I had 5 days/4 nights in London, which meant I had plenty of time to explore.
My flight from Dublin got in around 10:00AM. I had no idea where I was going, but I was eager to get into the city. Uber was WAY to expensive, so I decided to take the tube. I literally had no idea what I was doing on the tube (as someone from the D.C. area, I should be a pro at public transportation). I looked at a map, and guessed that the London Victoria Station was my best bet, so I bought a ticket and hopped on.
Once I got to Victoria Station, I (again) struggled to figure out how to get to my hostel. I ended up finally asking someone who worked at the staton, and was quickly guided to a bus towards Hyde Park (near my hostel). I thought I knew where I was going, but I ended up getting off the bus 6 blocks too early. With the help of some locals, I got directions for the last 6 blocks, and walked to my hostel.
Despite getting lost along the way, I was SUPER early to my hostel, so I checked my bags, and decided to walk around London. I did not really have a plan, I just started walking back towards Victoria Station. I ended up seeing the Marble arch, the Wellington Arch, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and took an obligatory red phone booth picture.
While walking all over the city, I worked up an appetite, and decided to go back to the hostel to check-in, shower, and get ready for dinner. I decided to splurge a little for dinner with a view and went to SUSHISAMBA.
After dinner I wanted to check out the Queen of Hoxton. This place was super cool, and I am sure I would have enjoyed it more with a friend, but I will admit, as a solo traveler, I did not last long.
As many of you know by now, I am a HUGE fan of free walking tours. While in London, I signed up for the London All-in-One Tour with Sinead O’Leary through Free Tours by Foot. The Tour began outside Green Park Underground Station at the Diana Fountain in Green Park. It was about 6 hours total (with a short break for lunch) and covered about 5 miles total.
The tour included many of the places I already wanted to see:
- Buckingham Palace
- Changing of the Guard
- The Houses of Parliament
- Big Ben
- Westminster Abbey
- 10 Downing St.
- Churchill War Rooms
- Trafalgar Square
- St. James’s Palace
- London Underground
- Temple Church
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- The Tower of London
- The Bank of England
- HMS Belfast
- London Bridge (not to be confused with the Tower Bridge)
- Tate Modern
- Millennium Bridge
- Tower Bridge
- London Eye
- London Monument
- River Thames
After we finished our walking tour, Dianna, Monn, Marija, Sharon, and I all decided to head to the Ye Old Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street for a drink (or two).
After hanging out with some new friends, I went on my way to meet up with some old friends. This really is a small world we live in- it turns out that a friend from work was going to be in London for the night with his wife, and we decided to grab some diner at Pizza Express.
After dinner I was EXHAUSTED and could not wait to get back to my hostel to pass out.
After such a great experience with my free walking tour the day before, I decided to book another tour. Outside of food and music, one of my favorite things to explore in a new city is street art. I decided to sign up for the afternoon East End Graffiti and Street Art Tour, also run through Free Tours by Foot.
Since I had some time to kill in the morning, I decided to head to Portobello Road.
On my way to my afternoon tour, I passed the Tower Bridge and decided to stop for a drink.
After my drink, I met up with my tour group to explore the graffiti and street art in London’d East End. Not only did our tour guide teach us all about the history of graffiti and street art, but she also taught us how this eclectic neighborhood transformed from Victorian slums to the hipster community you see today.
These pieces of art ranged from massive murals that cover entire buildings, to these tiny hidden pieces I would have missed without this tour. I had so much fun learning about each piece and the meaning behind some of the art work. I definitely recommend this tour if you are a fan of art.
As always, after my tour, I was ready to eat. One of the locals I met on my tour recommended I try Poppies Fish & Chips, and I was not disappointed!
After I finished my (early) dinner, I decided to head back to the hostel to shower and make plans for the evening. My friend Lauren reached out to me and suggested that I meet up with her friend Alex who was also in London traveling solo. When I was back on WiFi, she gave me his number and told him that I would be reaching out.
I texted Alex, and made plans to meet him at the London Eye. Since both of us only had service on WiFi, I decided to meet him at Ned’s Noodle Bar, so that we would not get lost in the crowd by the London Eye. We each shared a description of what we were wearing and headed on our ways to meet up.
Upon arriving at the London Eye, I could not for the life of my find this damn noodle bar. My offline maps were failing me, and I could not find anywhere close that had WiFi. I began panicking and started to ask around if anyone knew where this mysterious Ned’s Noodle Bar was. Of course I was surrounded by other tourists, so no one could help me out. At this point I was 25 minutes late to Alex, and felt so bad that he was probably having the same trouble I was having finding this non-existent restaurant. Finally, I saw two women who were carrying Chinese take-out, and frantically ran up to them to see where they got their food from (I am sure they thought I was some crazy American). They directed me one block behind the London Eye and I finally found Alex (how sweet was he for not leaving after I was 30 minutes late). After apologizing for my tardiness, Alex and I decided to grab some drinks at the Tattershall Castle pub on the Thames.
This adorable little boat on the water was so much fun! They had a cute bar on the top deck, and a little dance floor below deck.
Side note: After talking with Alex and getting to know him, it tuns out that he was Lauren’s “friend” in the loosest definition of the word. Lauren actually matched with Alex on Bumble when he was passing through New York on a train. Upon hearing this news, I realized that I had agreed to meet up with a stranger, late at night, in a foreign city, and agreed to go on a boat with him. I became very aware of the fact that, if this was a Liam Neeson movie, this would be the part where Alex abducts me and sells me into some sex slave trade. And unlike the movie Taken, I had no one that would be equipped to come save me. Luckily for me, Alex was a great guy, and a ton of fun to hangout with. Crisis averted.
Like I said before, Alex was super fun to hangout with, and very easy to talk to. We both had one more full day in London, and agreed to explore together. We started our day at Abbey Road.
Fun Fact: My great-grandfather, Paul Cole, was visiting London with my great-grandmother when the Beatles were shooting their Abbey Road album cover. My great-grandmother wanted to go into some more museums, but my great-grandfather decided to stay outside. While waiting outside, he started talking to a police officer, and was commenting on the weird men walking back and forth on the street taking pictures. A few months later, when the Beatles released the Abbey Road album, my great-grandfather realized who they were and saw himself in the background!
When Alex and I got to Abbey Road, I had him take a picture of me standing back behind the crosswalk. It was so cool getting to stand where my great-grandfather once stood…although he photobombed the Beetles, so he is way cooler than I am!
After we finished taking pictures at Abbey Road, Alex and I decided to head to Camden Market for some lunch. There were so many cool food trucks/street food, it was almost impossible to pick just one to try!
I ended up eating at the Arepa Venezuelan Street Kitchen.
After lunch, Alex and I wanted to grab a drink from The Worlds End (any Simon Pegg/Nick Frost fans??)
After grabbing some drinks, Alex and I decided to head back to our individual hostels for a nap before meeting back up at the London Eye later at night (this time we would actually just meet at the London Eye, and not at some random noodle bar).
After our London Eye ride, Alex and I walked around the pier for a bit, then said our goodbyes, and headed back to our hostels.
I woke up early, and hopped on the Tube to the Airport (headed to Italy next).
Looking back, I wish that I had spend more time in England. I would have loved to have taken some day trips to Brighton, Oxford, Salcombe, and Cornwall. Next time!