What a wonderful time my daughter and I had in London and Paris!
We dreamed of the trip for a couple of years and I planned it for about 10 months. The planning really paid off because everything went beautifully. I'm so grateful for all I learned here on Fodors. For me, the most helpful thing was to read trip reports - and lots of them. I highly recommend this to anyone planning a trip to a new place. Many thanks to those of you who write them and I hope mine will help someone.
We flew Delta from Atlanta to Heathrow and returned from Paris to Atlanta on Air France (what a nice airline). We took the Eurostar from London to Paris.
While in London we spent 7 nights at Number Sixteen in South Kensington http://www.firmdalehotels.com/london/number-sixteen/
In Paris we spent 7 nights at Henri IV Rive Gauche in the Latin Quarter
http://www.henri-paris-hotel.com/ My mom joined us in Paris for our week there
I mostly chose the hotels by reviews, price point and proximity to at least one major landmark or attraction of interest. I read reviews on Trip Advisor but made sure they'd been mentioned positively at least once here on Fodors.
I booked my flights and hotels in February.
We flew Economy Comfort to London but Coach home, as Economy Comfort was full.
My daughter and I both slept for the majority of both long flights, which was a relief.
Day One - travel day
We landed at LHR at 12:38pm. We landed, had almost no wait for Passport Control, made quick trip to bathroom, had a bit of a wait for luggage, walked through Customs, took elevator down to tube level, bought tube tickets (7-day travel cards, loaded onto Oyster cards w/ extra £ for travel from LHR to hotel) and were on the tube at 1:26pm. We were at our hotel before 2:30pm.
Taking the tube from the airport was one of the best tips I got here on Fodors. So easy (one rolling suitcase each) and no hair-raising and/or nauseating car ride (I've had bad experiences with this on other trips). Piccadilly line all the way from airport to South Kensington station and then less than 5 min. walk to hotel. Excellent.
Unfortunately our suitcases were wet and the outer layers of clothing were damp. Luckily, our hotel room had two large exposed beams We unpacked and hung some our wet clothes out to dry and then walked back to S. Ken station and took Circle line 2 stops to Kensington High Street. Walked to Kensington Gardens and Kensington Palace, took a look in the shop and then walked to the Orangery and had tea. We have tea every afternoon at home (my grandmother was English and my mother has always observed tea time) and this was not only comforting for us after our night and day of travel but also a very nice and proper welcome to England. The tea was perfect - here and everywhere else we ordered tea in London. Must be the water. Fantastic. We enjoyed the elegant but relaxed surroundings and the friendly waitstaff. http://i883.photobucket.com/albums/ac38/urbanhymns/104-1.jpg
We walked to the Sunken garden, which was very pretty. http://i883.photobucket.com/albums/ac38/urbanhymns/116-1.jpg
http://i883.photobucket.com/albums/ac38/urbanhymns/112.jpg - and then decided to walk north in the park to explore but the drizzle turned to rain, so, soon after passing a marker for the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Walk http://i883.photobucket.com/albums/ac38/urbanhymns/120-1.jpg
we turned back. We walked by the Round Pond in a steady rain. There are lovely swans there http://i883.photobucket.com/albums/ac38/urbanhymns/123-Copy.jpg Took the tube back to our hotel and were happy to be back in our cozy room for the night. http://i883.photobucket.com/albums/ac38/urbanhymns/085.jpg
Showered and were in bed by 8. My daughter wrote in her journal and I did a bit of reading/research. It's so great to have a long trip ahead of you (one whole week in a city qualifies as "long" for me!). I love that feeling.
I woke up in the night feeling I'd had hours of sleep and that it must be early morning. It was only midnight. I went right back to sleep.
Day Two, Friday the 13th
Woke up before 7am.
Took the District line to St. James's Park station.
**Let me mention here that I used MetrO app on my iPhone and NEVER made a single blunder. I think it was tailsock who mentioned this app (it works offline) and I will tell you - it made my trip so much easier. Huge thanks.**
We got coffee and ham and cheese croissants at a Pret A Manger and started walking in the direction of Westminster Abbey. It was a nice morning and there were very few people out and about on the sidewalks. To suddenly see "Big Ben" and Westminster Abbey and Parliament and the London Eye all at once was quite stunning. http://i883.photobucket.com/albums/ac38/urbanhymns/146-2.jpg
We were as giddy as could be. We had our little breakfast sitting on a bench behind the Abbey, and then walked over Westminster Bridge. I couldn't stop taking photos. http://i883.photobucket.com/albums/ac38/urbanhymns/ce50a022.jpg We decided to walk over to the London Eye and arrived there at 7:55. Unfortunately, they don't open until 10. I'd never planned to begin any day with a ride on the Eye, so I had no idea what time they opened. Only closing times. I took photos of the (for now empty) area http://i883.photobucket.com/albums/ac38/urbanhymns/dc90b3c6.jpg and then we walked back toward the bridge and then west along the South Bank a little way (I assume these are the right directions). http://i883.photobucket.com/albums/ac38/urbanhymns/0cd0089b.jpg
We then walked back over Westminster Bridge and returned to Westminster Abbey. It was still early (8:15a?) but I decided to "line up" for the Abbey. Other people started arriving at 8:30.
Opening was delayed a bit and we got in right at 9:45 (instead of 9:30). How nice that Jeremy Irons narrates the audioguide. I've always liked him and my daughter has recently started watching "The Borgias" and just loves him. I'd planned to sign up for verger-led tour but had NOT planned to be up and out so early in the morning. Since we'd already waited around for a couple of hours, we didn't want to wait any more, so we had to just go with the audioguide and, for us, it was quite sufficient.
We loved visiting the Abbey. I think the Lady Chapel is one of the most beautiful rooms I've ever seen.
We enjoyed the little shop. I bought a deck of cards (I collect them) and my daughter bought two CDs - Organ Music and Music for Royal Occasions (or something like that).
We left WA at 11:15a and walked (thanks to some advice I'd read that janisj had given another poster recently. Thanks.) via Birdcage Walk to Buckingham Palace. The timing was such that we got to see some of the Changing of the Guard. http://i883.photobucket.com/albums/ac38/urbanhymns/89c6022d.jpg
Quite a madhouse but very festive to get to see, as I hadn't planned it and had decided before our trip not to bother with the ceremony. We walked (slowly) through the crowds and through Green Park, to the GP tube and took the tube "home" to S. Ken.
We stopped for lunch at Muriel's Kitchen, right outside the South Kensington tube station and had lasagna, chicken & chickpea curry, 2 Cokes for £23, incl. tip. Cute place, with wonderful-looking baked goods in window. I love the giant meringues. http://www.murielskitchen.co.uk/
Speaking of which, we couldn't believe how many restaurants, cafes and bakeries were in London. I've never seen so many places to get something to eat in my entire life.
We returned to our hotel to rest a bit, as we had late afternoon and evening plans.
Around 4:15 we left the hotel and took tube to Piccadilly Circus, to walk to The Wolseley for tea at 5pm. I'd timed it so that we would have a late tea for supper and then walk to see "Matilda" at the Cambridge Theatre. It worked very well. On the way to tea, we passed a market outside St. James's Church, where my daughter fell in love with a peachy-pink fascinator with a veil. It looked so beautiful on her that I had to buy it. I think it was the single most expensive thing we bought during our trip and we had to ship it home before we left London, as I knew it would get crushed in luggage or carry-ons. Luckily, there was a Mailboxes, Etc. right around the corner from Number Sixteen. There was also a post office, a drugstore, a Starbucks, a Pret A Manger - and a Lamborghini dealership http://i883.photobucket.com/albums/ac38/urbanhymns/136-Copy.jpg
Tea at The Wolseley was something I'd seen recommended by several sources and it really did not disappoint. Very good service and delicious tea and scones and sandwiches, etc. I didn't love the atmosphere - but we enjoyed it. I had a raspberry tart that was exquisite - very fresh. We actually split the tea and my daughter got a "crispy bacon roll" that hit the spot. The Wolseley has a great menu. http://thewolseley.assets.d3r.com/pdfs/original/256-cafe-web.pdf
We had arrived early for tea and were ahead of schedule for our 7:30 show. So, we walked to the National Portrait Gallery. We really enjoyed it, my daughter especially. She couldn't believe her eyes when she saw the Anne Boleyn portrait she's seen so much in her study of history and in books and media. http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portraitLarge/mw00142/Anne-Boleyn?LinkID=mp00109&search=sas&sText=anne+boleyn&OConly=true&role=sit&rNo=0
She was thrilled and spent a good bit of time checking out the Tudor and Elizabethan portraits.
We were hoping to see the portrait of Princes William and Harry http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portraitLarge/mw142385/Prince-William-Duke-of-Cambridge-Prince-Harry?LinkID=mp06337&search=sas&sText=duke+of+cambridge&role=sit&rNo=4 but it was not on display. We did see Diana's 1981 portrait, and were able to see the famous William Shakespeare portrait as well as many others, such as Liz Taylor by Andy Warhol, and many things in between The NPG has a great gift shop. I bought one of my nieces the most adorable stuffed corgi http://www.npg.org.uk/shop/shop-list.php?cat=royalty&inx=21&showProductDetails=5461 .
We returned later in the week for "The Queen Art and Image" exhibition, which I enjoyed even more than I expected.
We walked to see "Matilda" and the show was tons of fun. It's a great show for children and adults. Riotously funny in some scenes. We really loved it! Getting in and out of the theatre was so much more quick and relaxed than on Broadway, I noticed. Perhaps it was just a small theatre, I'm not sure. I think I bought these tickets in March.
Tube from Covent Garden (which was mobbed - we walked down 193 steps rather than wait for lifts) back to South Ken. On the way back to our hotel the Pret A Manger across from the tube station was still open. We got coffees to go and went back to hotel.
Great first couple of days in London
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What a wonderful time my daughter and I had in London and Paris!