Paige and I arrived in London at 6:35 am on February 13. It was my sister’s birthday! We hopped on the tube to make our way to Jen’s place in East London where we would be staying for the next 5 nights. Upon arrival, we had a much needed nap before heading out for the day. We decided our first stop would be St. Paul’s Cathedral. When we arrived, it was raining sideways and bitterly cold. We visited the Cathedral and then popped into the visitors centre looking for some advice on what to do in the horrible weather. The response we received was “to hide” in the closest museum, which happened to be the Museum of London. We spent a few hours there exploring centuries of London history from prehistoric times to present day. Afterwards, we met up with Jen who had made dinner reservations at a Mexican restaurant in the Soho area for Paige’s birthday. The interesting thing about La Bodega Negra is that it is quite difficult to find – the entrance to the restaurant looks like an adult video store. We enjoyed a delicious dinner of guacamole sunflower tostadas, various tacos, pinto beans with chorizo, and margaritas to wash it all down with. After dinner we decided to hit up a nearby pub, the Greyhound, for a pint. We somehow managed to score the only table that was available and sat down to contemplate our next move. Then we spotted someone familiar at the bar…who could it be? Initially, we thought he had been on our flight from Abu Dhabi but then we suddenly realized he was from the Kingsman film we had just watched – it was “Eggsy”. We tried to take some sneaky shots of them but we were totally busted. Eggsy soon left but his co-star Charlie came over to say hello and wished Paige a Happy Birthday. After our star encounter, we decided to continue our night out and made our way to G-A-Y bar where we danced the night away. Just before midnight, we ran in the rain to make the last train back for home. It was a pretty exciting and memorable birthday in London!
After a bit of a sleep in on Saturday morning, we whipped up a picnic lunch and made our way to Hyde Park. The weather had improved and we enjoyed a long stroll through the park. After our picnic, we walked over to Buckingham Palace and The Royal Mews, which houses the horse drawn carriages of the Royal Family. Those of you who know my sister know her passion for horses so this was a must do on the list. We viewed the carriages which are used for royal and State occasions. The latest coach to join the collection was The Diamond Jubilee State Coach which was built to commemorate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Unfortunately, the horses were not in the working stables during our visit. We then visited The Queen’s Gallery which had two exhibitions including photographs of the Middle East from 1862 and a gold exhibition.
On Sunday, Paige and I went into the city to walk around the perimeter of the Tower of London and across Tower Bridge. Then we walked along the River Thames, past the London Bridge, and found a nice spot for lunch along the South Bank. After lunch, we hopped back on the tube to Westfield Shopping Centre to catch an afternoon movie. We did a bit of shopping after 50 Shades of Grey and then went back to Jen’s where she had prepared a delicious Sunday dinner for us including a beef roast, potatoes, brussel sprouts, carrots, Yorkshire pudding, and gravy. It was a proper way to end our weekend in London.
The next day, Paige and I were up early to take the train to the historic walled city of York. We arrived in the morning and there was a slight drizzle of rain. We walked along the city walls, through the museum gardens, and over to the York Minster, York’s most famous historical site. It is the largest medieval gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. We joined the free guided tour which took us through the entire cathedral. After our informative tour, we climbed the winding, narrow, Central Tower of 275 steps before stepping out into the rain to experience the cloudy panoramic views of the city centre. After spending a few hours in the Minster we had a nice lunch in Cote Brasserie, including a bowl of pumpkin soup to warm us up from the cool weather. Once warmed up, we walked over to the York chocolate factory to get some chocolate and then strolled down The Shambles street, with overhanging timber-framed buildings dating as far back as the fourteenth century. We ended the afternoon with a cup of Yorkshire tea at this cute little stone tea house on the River Ouse. We still had a few hours to kill so we visited the National Railway Museum before hopping on our real train back to London. York was a beautiful city and was a great way to spend the day.
Tuesday was our last full day in London. We went to visit Harrods department store and grabbed some lunch to take over to Hyde Park. It was a little chilly so we sat down for a coffee in the Serpentine Cafe overlooking the lake. Later that day, we met up with Jen at her place and came back into the city for one last pint at an English pub. A football match was on the tele so we enjoyed our pints and the surrounding atmosphere. On our way back home, we walked through Piccadilly Circus to take in the glowing lights.
The next morning we said goodbye to Jen and made our way up to Heathrow Airport. Unfortunately, Paige and I weren’t departing from the same terminal so had to say goodbye on the tube. It was great to have my sister visit us in Abu Dhabi and really memorable travelling with her in England!