Touring London – Day 1

This is technically my second post on London (be sure to check out my previous post on packing and planning!). We arrived in London around 10:30 am on a Monday, so we had the entire day to explore and fight jet lag. Hint: whatever you do, try to get on the schedule of wherever you’re traveling. Do not take a nap, no matter how bad you want one! Getting on a new schedule ASAP is really helpful in preventing jet lag.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I was pretty disappointed in my planning. When we got to the airport, the plan was to take the tube all the way to our hotel. But as soon as we got to the ticket machines, I completely lost all confidence in what I was doing. There was an employee who asked if we needed help (we obviously looked like confused tourists), and he told us to take the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station – and I could’ve sworn that he said the Paddington tube wasn’t working because of a strike (but did I make that up? I don’t even know). It was £37/person round trip, so at least we had a guaranteed way of getting back to the airport. But after we sat down on the train, I think we both felt overwhelmed, confused, and like we’d made the wrong decision. I’m still not sure if it was the right decision, but the train was only 15 minutes and then we took a cab to the hotel, which was definitely an experience. Does anybody remember Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disney way back when? If so, that’s what the cab ride felt like!

After getting settled into our room at the Doubletree Westminster, we showered and changed clothes, and then set out for some food. We walked to The Laughing Halibut, which I had planned for lunch, and it was closed when we got there – I think I overheard someone say there was a holiday that day, so strike two for us.

So we skipped on food and went over to Victoria Tower Gardens to gawk at the Palace of Westminster (home to Parliament) and do the Westminster Walk that Rick Steves has mapped out in his London book.

Westminster Palace and the Emmeline Pankhurst Statue

Overlooking the River Thames to the London Eye

I don’t think I could ever get used to walking past this building without being in awe of it. It’s just so gorgeous and the details are incredibly intricate.

The park across from the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (which is actually just the bell, even though everyone refers to the whole tower as Big Ben) contains several statues of historic figures – Winston Churchill, Ghandi, Abraham Lincoln – and lots of people hanging out and snacking.

If you continue north on Whitehall, there are all kinds of statues and beautiful buildings to see. We never went east from Whitehall, so we unfortunately missed Whitehall Gardens.

The Women of World War II memorial

But if you continue on up Whitehall, you’ll run into The Household Cavalry Museum where people are flocking around the guards and their horses (so much respect for those guys…I would hate tourists being all up in my business all day long).

I highly recommend a casual stroll up Whitehall just to see all the official buildings (and you can identify Downing Street, which is where the Prime Minister’s home and office is located, by the gate surrounded by a ton of people). I had looked at so many maps that I had a somewhat good idea of where things were, and I definitely took a few pics of the Rick Steves maps from the book, so luckily in our search for food, we were heading in the right direction for the Sherlock Holmes Pub.

We were there at a weird time for dinner, so the upstairs dining room was incredibly quiet, despite there being two other groups dining there. The pub downstairs had a more inviting and lively feel, but the sign pointed upstairs for the restaurant, so that’s where we went. John ordered the fish and chips, and I opted for the steak and ale pie, both of which were solid dinner options.

Be sure to check out some of the museum items that are upstairs. Despite being an English nerd, I’ve never actually read any of the Sherlock Holmes books, but I imagine this would be a fun place for people super into the books and movies.

After we had fueled up, it was time for more walking. The pub was right next to Trafalgar Square, so we were able to check that off our list early.

We didn’t get the typical lion statue picture because so many people were crawling all over them. We didn’t stick around very long in this area because of all the people, plus we had more to see!

The National Gallery

Nelson’s Column and the infamous lions

King George IV behind the fountain

If I ever get back to London, one of my must-dos will be going to a show because I love going to the theatre. We had talked it over, but the one we were looking at, Betrayal, featured Tom Hiddleston and tickets were around 200/person. Nope. There were so many much more affordable options, but I think our schedule was already a bit overloaded, and we would’ve really been pushing it to add a show on any of the nights we were there.

Her Majesty’s Theatre featuring The Phantom of the Opera

We had even talked about going to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (and when we saw the building it was in we had a bit of regret) but because it’s two parts, there just wasn’t any way to set aside that much time for two shows. But seriously, how cool is this building??

Our next stop was Piccadilly Circus, which neither of us really enjoyed because it was SWAMPED with people. Piccadilly Circus, at least the area we found ourselves in, is very similar to Times Square, so if you don’t want to be packed like sardines with people rushing by on every side of you, I’d recommend avoiding this area, at least in the evening.

Piccadilly Lights

Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain

And our last goal (ok, it was mostly mine) was to find an ice cream shop that I had found on Pinterest located in Covent Garden. Of course I hadn’t brought the address, so we basically wandered aimlessly in the Covent Garden area, which is a super fun area to wander! Unfortunately, we never found the ice cream shop (spoiler alert: we totally tracked it down on another day 😉), but we managed to hit 18,000 steps!

But if you love unique areas, give yourself time to play and explore the Covent Garden and Seven Dials area. It’s adorable and would be the area I would absolutely spend more time in.

And that was our first day in London! What suggestions do you have for exploring these areas? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Courtney says:

    Looks lile you had a great day out despite the strike on the beginning! Always think you can so fit in London walking everywhere hehe. Oh what’s the ice cream shop? I’m curious hehe. Was planning to visit milk train but didn’t have time last I popped down.


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