As promised, I’ve decided to trace out my travel plans from this summer. I hope my post inspires some of you to explore and seek out adventures solo or not! I took a flight from Toronto Pearson to Gatwick Airport with one stopover. It was the perfect redeye because I slept through both flights and arrived in the UK refreshed and ready to start my adventure at 8 in the morning.
The second I got out of baggage pickup (quick and painless since I only had carry-ons!), I searched for the Visitor’s Centre. It’s the best place to stop at as a tourist. I picked up an Osyter card, topped it off and received a bunch of instructions on how to access the airport wifi, travel maps, a step by step guide on how to get to my hotel, an essential Tube map and instructions on how to use the Osyter Card. I definitely recommend stopping at the Visitor’s Centre before starting your trip!
I somehow navigated the Tube and took a double decker to the Kensington House Hotel right next door to the Kensington Gardens. I scored a CAD $110/3nights through the hotel website which isn’t bad at all for a 4 star place! I dropped off my stuff, put stars on my Google Maps and looked up directions by public transport to a bunch of places and off I went to explore London. Here’s a link to how I planned out my entire trip: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Lthx158Nuaz2BZhRFYUjX78bw6c&usp=sharing!
Day 1: I decided to take the bus to Portobello Market, a must see in Notting Hill. It was so quaint and busy and lovely. I wish I had extra space in my luggage, because my biggest regret is not buying the vintage Enid Blyton I spotted at a roadside bookstall. The colourful houses of Nottinghill are actually gorgeous in person and the Nottinghill Bookstore from the Hugh Grant/Julia Roberts movie is actually adorable. I somehow got a kind Korean tourist who spoke no English to take a photo of me at the bookstore (it didn’t look like the kind of place one take selfies in).
I passed someone who looked like Bansky spray painting a Bansky-like teddy bear on a wall, which was beyond cool. I then took a bus to explore Kensington Gardens, Kensington Palace and Hyde Park all in the steady downpour for which London is known. I also explored Harrods and then decided to watch a play in the evening. The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie (my favourite mystery novelist) was fantastic and the St. Martin’s Theatre is a must see even if you don’t like plays.
I finished the day by grabbing a meal from Stick and Bowl (the BEST asian restaurant) and a few French macaroons from Harrods.
Day 2: Going off of the maps I’d created in Toronto, I started off my day at Buckingham Palace, where I decided to save my money and not explore the interior. The exterior itself is lovely and since the flag was raised, I heard the queen was actually at the palace–I did not see her unfortunately.
Not discouraged by the rainy weather, I continued onwards through St. James Park to see the gorgeous Westminster Abbey, the Palace of Westminster, Big Ben, explore Somerset House where I took a break with a well deserved chocolate and lemon polenta.
The British Museum was my next stop where I stopped by the Rosetta Stone and bought a few souvenirs. I walked through the Sicilian Avenue with its lovely archway and quaint shop lined street.
I also visited the Harry Potter Shop at Kings Cross and a lineup which I avoided. Instead I bought a Deathly Hallows pin, a Hogwarts notebook and a keychain which I will forever treasure. I ended my day by stopping off at the Coca Cola London Eye, seeing the line up and deciding that the view couldn’t possibly be worth the wait time or the cost!
I recommend walking along Westminster Bridge to have the most amazing view over the Thames of both the Westminster Palace and the London Eye on the opposite sides. A complimentary beer at my hotel’s bar concluded a tiring but wonderful day.
Day 3: This was my most relaxed day since it was my last in London. I started off by attending an Anglican service at the St. Paul’s Cathedral and relaxing after, taking in the view of the stunning ceilings.
The architecture, the painting, the atmosphere is all worth the cost and more in my opinion. I climbed to the very top of the dome which gave me incredible views of the city (made me feel better about skipping the London Eye). After, I took a circuitous route through Saint Dunstan in the East, a haven with gothic ruins from WWII, to get to the Tower of London where I got the classic fish and chips before entering.
I must say I was slightly disappointed by the Crown Jewels and I’d say if you have something else you’d rather pay for, do that instead of paying for entrance at the Tower of London. It was still nice enough and the architecture was cool. I found the exterior to be worth my time spent there. The Tower Bridge is a must! It looks like a Disney bridge, colourful and something out of Cinderella.
The views of the Shard and the city are pretty cool too. I walked over to Tate Modern which was a bit of a hike and explored the paintings and the collection. The building itself is nothing special but the collections are worth it, especially since it’s free (donations are welcomed). Plus, the Shakespeare Globe is close by and the bank has a great view of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
I decided to end my evening exploring Covent Garden and taking in the theatre scene with some gelato and then grabbed dinner with I proceeded to enjoy with a book in Kensington Gardens.
Overall, London was fantastic. It was worth every penny I spent. I met several wonderful people and I experienced so much I had always read about or watched on TV. It is absolutely possible to see at least 80%-90% of tourist spots and more in 3 days. I didn’t feel rushed at all and I enjoyed everything at my own pace. A lot of this trip was done foot, saving me bus fare and also allowed me to see the city the way a local does. I’m definitely going back for a longer trip because London has so much more to see. But if you have three days, I hope my guide helps you see the finer points of London without feeling like you missed out!
I’d love to hear from you in the comments on things I missed out on during my trip and any recommendations you have from experience! Part III will encompass my solo adventures in Switzerland–stay tuned!
Until next time,