In the works for over two years thanks to COVID, we finally felt it was safe enough to go on a vacation to London! Because of the delay, it lined up perfectly with our 10 year anniversary, and was just before Kayla’s 27th birthday, and man, was it a memorable trip. We took a full two weeks to see all the sights, visit all the attractions, and taste all the food. Here’s a run down of our 14 days in London:
Day 0 – Saturday, May 21, 2022
Our adventure started when we flew from BTV to JFK. We arrived at JFK around 5:30pm and needed to find some dinner before our overnight flight to Heathrow. Limited to the offerings within the airport, we had heard that Shakeshack actually wasn’t too bad of a fast food place, so we ended up getting a ShackBurger, a SmokeShack, some fries, and a black and white shake (though the other burgers, chicken sandwiches, and hotdog sounded pretty good as well). Everything was very good and came in packaging that was conducive to eating without touching the food (except the fries). We then had an overnight flight into London and arrived there around 10am local time (5am VT time), 2 hours later than scheduled.
Day 1 – Sunday, May 22, 2022
We were originally booked to take a 3 hour walking food tour at 10:30am when we arrived, but because of the flight delays, we weren’t able to make it. We contacted the company to reschedule, and they graciously allowed us to reschedule to Friday, June 3, so if you’re interested in a review of that walking tour, be sure to keep reading. We got our rental car and drove to the hotel, which was an adventure in and of itself. Learning how to drive on the opposite side of the road, in an unfamiliar city, with a manual transmission car, on about 4 hours of sleep. But we made it, with hours to spare until we could check in to our hotel room, so we decided to walk Queensway, a street lined with restaurants on both sides of all nationalities and cultures, to find lunch.
We ended up at Ojak, a Turkish place, where Kayla got a falafel bowl and Erik got an Adana wrap. We opted to forego drinks as water is not free in the UK, and we didn’t feel like paying for it. Both dishes were delicious, and we were shocked when the bill came as it was much cheaper than in the US – even with the exchange rate applied. We only paid $29.64 for lunch.
From there, we walked about Kensington Palace until we could check in (about 2 hours). Then, once checked in, we headed to Borough Market where we had fish and chips at Fish! restaurant. Fish and chips in the US is okay, but it was amazing here. The fish was crispy, but light, and had flavor, unlike American fish. The fries were fluffy. And – surprisingly, the mushy peas were absolutely delicious! We also admired their nets on the lemon so when you squeeze it over your fish, you don’t get any seeds! This was also our first foray into paying for water. We got a bottle of still water, and it cost a pretty penny, but OH MAN. It’s the best water we have ever had. So crisp and clean. Not worth paying for every time, but definitely worth trying at least once just to taste the difference between it and water in the US.
The rest of our first day was spent exploring the Tate Modern – which, despite not being huge fans of modern art, we actually quite liked; so much so that we ended up going back to see more later in our stay – and seeing Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. Were it not for the horribly uncomfortable seats and absolutely captivating play, we would have fallen asleep because it went until 9:30pm – at which point we’d been up for 2 days with only a quick 4-hour plan nap to keep us going. It was a great play, despite 2 of the actors being understudies (one of the main characters broke his leg and one of the side characters lost their passport in Spain and so were stuck there and couldn’t perform). The understudies did absolutely amazing and actually outshined some of the other performers!
By the time we got back to the hotel, we were so ready to crash after a quick shower, especially knowing we had to get up early the next day because we had reservations for Stonehenge at 9:30am (Stonehenge being a 2 hour drive away, so we needed to leave NO LATER than 7am because we still had a manual transmission and didn’t want to be late, as we knew tour groups would be arriving at Stonehenge not long after us, and we didn’t want to get caught behind them).
Day 2 – Monday, May 23, 2022
Monday, we decided to do a day trip to Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral, and the Roman Baths. After our “fun” experience the day before driving stick on the opposite side of the road, we decided to wake up even earlier than needed to make a stop at the rental car place on our way to Stonehenge to ditch the manual transmission car and pick up an automatic for the day. Not only would this make our drive easier, we also would no longer need to pay the parking fee at the hotel. We had only gotten a rental car for the whole trip because it was free with credit card rewards points, and we had just planned to keep it parked at the hotel most days, only using it on the 3-4 days we have day trips outside the city planned (the tube would get us most other places much quicker and easier). With parking costing $30 a day, it was actually cheaper to ditch the car we booked for the entire stay and just get a rental each day we actually need it. So that’s what we did.
We ate a very quick hotel breakfast before we left – and when I say hotel breakfast, I know what you’ve got in mind, but it was absolutely delicious. Not like American hotels. There were fresh scrambled eggs, sausages, porridge and fruit, toast, jams, etc. Our hotel food was actually done by a restaurant within the hotel, so it was quality stuff, and free because of our status with Hilton.
Then we drove to the rental car place, returned the manual (which, on a decent night’s sleep and the prior day’s experience, wasn’t nearly as harrowing as the day before) and picked up the automatic, and drove to Stonehenge. We got there about 15 minutes early for our booked time, which was perfect. We spent a little over an hour and a half there, and it was amazing. Very impactful and beautiful experience. From there, we hopped back in the car and drove to Salisbury to go to the Salisbury Cathedral, but not before we stopped for some food at a pub established in 1414. Food was good and cheap (we actually noticed most food in London was much cheaper than at home, and not just because there wasn’t the tip to worry about). Salisbury Cathedral was also beautiful. Then we headed to the Roman Baths, which was a great experience – once we got there. The streets to get there were confusing and narrow, and while still learning how to drive on the opposite side of the road, it was a bit of a scary drive.
We dropped off the day rental car and took the tube from the airport (where the rental car place was) to our hotel. We got in at around 9pm and went to bed early and without an alarm because our only thing on our itinerary for the next day was a museum that didn’t open until 10am.
Day 3 – Tuesday, May 24, 2022
Well silly us, because we were apparently really tired. We woke up at 9:30am and then decided maybe we didn’t need to get to the Museum of London right when it opened, so we took our time getting ready, including thinking about breakfast. We wanted to get a Full English Breakfast, but nowhere near us was serving it at that time, and breakfast at the hotel stopped at 10am, so we missed it. Instead, we went to the London equivalent of Starbucks called Pret a Manger and each got a pastry to hold us over. We went to the museum and spent a while there before getting hungry and grabbing lunch at an Indian place called The India. They closed at 3pm and we got there at 2pm, so the hostess let us know that she would seat us, but we needed to eat quickly! That was no problem for us, and the food was absolutely amazing, and again, cheap.
From there we decided that we would go back to the Tate Modern to see more of the art we didn’t get to see on the first day. We stayed until closing again, which was good because it was absolutely pouring out. By the time we left, the rain had stopped and the sun was out, so we thought we would go to the London Eye. It rained a little on our walk there, but nothing like it had earlier, thankfully. We bought our tickets (which were overpriced) and took a ride. While it was definitely a tourist trap, it was good nonetheless. From there, we decided to just go back to the hotel because it was starting to rain again and neither of us were hungry for dinner despite it being 6:30pm. We had a bit of a rough trip back as the tubes were really crowded – there were several lines not operating due to various issues (trespassers on the rails, no power, etc.) so the rails that were operating were packed. We finally got back to the hotel, took a shower, and went to bed with no alarm again, as we planned to go to the British Museum the next morning which also didn’t open until 10am. It was supposed to rain all day, so we figured that would be a great excuse to spend the day inside.
Day 4 – Wednesday, May 25, 2022
We went to the British Museum on Wednesday. We had heard that it would be more impressive than the Museum of London, which we did the day before, and that was definitely true. First off, it was huge. And it had way more expensive, interesting pieces. We started in the Egyptian area, where we looked at rock statues and carvings (including the Rosetta Stone). We then moved into Greek and Roman historical artifacts, and then some more modern items. There was also a section for Asian and Indian history, and African history. It was pretty interesting to observe the amount of artifacts for the civilizations that specialized in stone and metal work. Africa, who mostly dealt with textiles and fabrics, didn’t have much because those sorts of items don’t stand the test of time as well.
We ended up spending all day there, from the time they opened at 10am (we actually got in line around 9:30) until they closed at 5pm. We even ate lunch there! We don’t often eat lunch at attractions because it’s usually not great quality and overpriced, but the pizza we got at the museum was actually really good and not very expensive! That night we went to a Korean place, Bullgogi, for dinner, which was delicious, and followed that up with some gelato from Badiani which was also fantastic (spoiler: we went back for more gelato from this place multiple times on our trip).
Day 5 – Thursday, May 26, 2022
Thursday was the day we went to Windsor (about an hour train ride out of the city) to go to Windsor Castle and Legoland. Windsor Castle was really impressive; there were lots of paintings and furniture with royal connections, and the castle itself is still used by the Royal family for celebrations. We also saw the tail end of the Changing the Windsor Castle Guard, which was purely by chance because it only happens 3 days a week, and only at 11am. It was just luck that we decided to go on one of those days and were near the part of the castle that it happens at during that time.
From Windsor Castle, we knew we wanted to get to Legoland, but we had a bit of trouble figuring out how. We knew there was a bus that ran from the castle to Legoland every hour, but we weren’t sure what time each hour (on the hour, on the half hour, etc.), and we didn’t know what bus or what stop it would pick us up at. We decided to get lunch in Windsor before going to Legoland, assuming that food at Legoland would be busy, not great, and overpriced. We ended up grabbing some paninis and chips from a coffee shop, Cafe Nerro, which was a great move because as soon as we figured out the bus situation, we found out it was going to be leaving in the next 10 minutes. So we rushed over to the stop and were able to eat lunch on the bus ride over to Legoland. However, when we tried to board the bus, the driver let us know that we purchased the wrong ticket, and we would need to purchase the correct ticket before he would let us off at Legoland. The only reason he let us board without the right ticket was because he was behind in his route and couldn’t wait for us to figure out the ticket situation. The bus had free wifi, so we were able to figure out what ticket we needed and purchased it before we got to Legoland. We ended up paying more than we needed to since we had already paid for the wrong ticket, but we still spent less than the folks who didn’t purchase a ticket ahead of time and paid when they got on the bus, so I guess we didn’t do too bad.
While Legoland is mostly a kids’ attraction, Erik had gone as a kid and wanted to go back – and we are so glad we did. All of the Lego builds were amazing: a mini London, including the London Eye; a mini France, including the Moulin Rouge, Eiffel Tower, and Arc de Triomphe; a mini Australia with the Sydney Opera House, etc. The displays were complete with moving buses, trains, boats, people, and windmills. There were also sections of the park for medieval builds and mythical animals. We didn’t go on any of the rides, as they were mostly for littler kids, but it was still a fun time. We got back to the hotel around 4pm and chilled for a bit before finding dinner, which ended up being Chinese food at Gold Mine. We had heard that British Chinese food was better than American Chinese food, so we wanted to be sure to try a Chinese place while we were there. It was okay, but we both agreed that it was not significantly better than American Chinese.
Day 6 – Friday, May 27, 2022
We went to the London Zoo first thing (aka 10am, when it seems most things open in London) on Friday. We took the tube to the nearest stop, but even the nearest stop was quite a bit away. We had to walk the entire length of Regent’s Park to get there, which was actually nice – quiet and peaceful, lots of people taking their dogs on a morning walk. Regent’s Park is also home to Queen Mary’s Gardens, which is a huge collection of roses. Most were either gone by or yet to bloom, but the few that were in active bloom were gorgeous and smelled amazing. The Zoo itself was a little bit of a let down, as most animals were still sleeping when we got there. A few were out eating breakfast, and some of the monkeys were wide awake, but overall it was pretty quiet in terms of animal activity. We got done at the Zoo a little before 1pm, and we knew we wanted to go to the Sherlock Holmes museum, but tickets were mostly available for times later in the day. So we booked tickets for 4:30pm and decided to kill some time by grabbing lunch, visiting Platform 9 3/4 (from Harry Potter), and Abbey Road (from the Beatles album cover).
For lunch, we stopped at Nando’s and got chicken, garlic bread, fries, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw. Everything, including the chicken, was very good, although still definitely fast food. Platform 9 3/4 was also not much to see, though we did browse the gift shop a bit – without buying anything. Same with Abbey Road, after getting a few pictures, we went to the gift shop just down the street to browse and waste time, but didn’t buy anything. We then hopped back on the tube to go to the Sherlock Holmes museum, even though we knew we would still be pretty early for our scheduled time.
When we approached the museum, the street was pretty congested and there was a police car with its lights on parked in the middle of the street facing the wrong way. We initially thought maybe some sort of protest, but quickly noticed a woman laying in the street just behind the police car, not moving. We were among many bystanders not knowing what happened or if the woman was alive, until we finally saw her move one of her hands. From there, she started to move her feet and legs and arms, but still wasn’t getting up. It was quite a few minutes later that we saw an ambulance trying to get to the street, but because of all of the traffic congestion, it took a while until they were able to get to her. She was able to get up and walk into the ambulance. Still not sure what happened exactly, but glad that she was okay, because it was pretty scary for a while when she was motionless.
We got our tickets for the Sherlock Holmes museum and got in line, even though we were still early. They let us in anyway, which was nice. It was a fairly quick tour, mostly because the space to show off was so small. Sherlock’s study was smaller than any of the rooms in our house, and all of the other rooms were as well – his bedroom, Watson’s bedroom, Mrs. Hudson’s bedroom, and the bathroom. However, the guide was excellent in his descriptions of the rooms and the items within them. We grabbed some more gelato from Badiani on our way back to the hotel, because it was so delicious a few nights ago, and because it was the hottest day so far in our trip (in the high 60s but felt like high 70s).
Day 7 – Saturday, May 28, 2022
Saturday, we went to Greenwich. We started out at Cutty Sark, which was pretty impressive until we realized the ship wasn’t that old. While it is very well preserved, it makes sense why it was in such good shape considering it was only about 150 years old. It was still very interesting to see, and the audio guide that we were given with the tour was really immersive. It made it easy to picture what life on the boat was like. Actually, all of the audio guides we got while in London were super well done – lots of factual information, but presented in a way that’s not dry or hard to follow. Great narrators and storylines.
We then walked right next door to the Old Royal Naval College, the primary reason for visiting which was the Painted Hall, a very elaborately painted ceiling of a dining hall. We were fortunate enough to have a live guide talk us through the paintings, which was awesome because there is no way we would have gotten that level of detail just by looking at it. She translated the paintings into what was symbolized and meant by the painter, and also pointed out some easter eggs like the fact that the painter painted himself into a scene, a fantom hand that has over time come through the layers of paint that were supposed to cover it, and some graffiti done by a man who was supposed to be cleaning the painting. It was really a sight! The Painted Hall took the painter 20 years to complete.
We left the Old Royal Naval College to go to Greenwich Market, which is a large food and goods market in a courtyard. We grabbed some empanadas and juice for lunch with a churro for dessert. We also purchased a few gifts. We then trekked up the hill to the Royal Observatory. The Observatory had some amazing views, and it was really cool to learn about the origins of universal time and longitude and seeing the old clocks and understanding the troubles they went through trying to come up with a clock that was reliable at sea (because pendulum clocks weren’t able to be used on a rocking boat!).
From the Observatory, we hopped on the tube over to the O2, a big concert venue, for our climb up it at 7pm. We got there early, as we didn’t want to be late and miss it, so we grabbed some dinner at Wagamama, an Asian sit-down chain restaurant, and got some Bang Bang Cauliflower and ramen. We then headed over to the climb entrance, even though we were still early, and to our surprise, they let us climb earlier than our timeslot. The climb was very interesting. The outside of the O2 is a very thick canvas material, and climbing on it felt sort of like a trampoline. The shape of the O2 also meant that the first bit of the climb was super steep, and it got more gradual the further into the climb we got. We stood at the top for a while to take pictures and get a verbal tour of the city skyline from our guide, which included him pointing out the Emirates Air Line, a cable car that was built for the 2012 Olympics to ferry people over the river. We made our way back down the other side of the O2 and then headed back to the hotel – by way of that cable car. The views from the cable car were awesome – especially because we could look back at the O2 that we had just climbed.
Day 8 – Sunday, May 29, 2022
Sunday, we started our day by walking over to Kensington Palace. We did a quick walkthrough of it (about an hour and a half) and both left a bit disappointed. There was one cool exhibit about the childhood of Queen Victoria, but the rest of the museum seemed a bit random and unorganized. From there, we grabbed an early lunch from Poke Shack. We love The Scale Poke in Williston, so we wanted to see how the UK poke was. We both agreed it wasn’t quite as good as we’re used to, but it wasn’t bad either. We ate our poke bowls in Kensington Gardens outside the Palace before heading to the Natural History Museum. When we got there, we learned that we had to claim a timeslot, and the only one available for that day was 4pm. It was only 1pm. So we decided to go back to the hotel and regroup to figure out what we wanted to do in the meantime.
When we got to the hotel and started researching attractions, we realized one of the places on the London Pass (a pass we bought that gives us entry into over 80 different sights around London for a flat rate) wasn’t open for the next few days, so if we wanted to do it before we left, we would have to do it today. So we rushed to the tube and made our way over to “The London Bridge Experience”. We had no idea what it was, but the entry fee for it was quite steep, so we figured it must be good and didn’t want to miss it. Well, joke’s on us. It turned out to be mostly a haunted house. The first part of it did contain some creative storytelling about beheadings and murders in London – which were true and a good bit of history. But the last part was just your typical haunted house – strobe lights, lots of actors in scary costumes, a man with a chainsaw, etc.
At that point, it was 4pm, and we probably could have gone to the Natural History Museum, but we decided that we didn’t want to be late to the Royal Albert Hall for the live Lord of the Rings movie we had booked at 6pm, so we just headed over there instead. We were hoping to grab some food before the show because we had had an early lunch and knew the show wouldn’t get out until around 9:30pm, but we weren’t hungry enough for a full sit-down meal and there weren’t a lot of snack options, so we ended up just going without dinner that night. The show was absolutely incredible, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring projected on a large screen with a live-performed soundtrack by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra. The live chorus and full band (strings included) was amazing. If we didn’t know better, we wouldn’t have known the soundtrack was being played live because it was so well done. The vocal soloist was amazing, the lead flutist had amazing tone and timbre, and the choral group did an amazing job. As we left, we both agreed that we underpaid for the show at only $75 each – we think it was worth well into the hundreds of dollars a ticket.
Day 9 – Monday, May 30, 2022
After going to bed on empty stomachs, we woke up early Monday morning to get to St. Paul’s Cathedral when they opened to the public at 8:30. We grabbed a quick breakfast from the hotel (as we had every morning because it was just so good, convenient, and free) and hopped on the tube. We got audio guides and self-toured the cathedral, which took quite a while (over 2 hours) because the place is so big and the history provided by the audio guide so rich – and because there were over 500 steps to get to the top of the dome for an incredible view. My fear of heights didn’t love it, but we are so glad we went up.
From there, we walked over to the Monument to the Great Fire of London, but not without stopping at a Krispy Kreme to have some donuts. We got to the Monument and contemplated going up, but it was another over 300 stairs, and after the 500 at St. Paul’s, we decided against it. We instead decided to find real lunch (not just donuts) and ended up at a place called Brewdog. Outside, we met some fellow United States-ers, from Montana, who had just flown in that morning. We chatted with them a bit before going inside and getting some beer and bar food – but vegan bar food. We got a vegan appetizer sampler of regular and sweet potato fries, buffalo cauliflower, and onion rings. We both also got sour beers to wash it down.
We left there to go to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. The Tower of London was excellent. We had a Beefeater show us around with witty but informative stories and then explored on our own once he had turned us loose. We didn’t get to see the Crown Jewels because the line was literally endless. We didn’t even know where to get in line, and even if we did, it would have taken hours just to get in. But we did get to see a lot of medieval armor and the castle itself, which was pretty fantastic. Right next door is the Tower Bridge, which we climbed up one side, looked through the glass floor – and just happened to be there right when they were opening up the drawbridge, and then climbed down the other side. Not sure how many steps that was, but we were both extra glad we didn’t climb the Monument as well. From there, we went down below the bridge to look at the Engine Room, where the old engines that used to power the drawbridge were on display.
At this point, we were both pretty tired and our feet hurt from walking on stone all day, so we headed back to the hotel and got dinner delivered to us – some Thai food from a local restaurant. It was about comparable to American Thai food.
Day 10 – Tuesday, May 31, 2022
On Tuesday, we decided to do the last of the things we wanted to do on our London Passes, which was Westminster Abbey. Well, there were other things we wanted to do on our pass but we just couldn’t fit them into our schedule based on their open times – oh well. Westminster Abbey was pretty good – and we had seen so many cathedrals by that point that we kind of got the hang of how best to proceed through them to see the things that we wanted to see. It still took us most of 2 hours to get through it, as the audio guide was, again, super informative.
From there, we headed to the Imperial War Museum, where we thought we might grab some food, but we weren’t impressed with the offerings at the cafe, so we decided to just tour the museum until we got hungry enough to go find food elsewhere. We started on the lowest level (level -1, as it was the first floor under the ground) which was dedicated to WWI. We then progressed to the ground floor (level 0 as they label it in the UK), which was dedicated to WWII. The level above that (level 1) was dedicated to the Holocaust, which we didn’t end up touring, and the next few floors had some special exhibits that we also didn’t go to. The museum was very well done. We saw many purple hearts!
On our way to the Imperial War Museum, it rained a little on and off, just sprinkling. When we left the museum, it was clear skies. Erik wanted to get a picture of the SIS Building from James Bond, so we headed in that direction. As we did, the skies let loose and it began to pour. We just so happened to be passing by the Garden Museum, which was free on our pass (though not something we had planned on doing), so we dipped in there to get out of the rain. It ended up being an ok museum – not something I would have paid the typical 10 pound admission price for – but since it was free to us and a dry space for us to hang out, we can’t complain. Well, I say dry – but they actually had a roof leak while we were there as the building the museum is in is an abandoned church. So it is old and the roof was not the best.
By the time we were ready to leave, the rain had stopped (typical British weather!), and we were able to get a picture of the SIS Building. By this time, we were pretty hungry because we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was about 4pm, so we figured we would go to a Brazilian Steakhouse (if you’ve never been to one, basically you pay a flat fee and they serve you bottomless meats, salad, and sides – perfect for when you’re starving). We found one that got pretty good reviews called Touro, but it was an hour tube ride out to it. So finally at 5pm, we got lunch/dinner. The experience at Touro was very unique. In short, we were fed way too much meat, given 4 shots on the house, and had an interesting experience with a cow statue. We headed back, and I don’t know how we had room in our stomachs, but we got more gelato from Badiani. Erik got chocolate raspberry and hazelnut, and Kayla got coffee and white chocolate.
Day 11 – Wednesday, June 1, 2022
For Wednesday, we booked a bus tour. We had initially planned to make one of our days on this vacation a day trip to France via Dover (to see the Dover Castle, White Cliffs of Dover, and Canterbury Cathedral), taking the Chunnel over to Calais. However, we weren’t sure if it was legal to take a rental car out of the country, so we scrapped that idea and just figured we wouldn’t make it over that way. But, last minute we found a tour group that went to everywhere we wanted to go (except France), so we jumped on it. We departed at 9am, arriving at Dover Castle at 11:30ish. We were given an hour and a half to explore the castle before we went to the White Cliffs of Dover. From both of these locations, we could look across the English Channel and see the coastline of France, which was pretty cool. We were able to eat a picnic lunch and get a few pictures before the British weather struck again, and while we were out on the cliffs, it poured. We booked it back to the cafe there to huddle under the roofed area, but we were already soaked by the time we got there. We had about a half an hour left before the bus departed to take us to Canterbury, so we dried out a bit before having to sit on the bus.
Once we got to Canterbury, of course, the skies were clear and the sun was out as if nothing had ever happened. It was great as we fully dried out during our time in Canterbury. We started at the Cathedral, which was super cool. They had an herb garden out near the cloister that had mint, thyme, parsley, etc. It was a super peaceful outdoor spot. There was also some striking blue stained glass which we tried to get a picture of, but it just wouldn’t come out quite as amazing as it was in person. We also learned about the history of Canterbury and why it is so popular, which is in large part due to the murder of Thomas Beckett. We visited the place in the cathedral where he was murdered, which was pretty sobering. Once we had finished at the cathedral, we had about an hour and a half until the bus departed to take us back to central London, so we explored the extremely cute and quaint town of Canterbury. It has a central pedestrian-only cobble street with street vendors and storefronts. We ended up getting a Nutella Belgian waffle at Kaspa’s as a snack before boarding the bus and traveling back to the hotel for the night. From there, we decided to just get some food deliveroo’ed to the hotel – some BBQ! We got loaded fries, which had pulled pork, pickles, and chilis on it, some halloumi fries (aka mozzarella sticks) with buffalo sauce, and a double bacon smash burger, all of which we shared (because we weren’t THAT hungry after that Nutella waffle!).
Day 12 – Thursday, June 2, 2022
Thursday was the first day of the Queen’s 70th jubilee celebrations! We weren’t really sure what festivities we would be able to see. We knew there was going to be a parade at 11am, but we looked online and it appeared that there were tickets sold for it, which were of course sold out, and that you could maybe still see it from certain areas, so we figured we would try. But first, breakfast! We headed out at around 9am to grab some breakfast (NOT at the hotel this time, the first time in over a week!). We had wanted to get a Full English breakfast while we were here, but our hotel pretty much served all of that and so we had kind of been eating that every day. Well, we found an Indian place, Dishoom, that did their own take on a Full English, and it got really good reviews, so we went there. We started by looking at the drink menu, and there was a breakfast lassi (we usually get mango lassis with Indian food back home, so we had to try this) and a chocolate chai – the best parts of a chai and a hot chocolate, this was a no brainer. Then, we knew we wanted to get their version of a full English, so we ordered that, and then found a bacon and egg “burrito” essentially, but the wrap was naan, since this was an Indian place, so we got that, too. The chocolate chai was AMAZING. Might be the best thing I’ve ever drank. (If you want a recipe that’s close to as good, check out our Copy-cat Dishoom Chocolate Chai recipe). The breakfast lassi was mango banana and pretty good as well. The full English was alright, not as good as we had hoped, but the bacon egg naan was OUTSTANDING. It had a chili jam that was just phenomenal.
We then waited an eternity for the check, but finally paid and were on our way toward the center of town to see what festivities we could catch – it was about 11:30am, so we figured we missed the parade, but maybe there would be other things going on. We saw signs about a gun salute happening at 12:52pm and an air show at 1pm. We also saw people. Lots and lots of people. We stood for a while, maybe 30 minutes, almost thinking of leaving because we weren’t going to stand around for an hour to wait for the gun salute, when we saw parts of the parade! People on horses coming down the street right next to us! So we stood and watched that, and just as everyone else was walking away, more! So we watched another portion of the parade. And then, people were walking away again, and we heard the gun salute begin – somehow we had watched parts of the parade until 12:52! The salute started – bang, bang, bang, bang… I counted, thinking maybe 5 or 10 or 21 shots would be fired. Well, we lost count somewhere after 21 because the air show started. The shots had been going on for 8 minutes already. We watched the air show and the shots continued through the whole thing. We figure they must have done 70 in honor of the 70 years of the Queen’s reign. Once the air show was over (and man, it was a really cool airshow), we headed back to the hotel, not sure what to do for the rest of the day.
We deliberated a bit over a pot of tea at the hotel restaurant before deciding to try to find the Taskmaster House. Taskmaster is a British comedy game show that we both like, and it’s filmed mostly in a house out in Chiswick that we thought we could find and take a picture of. So we hopped on the tube out that direction, getting off a couple stops early to grab dinner at a Turkish place called Beirut Street Kitchen. Erik got a falafel bowl and Kayla got a halloumi wrap, and we split some baklava for dessert. We took the food to go and walked about 15 minutes to a nearby park to eat in. We then picked back up and walked out to the Taskmaster House, which turned out to be a flop. They have it gated off with a solid gate that you can’t even peak around. So we took a picture of the gate and called it a day. On our way back to the hotel – you guessed it – we got gelato from Badiani. Except, we actually got sorbet instead of gelato. Lemon, mango, and strawberry. It was delicious.
Day 13 – Friday, June 3, 2022
Friday we did end up doing the walking food tour that we were initially supposed to do the day we landed in London. There were 13 of us in the tour group, 11 from the States (some from Ohio, California, Colorado, and us) and 2 were British natives just looking to explore Borough Market. We started out at 10:30am with a breakfast sandwich from Brood, a little place just outside of Borough Market. It was a pretty good breakfast sandwich, and we were appreciative that the tour started with breakfast food as we had purposefully not eaten before we left the hotel. I was a bit worried we’d start off with fish and chips, which, while delicious, wasn’t my idea of a good food to start off the day. From there, we were given some time to explore the market on our own, during which time we eyed some fudge, but ended up buying some cannolis instead.
We met back up with the tour guide and had some fish and chips from the same place we got fish and chips on our first day, and it was once again, delicious. We then were given some more time to explore the market (it was huge, and I’m not sure we even saw the whole thing by the time we were done). There was a lot of great food vendors selling freshly prepared food ready to eat, some vendors selling produce, meats, and cheeses, and some selling jarred items like mustard or pickled items. Given it was our last day, we knew we couldn’t really buy much as we wouldn’t get a chance to eat it, but we did find a spice vendor, Spice Mountain, and got a tikka masala spice mix and a chai spice mix (in effort to recreate the chocolate chai drink from Dishoom).
When we met back up with the tour guide, he had sausage rolls for us to try – literally what they sound like, a sausage inside of a pastry, kind of like pigs in a blanket. It was pretty good, but also filling. He also bought a bottle of prosecco that we drank in the streets, because drinking alcohol in the open isn’t illegal in the UK! He then led us to a pub where we sampled some cheeses and drank some cider (they don’t have apple cider in the UK, just alcoholic cider). Then we went to a nearby square where we ate some carrot cake he bought. Typically the dessert that is included in the food tour is sticky toffee pudding, but the place that usually supplies it was closed, so he improvised with carrot cake, which was still pretty good.
Overall it was an ok food tour. It wasn’t quite what we had pictured when we booked the tickets, and we think we would have appreciated it more if we did at the beginning of our trip instead of the end, but the tour guide was really nice and had some interesting tidbits for us.
From there, we decided to once again brave the jubilee crowds to get to Trafalgar Square and the Wellington Arch, which we hadn’t yet had time to see. It was crowded, but we were able to take a few pictures. We then decided to try to get to the Natural History Museum that we had tried to do on Sunday unsuccessfully. On our way to the tube station to go to the Natural History Museum, we saw some police cars were coming down the street we were walking. We turn to look, and see that it’s the Queen and Prince Charles being escorted to the next jubilee event! We waved to the Queen in the few seconds we had as she passed and attempted to get a photo but missed. You’ll just have to believe us since there is no physical proof! Just happened to be at the right place and right time, we couldn’t have even planned it if we tried.
We got down into the tube station and expected it to be mobbed, but apparently everyone was up at street level, because it was really quiet. We got to the Natural History Museum and were let right in since we had prebooked our tickets this time, and we spent about an hour and a half there. We would have spent longer as there was a lot to see, but it was actually pretty busy with kids and families since it was a bank holiday due to the Jubilee. We went back to the hotel to kill some time before hopping back on the tube to get to O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire by 7pm to see Neal Morse Band.
When we arrived, there was a very short line to get in that we hopped in, and very soon after the line grew quite a bit. We had tickets for specific seats, so we weren’t worried about not getting a seat. While standing in line, we decided that while we weren’t that hungry now (the food tour really held us over), we probably would be by the time the concert was done, so we should probably try to eat while restaurants were still open. So we Deliveroo’ed some food to us in line – just told the delivery driver to meet us out front of the venue. Nothing special, just some chicken wings and mac n cheese bites, but we also got sticky toffee pudding, as we had wanted to try that while we were there and hadn’t gotten a chance yet, and we knew we wouldn’t be able to the next (our last) day. It was a bit of a trick to eat it given that we didn’t have silverware or a table, but we managed.
The concert was great. The venue only held about 1,000 people, and while it was rumored that it was sold out, there were a lot of free seats around us, so we’re guessing there were maybe only 500 people there. It wasn’t obnoxiously loud like other concerts, and the band had played there many times and told stories about previous times they’d been there. They played a lot of new music that we didn’t know, but a few older songs that we could sing along to. All in all, a very good concert.
We got out of there around 10:30 and were back to the hotel by 11pm. We each showered and did a little bit of packing and finally got to sleep a little after midnight.
Day 14 – Saturday, June 4, 2022
Saturday morning, we both woke up at 7:30am for no reason (our flight out wasn’t until after 6pm). Instead of going back to sleep, we just decided to get up and have some breakfast before finishing up the packing. We strategically packed so that if either one of us were to test positive for COVID and be forced to stay behind in London, we’d have what we needed. We checked out of the hotel and hopped on the tube to Heathrow. We got there around noon and got in line for our COVID tests which we scheduled for 12:00-12:10. COVID testing was super simple and took only a few seconds. We were told we would be sent our results within 30 minutes by email, so we used that time to go grab something to drink.
Once we got our emails stating we were negative, we checked in to our flights and looked for a place for lunch. It wasn’t hard to decide where to eat since there was effectively only one sit down restaurant in Terminal 3 at Heathrow, The Curator. The food was better than airport food in the US, and it was maybe a bit pricier than what we had grown accustomed to in London, but still nothing like US airport prices. We even got a sticky toffee pudding that we could eat with silverware this time – and it was delicious.
From there, we had to wait for our flight, which wasn’t set to depart until 6:20pm. After a long wait, boarding went fine, and the flight went fine. They served a round of drinks and pretzels, then dinner (Kayla got a vegetarian pasta with peas and mint and Erik got a chicken dinner with mashed potatoes) which both came with a buttered roll and chocolate pot de creme, then another round of drinks, then crown-shaped chocolate pops to celebrate the Queen’s jubilee, then ice pops, then trash collection… The poor stewardesses never got to sit down.
We landed at JFK and had an hour and a half before our connecting flight to Burlington, during which we had to make it through customs. We got through with no issues and began to make our way to our gate, only to realize that we had to go through security again. Thankfully that went very quickly and we got to our gate with plenty of time to spare. Once we boarded our plane (which had maybe 20 people on it), we were up and down within about an hour and landed at BTV earlier than scheduled at 11:45pm. We took showers, gave Blackie some love, and fell asleep.
So there you have it, our 14 day trip to London. We highly recommend it to anyone, as it seemed to offer something for everyone. Food, art, history, it’s all there. Share your travels with us on Instagram using hashtag #economicaleats!