This is the second in a three part series about our recent trip to Europe. Find Part 1: Paris here.
We left Paris the same way we arrived: by train. We jumped on the metro and then connected to a Eurostar train on its way to London. We made it to London in a little over an hour via the Chunnel, which is about as exciting as it sounds.
Once we reached London, we each bought Oyster cards to use on the tube system. While Paris is very walkable, London is much more spread out and it’s more efficient (and easy) to use the tubes.
Travelers’ Tip: Download a tube app (I like Tube Tamer) that will help you navigate the tube system, and always have a sense of the nearest tube station (especially to your hotel).
Our hotel in London was kind of a bust — I tried to save some money (which was silly, since it was covered by work). It did the job, but I won’t be linking to it because it was just super meh.
The location, however, ended up being a pretty good one: we were near the London Eye, the river, and Waterloo Station, which is where we arrived on the Eurostar and where we would depart to get to the airport. We were just across the river from Parliament, Westminster, and Big Ben, and it was also a central location for the work meetings I had scheduled prior to the trip.
The first evening we were in London, my work meeting brought us to the Mayfair area, which was super swanky. I met my contact at the Mayfair Hotel, which seemed like a really nice place and that I will be keeping in mind for my next visit to London.
While I was working, Troy was busy scoping out the area for
a dinner location bourbon. The search for bourbon continued after I finished up with work, and we went on a seemingly neverending search for what is supposedly one of the best bourbon bars in the country. We didn’t have a name or an address for this elusive bar, and were left wandering the streets near the Marble Arch for nearly an hour in the rain.
But we finally found it! For anyone interested in bourbon, visit the JW Steakhouse, located in the Grosvenor House in Mayfair. Their bourbon collection is more extensive than any either of us has ever seen, including pre-prohibition bottles from as early as 1906. Even if you’re not interested in bourbon, the bartenders make a great cocktail, and the food was very good, too.
On our second day in London, I had another work meeting during lunchtime, and then we had some more time for exploring. We took the Thames Clipper down the river, which gave us a nice, alternate view of the city from the water.
Travelers’ Tip: There are several public water shuttles, including the Thames Clipper, that accepts Oyster cards and can be more direct that the tube system. Be aware of how much money you have on your Oyster card, though, because there aren’t any machines nearby to replenish your balance, and the conductors will not let you aboard without proper payment.
We disembarked near the London Bridge and took a tour of the interior. Afterwards, we walked along the river and stopped at a traditional London pub for an early dinner.
One of the alums I met with was playing in a philharmonic concert at the Southbank Centre that evening, and we bought tickets to see her play. Afterwards, we walked out to the Queen’s Walk, where there was a small Christmas market set up. Most of the food stalls were closed at this point, but we did find one selling shredded duck sandwiches, which were so good we ended up getting them for lunch the next day. There was also a “cider haus” constructed within the market. We each got a cider and continued to walk until we got tired and turned in for the night.
On our final day in London, we made a point to visit Buckingham Palace (no tours in December — boo!) and were able to witness the Queen’s Life Guard changing. From there, we walked to Harrah’s to see their Christmas displays, and then made our way back towards the hotel for duck sandwiches for lunch.
After a final work meeting in Holborn, we worked our way over to Leicester Square for drinks at Chiquito (one of the only Mexican restaurants I’ve ever seen in Europe) and dinner at Cork & Bottle, a cute little wine bar under the London Theatre.
We flipped on the news once we got back to the hotel, as we had seen some protesters gathering in front of Parliament the day before. As it turns out, we were in London on the evening Parliament authorized airstrikes in Syria. There were many protests and a lot of news coverage, which meant lots of helicopters. We could hear it all from our hotel room and I was glad we were scheduled to leave London early the next morning.
Early on Thursday morning, we departed London towards our final European destination: Venice. We took a flight out of Gatwick Airport, which necessitated a bit of a train ride, but ended up being a nice alternative to the hugeness of Heathrow.
Travelers’ Tip: There are several airports in the vicinity of London that flew direct routes to Venice: Heathrow, which is the international airport (and thus the largest); London City Airport; Gatwick Airport; Luton Airport. Shop around for the best price, and be aware that Google will return search results to any and all of these airports. If you are willing to take a train to one of the smaller airports outside of the city, you’ll definitely find cheaper airfare than flying out of Heathrow. However, if you have your heart set on a specific airport, make sure you specify when you are searching for flights.
Next stop: Venice!