The week before we left, our place was a bit of a disaster. There were piles and boxes and suitcases all over the floor. Our days were spent sorting, organizing, packing, donating, storing, repacking, deliberating, more repacking, and weighing our bags – over and over. I tend to try to bring everything, for every scenario I can think of. Jeff prepares for the ones I don’t. Between the two of us, our bags fill up quickly.
We flew standby with a layover in Chicago, but we missed our first flight to London, so we had to stay the night in the airport. It was a little miserable trying in vain to sleep with the constant, loud music and PA announcements, but we were glad to have somewhere to lie down – even if it was on curved couches.
When we finally arrived in London, it was nearing midnight and certain metro and bus lines were shutting down for the night. After walking and dragging our bags around for so long, we finally made it to our Airbnb flat. Jeff compared it to Frodo and Sam’s journey to Mordor, saying, “I can’t recall the taste of strawberries . . .”
We showered and crashed. We both agreed that it was probably the best sleep we had the whole trip.
London is one of my favorite cities in the world, so it was really important to me to show Jeff my favorite parts. Since we were exhausted from so much walking and hauling bags around, it was essential that we take it kind of easy so we weren’t ruined for the whole rest of our trip. Luckily most of these places are within walking distance of each other or a few metro rides away.
Our first stop was admiring Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey from Parliament Square while we had a picnic lunch of sandwiches and crisps from the corner store. We also made it a point to photo bomb as many tourists’ photos as possible.
Then we headed to St. James’s Park that was teeming with ducks, geese, swans, and the friskiest squirrels that chased each other and tumbled around in the grass. From the park, there are great views of Buckingham Palace and my favorite building in all of London, Horse Guards.
While planning our trip to Italy, I knew that if we wanted to do and see all the things that we had on our wish list, we’d need to skip a lot of the long cues to get into museums and monuments. Luckily, I had visited the Victoria & Albert Museum on previous trips to London and knew that not only is it free with no lines, but it also has plaster casts from dozens of original sculptures from around the world.
We decided to skip the Accademia in Florence and had the David all to ourselves in the V&A. To be able to admire his magnificence in solitude was, for me, so much better than waiting in line for hours to just catch a glimpse of him as you’re herded along with the rest of the crowds.
Not only did we have the David all to ourselves, but Michaelangelo’s Moses, Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise, Trajan’s Column, and many other masterpieces. If you find yourself in London, don’t miss the V&A.
After sunset, we made our way to the Tower of London and walked across the Tower Bridge. It was chilly and windy, but the panorama views of the city skyline were incredible.
I wanted to treat Jeff to some local pub grub. After a quick Google search, The Lord Nelson led the top of the list by quite a margin (as we soon found out for good reason). Though the quirky, cluttered, and mismatched furnishings and decor added to the hole-in-the-wall atmosphere, the food was exceptionally good. I had my usual fish and chips and Jeff had a burger that was stacked with toppings too tall for anyone without a detachable jaw.
We finished the night with a walk around St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s another of my favorites in London. I’ve always felt on very sacred and hallowed ground when I’m in its presence. I love the stories of its survival during the Blitz, that it served as the backdrop for Walt Disney’s favorite song, and was a perfect place for an afternoon nap the first time that I traveled to Rwanda.
It seemed the fitting place to spend our last night in London before heading to the airport the next day.
Stay tuned for our next update: Rome – The Eternal City
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