Travel Log: London


And so we come to the end of my Europe travel recaps (although someone asked me if I was going to write a post about our budgeting and spending on this trip, which I might do!). This is kinda long, so I'm going to put a link to our London travel video here at the top. It's also embedded at the bottom of this post!

We left Cambridge on Thursday and took the train to London, where we stayed at a hotel very near the Paddington underground station (for anyone reading who knows where that is). The above photo was taken on the street outside our hotel on our last morning. There was a whole thing I'll have to mention if I do our budgeting post. I originally booked an Air BnB with what I now realize was a really bad cancellation policy. Lesson learned! After doing a bit more research, we realized that we didn't want to stay in that location because it would be too far and annoying to commute into central London each day. So we cancelled that (losing 50% of our payment super bummer!), and I was able to get one of the last rooms at a hotel that was a bit more expensive than the Air BnB but so much better location-wise. And it really wasn't even that expensive... right around $100 per night.
Anyway, enough about that. We spent the rest of Thursday, all day Friday, all day Saturday, and the morning on Sunday in London. Our flight back to Boston left in the late afternoon, and we ended up just going to the airport super early because we didn't want to carry our bags around and we had to check out of the hotel.

Our schedule for Friday and Saturday looked pretty much the same: set alarms for 8:00, leave the hotel by 9:00, stop at the bakery next door and get muffins for "take away" (to go in British speak), walk through Hyde Park into central London, and spend the day walking around. We  didn't get back to our hotel until 6:30 or 7:00 or so and estimate that we walked at least 10 miles each day!
After spending 4.5 days in three smaller towns, London was definitely quite the experience. It was louder and busier and more expensive, and I think if we had to choose, we preferred our time in Liverpool and York the best. However, we thought London was super neat and had such a great time wandering around! It was fun to be somewhere that was so international. I mean there's just nowhere quite like it.

We bought tickets for one of those hop on/hop off bus tours, which was great because we got to see a lot of the city in a short span of time. Probably the coolest thing we did was take a tour inside the state rooms of Buckingham Palace! The Queen is out of town vacationing for a few months during the summer, and each year they open up the Palace for viewing for a few set weeks. When I saw we were going to be in London during that time, I knew we had to do it. You aren't allowed to take any photos inside, so I don't have any to share, but you can Google some of them if you want to know more. We saw the throne room, the banquet hall, different drawing rooms, the grand staircase, the hall where part of the Royal art collection is displayed, and we ended in the back of the Palace where the Queen hosts her garden parties.
The tour was neat because it wasn't your typical tour where you are part of a group and have one guide. Each person was given headphones and a little audio player, and you could move through the tour at your own pace. Each room had its own section of the audio, where it explained the decorations and furniture and design. You could go through it as fast or slow as you wanted and take time to sit and rest if you needed!
Of course we saw all the major sights: London Eye, Big Ben (covered in scaffolding until 2021!), Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, British Museum, Kensington Palace... We stumbled upon Piccadilly Circus entirely by accident and didn't realize we had even seen it until we were back home. 

I've heard of Piccadilly Circus, of course, but didn't know what it was exactly. On Saturday afternoon we were going to take a ferry ride on the river, but we didn't think we'd make it in time, so we decided to wander around a bit. We ran right into Chinatown, which was super neat, and then that dumped us out into this big open area. There was a huge billboard and tons of people and music playing, and Jordan said, "Hey this kinda looks like Times Square." I took some pictures and a video because it was neat, and we went on our way.

My first day back at work, a coworker stopped by my desk and asked how our trip was and what we saw. Then she asked if we went to Piccadilly Circus. "I don't think so..." I replied. After she walked away, I decided to look it up and see what it was after all. IT WAS THAT PLACE WITH THE BILLBOARD. Wouldn't you know. We went there and didn't even realize it! 
So that is something I can't stop laughing about. I mean who does that?

Another highlight was the British Museum. We knew the Rosetta Stone was there (so cool!), but we didn't know Cleopatra's mummy was there! We were in one of the rooms and saw a huge crowd of people in front of one specific case taking tons of photos, so we went over to see what the deal was, and it was Cleopatra! Why is it cool to see a super old mummy, which is HUMAN REMAINS. It's weird but cool. They actually have a ton of mummies there, like 2 rooms just full of mummies. It's late, so I'm going to type the word mummies again. Mummies.
Basically we saw all the things and ate all the food. Allllll the food. After being in London for .89 seconds we both started panicking about how much it was going to cost to eat there for 3.5 days. That said, when we travel, we consider eating good food 98% of a successful vacation, so we didn't want to just eat cheap sandwiches. We compromised our bellies and our budget by choosing one meal to eat cheap and one to eat expensive. If we ate cheap for lunch, we got an expensive dinner. If we ate an expensive lunch, we ate cheap for dinner. I think it worked out pretty well!

Okay I'll spare you more stories. Maybe I'll write up a budget post if there's interest. Hello if you're still reading! Photo dump below :) So thankful for truly the vacation of a lifetime. 

London, UK from Amanda Bumgarner on Vimeo.
Unknown said...

Ah London is one of my favorite places on earth! I was able to go for a weekend as a super poor study abroad student when I was in Spain, then again with my dad for a random short work trip he had, then with Joe last fall on our anniversary trip and I’ve loved it each time. Glad you were able to enjoy it and such a good call on switching up the hotel!

Sarah said...

i am dying to go to london! guess i better start saving! haha

AnneMarie said...

That is so funny that you didn't realize you went to Piccadilly Circus until afterwards! That is so cool that you got to see the Rosetta Stone. Whoa.

Betsy said...

Walking is the best way to see London - you guys covered so much ground! I want to hear about the food though :P

Jen said...

The architecture there is just amazing! You guys really were able to see so much.

Audrey said...

AH! Platform 9 3/4!! HAHA!
I love this post! I want to visit London/the UK so so badly. Your experience sounds amazing. I love how much ground you guys covered! So cool that you were able to visit the palace while the Queen was away! What an awesome trip! Your pictures are gorgeous!

Maria said...

I'm so so jealous of your Buckingham palace tour. I don't do Bravo cheesy Housewives shows or The Bachelor or any of that junk, but I'm a die hard British Royal Family fan and I don't care what people think. It's my guilty pleasure. So so cool that they let you do tours. And I agree that the headphone tours are the best. They warm my introverted heart because I don't have to pretend I'm listening to a tour guide and try to keep up with other people.

Again, so happy for you that you got to take this trip and setting the alarm for 8am sounds like a vacation in and of itself.

Rach said...

I want to go!!! You guys saw SO much in such a short period of time! Especially seeing the inside of the palace! How neat! The hop on/hop off bus tour sounds like it was the way to go to see so much in such a short time. And stumbling on famous places is cool too, haha! There have been times when we are traveling and we stumble onto some random place that seems famous or important so we pull up Google maps to see where we are, ha! As always, love your travel videos! :)

Robyn B said...

it's so trippy to look at your photos b/c i've been in some of these exact spots and taken some very similar photos! ahhh i love London so much! your trip looks like it was amazing! i wanna go back! haha