When we got together, Brian and I talked about all the places we hoped to visit over our lifetime. On my list was the United Kingdom because of the castles BUT, even more so, because two of my dear friends live there. I lived with two beautiful women (Grace and Ellie) in Kenya one summer and promised myself I would see them again one day. Brian knows my heart oh so well and when we talked about where our next “big vacation” would be, he kindly said, “let’s go visit your girls!” He really is too good to me.
This past May, with the help of our parents and a couple siblings (thank you thank you thank you!), Brian and I were able to sneak away from Miller for almost two weeks to tour all around the United Kingdom! Was leaving Miller hard? No. Did I tear up on day nine of being gone? Yes. Was it worth leaving him to spend quality time with my husband like we always promised one another we’d do? Yes (I would do it again in a heartbeat)! After an overnight flight into Heathrow, we started off our travels in London and spent two full days there before heading off to Scotland.
Brian made a tentative list and schedule for our time abroad, filling in as much of our “must see’s” as possible (especially if they were free)! We started off at the British Museum where, honestly, we were quite overwhelmed. We blame it on our tiredness from flying with no sleep (I actually took an hour nap on the cold museum floor if that tells you how tired we were). There were SO many items to see, with even more words describing the history of each object, that even my history loving husband was “over it.” The one historical object we highly recommend going to the museum to see is the Rosetta Stone. Brian practically ran to it, getting as close as he could, excited to see the actual Rosetta Stone in person. The size and significance did not disappoint!
After the quick nap at the museum (haha), we hopped on the underground and headed on over to view Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster. To our surprise, Big Ben was completely covered in construction, leaving not even the brick and stone to be exposed! While we were so disappointed, we were thankful construction was not being completed anywhere else throughout our time in London.
Palace of Westminster & Big Ben
Just down the road was Westminster Abbey, which I was SO excited to see! I remember setting my alarm at 3am to watch William and Kate’s Wedding my junior year of college and could not wait to see the entrance where I first saw her step out of the vehicle. While we were not willing to spend $30 each on tickets to tour Westminster Abbey, the views of the outside architecture were amazing.
After bites to eat and a couple of drinks at a local pub, we spent some time on the St. Paul’s Cathedral main steps relaxing and sipping on coffee. We found it to be a popular spot for locals to spend a quick breather after work. We also quickly learned that many locals went immediately to the pubs after work with their coworkers, enjoying a brew or two to help wind down their day. Not being from a big city, it was an interesting and fun site to see!
St. Paul’s Cathedral
On the second day in London, we spent practically our entire day at Tower of London followed by Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace. Tower of London was the sole place in London we were willing to buy tickets to and we would do it again. We loved all FIVE hours spent at the Tower of London and would recommend it over and over. The guided tour by a Yeoman Warder (who actually lives within the Tower Walls) was hilarious along with being extremely informative. We enjoyed learning the historical events that happened over hundreds and hundreds of years within the Tower including the crazy life of Henry VIII, the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and the stories of many prisoners.
Tower of London
While we were not able to take pictures inside of the Tower’s church, we were able to see exactly where Anne Boleyn was beheaded and buried, and learned that hundreds of bodies were hidden within the walls of the church. The White Tower, as seen below, is the oldest building with in the walls, built in 1100. In the many other smaller towers, we were able to see wall carvings by imprisoned priests, prisoners, and Kings dating back hundreds and hundreds of years, which was so neat and sad to see.
My personal favorite part of our time spent at Tower of London was seeing the Crown Jewels. They were everything my girlie self imagined and more! If only I could have had you all in my pocket so you could have seen the enormous jewels and diamonds for yourselves.
Our next spot was just a walk away, Tower Bridge. Again, because we are cheap, we did not purchase tickets to go inside and enjoyed the views instead!
After spending some time relaxing on the steps near where the above picture was taken, we hurried on over to Buckingham Palace where we did get to watch the changing of the guard! While it was a more simplified guard changing (no marching band or parade), it was still as magical to watch just like the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery.
Buckingham Palace is only open late July through September for tours; therefore, we were unable to view any state rooms or tour inside. Of all the places visited in the London area, Buckingham Palace was the cleanest which was so refreshing! City life and pollution is not for me!
In between our places visited, we also stopped off at Platform 9 3/4, several local pubs and coffee shops, and even spent in a moment in a famous red telephone box! When thinking back to our time in London, here are some things we recommend for your visit there:
- DO get Underground passes! It is well worth your money and time. You can even ride the double decker buses with your passes (Oyster Cards and Travelcard passes).
- DO expect everything to be significantly more expensive than in America! Especially food and even more so on gas (we rented a car for the rest of our vacation).
- We felt two full days in London were plenty. While we loved Tower of London, we were more excited for the countryside and smaller towns. A friend and co-worker were in London at the same time as we were and BOTH stated they enjoyed other parts of the United Kingdom more too.
- You MUST visit Tower of London! If anything, just to see the Crown Jewels and meet a Yeoman Warder.
- DO tour Westminster Abbey for me . . . it is the one thing looking back I wish we would have done. I would love the see the burial place of Mary Queen of Scots (I later found this out since arriving home).
- DO book an airbnb over a hotel = way better service and you get to spend time with a local!
- DO check out every local coffee shop! Their coffee was some of my favorite I have ever had . . . including their pastries.
On our third morning in London, we headed back to the airport, grabbed a rental car, and headed on up to Scotland! While we were grateful for our time in London, we were excited for our next stop and to get away from the incoming crowds for the Royal Wedding which was taking place the next day. I like to dream that we were invited . . . but then again who wants to sit in one of those uncomfortable dresses and head pieces?!
Next stop . . . Edinburgh.
love always, kylie