London is a labyrinth, half of stone and half of flesh.
Jane Austin, BBC, Sherlock Holmes, afternoon tea, red phone booths, history, All The Period Pieces, English accents, pubs. I’ve wanted to visit England forever. It is all smashed together in my brain as one giant thing. England.
This first day was a blur of people, food, smells, sights, and city. I was overwhelmed to the maximum and mostly followed Chris around the whole day. I truly had no concept of what a big place London is. And I watch YouTube vlogs almost every day just to see it.
We woke up and oriented ourselves to our hotel. We ended up in Shaftesbury Premier London Paddington Hotel– a very lovely hotel in a very lovely section of London. Shaftesbury has many hotels in this area but we were in the one closest to Paddington Station and the outside looked more like the entrance to a townhouse than a hotel. I would stay here again in a second. Here is a map to help you see where we were. Paddington Station and Lancaster Gate were the two stations we used to get around. You can see that Notting Hill and Kensington are close by.
And then a larger pull back of where in London we were. A combination of tube riding and walking will get you from our hotel to the Tower of London in about 40 minutes – walking alone would be 2 hours.
We decided to take breakfast in the hotel – We got free breakfast because of the mix up the night before with our hotel room. Chris got a bunch of tasty items but I felt a bit queasy and got some cold gluten free cereal with a banana in it.
In a matter of minutes we walked to the tube station near our hotel – Paddington. I never took a photo of Paddington Station so I found one online. We went in and looked around for a bit figuring out how to get a pass, which one was best, and where in the world all the little lines went to. There were all kinds of delays and shut down routes so we had to search the big map to figure out how to get where we wanted to go. I had never been in a city anywhere near this big before and we quickly realized I am a country girl. Who knew??
Once we got our Oyster cards we got on the metro and took it to Baker Street. A group of uniformed school children got on the tube with their teacher the same time we did. I watched her counting the kids to make sure she had everyone – universal teacher language.
We decided to get on a tour bus and take it around London to see the sights. You can sort of see the sign for the Big Red tour bus in the background. This is probably usually a great thing to do but there was a lot of construction when we were there and the bus would sit in the same spot for ten minutes at a time. We were hardly moving. After a while people started asking if they could get off the bus. When we got to a stop that was somewhat nearby where we wanted to be we got off too and we didn’t get back on. By this point we had gotten our tube passes, made it to central London, and sat on a tour bus for a very long time. It was lunch.
We passed through the Financial district on the bus. This is what the whole place looked like – everyone drinking and smoking all over the place. We passed back by them a while later and they were all still there.
There was a restaurant I wanted to go to for lunch so we started walking about trying to find it. We walked in and it was so hot and stifling that we walked back out. We looked at the menu and it was so super expensive and I just wasn’t feeling it. It wasn’t what I really wanted so we kept walking.
We passed by this restaurant –Dion -and when we saw the shaded outdoor seating we walked right over. The weather felt perfect, there wasn’t much foot traffic where we were and we looked over to our right and saw we were sitting right next to Paul’s Cathedral. We had a wonderful relaxing lunch in the fresh clean air.
We split the Fish and Chips and a Caesar salad and got the triple sorbet. The sorbet was amazing in the UK. We will definitely be going back to this little spot. I highly recommend it if you are headed to St. Paul’s Cathedral.
After we ate we just started walking again. There aren’t many photos. There were just too many people to pull over and take a picture! Everywhere you turned there was a person. We decided to walk to Westminster Abbey. It was incredible but packed with people and I didn’t want to pay the admission price (this is how I can tell the level of overwhelm I was feeling). We walked around the outside, I stood where Kate Middleton stood as she turned to wave at the press on her wedding day (next time I will wear a dress and get a photo of myself waving), and we walked all through the gift shop.
I knew that I wanted to go back for Italian again that night and Chris wanted to spend a long time eating and get a nice table outside. I came up with a little mantra for walking up stairs. As we walked up and down stairways and alleys I said in my head “Pa-sta-Pa-sta-tort-e-llin-i” with each step. I figured the more steps I took the more tortellini I could eat.
After that we started our way back to Hyde Park. We would walk for what seemed like forever and then I would cave and say OK we can try the tube again. Eventually we got back to Hyde Park and our Italian place. We decided a long dinner outside with some red wine sounded just great. This is Taormina Restaurant in London. I got the Cheese Tortellini and Chris got the Aglio e Olio – pasta with garlic and olive oil. We had the best tiramisu ever for dessert. I would absolutely fly to London just for this dinner.
After we ate we walked back up to our hotel and settled in early. It was a very romantic and lovely night.
In retrospect if we had this day to do over again I would spend it in Notting Hill or just pick one thing to go and see. We really thought we could check out the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and do the bus tour all in one day. If you are headed to London I would highly recommend getting friendly with a good map of the city, label the areas you are interested in, and map out the tube lines you might take. There is so much to see. If you end up in an area – like we ended up by St. Paul’s Cathedral- take a bit and explore where you are. Be OK with letting some things go to enjoy the others more.