Touring London- Day 2

After a good, but hot, night’s sleep (we had the a/c cranked as hard as it would go, and I still woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat), we got up early to start the day’s events! I was excited for everything that was in store, but the day didn’t quite end up the way I planned…

When in London, seeing the Changing of the Guard is one of those must-dos, right? The goal was to get in a lot of the free things on Monday and Tuesday, which included watching the Changing of the Guard, and then use our London Pass on Friday through Sunday. Since the Queen was at Buckingham, we couldn’t go inside for the State Rooms and Garden Tour, which is what we wanted to see, and neither of us was very interested in seeing the art gallery (what can I say, we’re neanderthals, I guess), so a visit to Buckingham didn’t require any money.

Before we ventured out, I tried to straighten my hair, but our adapter only had USB slots. This is why you’ll see my hair in a bun the rest of the trip. I also sat down to put the memory card in my brand new, fancy camera that we purchased for this trip. I tried to format the card to the camera and guess what? It wouldn’t work. I could’ve cried. It was a very painful lesson in making sure everything works BEFORE you leave for a trip.

After my small meltdown over the camera, we set out for a quaint little breakfast at The English Rose Cafe. I kept my phone on airplane mode the entire time and just used free Wi-fi when it was available, and let me tell you, navigating without a phone is really hard when you’re used to simply pulling up GPS and Google on your phone! So, another mistake of mine you can learn from – if you’re going “without” your phone, write down addresses and mark every place you’re going on a map and take it with you. You can thank me later. London’s streets are marked pretty well and there are usually maps that have all the “touristy” and historic places marked.

But back to breakfast. The English Rose Cafe is small and cute, and it’s a great location for breakfast or afternoon tea if you’re in the Buckingham area. It kind of feels like you’ve walked into a grandma’s kitchen, which I loved. I had a teacake with butter and jam and a vanilla latte. The teacake wasn’t anything special, but it was sufficient since we had reservations for afternoon tea.

We then made our way to Buckingham Palace and claimed our spot at the fence around 10:15 so we could see well. And we waited. And waited. And waited some more.

Finally, John bit the bullet and turned his Internet on to check the website. No Changing of the Guard that day. I couldn’t believe it. So, make sure you check the website and don’t just take Rick Steves’ word from his book that it’s every day at 11. So basically we had wasted an entire morning in London. Cool.

But don’t worry, the day got better! We had several hours before our 3:30 afternoon tea reservation, so I suggested we walk through Hyde Park and check out Kensington Palace. Kensington is included in the London Pass, but it’s a bit out of the way from most of the other spots we had planned, so we opted just to pay for entry (and I’m glad, because there’s no way we could’ve fit that in at the end of the week!).

We made our way up Constitution Hill and through the Wellington Arch and then walked the pretty lengthy way to Kensington Palace.

The entrance we took to Hyde Park was beautiful. If I lived in London, this is the place I’d be all the time just people watching or reading. It definitely feels separate from the city.

And of course there’s nothing like an English garden. I wish my backyard looked like this!

We really didn’t get to take advantage of this area. There’s so much to see in Hyde Park alone, and we didn’t even make it south of Hyde Park to Harrod’s, which was also on my list for the day.

But no matter! We made it to Kensington at least, and we both really enjoyed touring it and learning a little bit about Queen Victoria. When we finished, we both said we wanted to read and research her life more. If you have any recommendations for Queen Victoria biographies, let me know!

Next we walked all the way back in the other direction to The Wolseley for afternoon tea! Y’all, I was SO worried about what to wear here. We both tried to dress a little nicer, but I couldn’t believe it when we walked in and the first person I saw had on jeans, and the second person I saw had on a hoodie. I’m still glad we dressed nicer, though, because most people had their work clothes on. I felt self-conscious enough because we were American (and sometimes I forget that I’m 33 and not 13 and assume that people don’t think I’m an actual adult), so I wouldn’t have wanted to add to that with casual, touristy clothes on.

We opted for the cream tea (tea and scones) because I’m super picky and don’t do mayonnaise, cucumbers, fish, chicken/potato/macaroni salad of any kind, and it would’ve been a total waste of sandwiches (plus a full afternoon tea is not cheap!). We both highly recommend the scones! The scones, clotted cream, and jam was our second favorite thing we ate in London. What I would give for that right now…

It was probably close to 5 at this point, so most of the touristy places were closed. Since we had the whole evening, we decided to head up to the British Library since it didn’t close until 8 pm (also free to get in!). I think this was finally the point where we both decided we needed to invest in an Oyster travel card. If you’re thinking about it and hesitating, just do it. I enjoy walking, but it’ll save you time and confusion on your trip.

We emerged at King’s Cross and walked over to the library. I was amazed at all the young people hanging out and doing work in there! John was all, well it IS a library, but I’ve never seen a library that busy. EVERY seat was taken and those students were dead serious about what they were working on. It was incredible.

We spent some time looking at a photography exhibition titled The New Londoners which featured families who live in London but came from hundreds of other countries. It ends July 7, so hurry on over to catch it! But most of our time was spent in Treasures of the British Library. It was amazing to see the Magna Carta, early manuscripts of religious texts, literary texts, and so many other incredible things. We both recommend a stop here.

It was getting late at this point, but food is always on our mind. We made our way back to Covent Garden because I looked up the ice cream place and knew it was in that area. It was pretty quiet here on a Tuesday night, so we settled on the Punch & Judy pub. I got the fish and chips, which were pretty good, and John got pulled pork nachos…because that’s what you do as a Southerner in London?

I also had a delicious blood orange spritz that I want to recreate at home. So good and refreshing! I’ve never been a gin drinker, but I sure became one in London!

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Again, Covent Garden is such a cool area. How can you not love an area that has a little secret garden growing out of a piano?

But I know that you’re all dying to know if I ever found my ice cream place…The answer is, after strolling down several streets, I finally spotted the sign right when we had almost given up!

Milk Train for the win! It’s hard not to be this happy with an ice cream cone and a halo of cotton candy.

This place is an Instagrammer’s dream if you can snap the perfect pic before your ice cream melts!

So what started as a very disappointing day ended up being great. I’m a planner who likes everything to be scheduled, but sometimes you have to throw the itinerary out the window and just go with the flow. Be sure to follow the blog or my other social media outlets for London updates!

Have you ever planned out a trip that ended up not going the way you hoped/wanted? How’d it turn out in the end?

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