in the next installment of our trip recap…