Our full day of travel began Wednesday morning with a 10am flight from Phoenix to Charlotte. Our Charlotte layover was speedy so we didn’t have much down time. Lance and I made good use of the time to make a few last phone calls/text before boarding our (first ever) transatlantic flight!
Can I start by saying that this plane was huge! And each seat had their own TV screen with a selection of movies, TV shows and music to choose from. It was pretty sweet! Soon after take-off the flight attendants came around with dinner (yay?). Mine wasn’t horrible, but it certainly wasn’t delicious. After a quick bite to eat, it was nap time. We had an overnight flight arriving in London at 6am so we were counting on a few solid hours of sleep to help us get through our first day of sightseeing without a hitch. Based on a recommendation from my sister, I took some melatonin to help :) I woke up to a lovely airplane breakfast, then Lance and I watched the beginning of Argo before we landed.
After arriving we went through customs, picked our luggage and hopped on the Gatwick Express to Victoria Station. It was easy to navigate, but really crowded – everyone was headed into the City for work, so this made navigating public transportation with luggage a little challenging.
Then we took the Tube (London’s underground system) to our stop and walked to our hotel – which turned out to be about a solid 15 minute walk. When we got there I was immediately impressed by the Crown Moran – the lobby was gorgeous and there was an Irish pub connected to the hotel with live Irish music all weekend for St. Patrick’s day (but more on that later!). We expected to just leave our luggage with the concierge but we lucked out and they had 1 room available for us to check into when we arrived – Yay!
The room and bathroom were much bigger than I expected – and both were super nice. Everything looked like it had been recently updated too. I definitely recommend it if you’re headed to London and want something away from the center of town.
We dropped off our luggage and headed out to see London!
First stop was Westminster Abbey.
Coronation ceremonies throughout history have been held at the Abbey and its also used for burials and memorials for some of Brittan’s finest.
The coolest part: It’s also where they hold royal weddings!
This is supposedly Britain’s oldest door – it looks pretty good to be the oldest door..but I still thought it was neat!
Afterwards we snapped a few pictures with Big Ben – and got to hear it ring twice while we were nearby.
This picture just doesn’t do it justice – it was huge and had so much detail. It was pretty impressive for a clock tower if you ask me!
While crossing over the Westminster Bridge we looked back and got some gorgeous views of the House of Parliament.
I was seriously in awe over the size and look of that building. I kept stopping and taking more and more pictures haha.
I realize this is immature, but Lance and I were cracking up at the shadows on the ground from the cut-outs on the bridge…
The Westminster Bridge was pretty cool too – I really liked the light posts (Notice the picture above of me + Big Ben + a light pole haha)
We weren’t quite ready for lunch but couldn’t resist splitting a strawberry + whipped cream waffle when we passed them on our way to the London eye. The waffle was slightly crispy yet fluffy on the inside – a winner in my book!
We grabbed our tickets for the London Eye then jumped aboard. I’m a huge Ferris Wheel fan so I was excited to get up there and get a birds eye view of London.
I loved that you could see all the way round – the views were really spectacular!
After the London Eye we walked along the River Thames then popped into a little cafe to escape the cold and enjoy some afternoon tea (hot chocolate for Lance). After our little break we had our sights set on the Globe Theatre, but arrived to find that it was closed for a school tour/presentation but it would be back open on Saturday to the public. We revised our afternoon plans then crossed the Millennium Bridge – and made our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral.
We spent some time wandering inside the cathedral. The top gallery in the dome was closed while we were there, but we were still able to go up to one of them. The view down to the main floor was pretty cool though!
The next order of business was food! We wandered around a little then decided on a little place off the beaten path (no idea what it was called – oops!). I ordered some fish & chips (with a side of mushy peas) and Lance got the shepherd’s pie. Both turned out to be an excellent first meal in London!
While we were eating we looked over the Pub Crawl in my Frommer’s Day by Day London book and thought it sounded like fun. We picked out a few pubs that were close to where we were (or along our walk back to the Tube). Then we headed out on our London Pub Crawl!
First up was The Black Friar!
I fell in love as soon as we walked in the door. It had a wonderful old world feel and the walls were covered in sculptures and mosaics of monks. My cell phone pics just don’t do it justice.
Lance and I snagged a corner seat (great for people watching!) and sipped on a pint while reading some of the phrases carved above the openings around the pub – “Wisdom is Rare” “Haste is Slow” and “Tomorrow Will be Friday”.
There werea few empty seats when we first arrived, however by the time we left the pub was full of locals stopping in for a pint before heading home after work.
Next up was Punch Tavern:
We sat back and enjoyed a pint of cider while admiring the pubs Victorian charm.
We snacked on some popcorn at Punch Tavern before heading to our next destination:
The Old Bell! This tavern had such a casual and laid back feel to it. It was crowded from the moment we walked it but we managed to grab a few seats in the middle of the action to enjoy our beers.
Our 4th pub crawl stop was at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. This was probably my favorite of all the pubs we went to – and I don’t think I really have to discuss how cool the name is, right?
This place was like a labyrinth. There were rooms at every turn with random stairs that took you even further into the maze.
We found ourselves in the bottom floor and enjoyed our beverages at a huge table in the center. It was definitely the most crowded place we went, but something about the atmosphere was comforting and fun.
I ended up getting this Samuel Smith Organic Apricot Ale – I think it was one of the best things I’ve ever drank! Once we finished up we wandered back through (I only took us on a few wrong turns before Lance took over as navigator) and made our way to the exit.
The last stop for the night was The George.
This was an ideal spot for us to end our pub crawl – to me it had the perfect English feel to it and had a couple comfy tables/chairs to sit and chat at.
We finished off our first night in London with one last (half) pint before heading back to the hotel.
The pub crawl turned out to be one of my favorite things we did together on our trip – each and every pub we visited was so different than what we have here at home and I enjoyed getting to take part in such an iconic English pastime!
And that’s all for day 1 in London! Stay tuned for the rest of the day by day recaps of our trip.