I’m finally back today with the start of my trip recaps! I had the best time while I was away and I can’t wait to share all of the details with you. I’ve already talked about why I chose Contiki here but today I’m sharing with you my first days in London before the Contiki portion started.
Technically my vacation started on Wednesday, but I didn’t arrive to London until Thursday morning. The first flight was almost 6 hours and I tried to sleep on and off. I was too excited to sleep! I had a layover in Iceland for about an hour and a half and then I was on plane number 2 on my way to London!! I landed, got my bags and got through customs extremely easily and then I had my first experience with the London Underground.
It was actually amazing. The tube was so clean and well organized. It was a complete 180 from what I was expecting coming from the disorder of the NY subway. I easily made my way to my hotel and checked in. At this point it really hit me that I had traveled all the way to London on my own, made it through airports and public transportation and checked myself into a hotel all by myself! These were all huge firsts for me. Never in my life did I think I could travel alone, let alone make it through the experience without a single panic attack. WIN!
The first thing I did when I got to my room (besides letting everyone know I arrived safely) was shower. Almost a full day of traveling really makes you feel gross. I hung out in my room for less than an hour before I met up with a girl, Jenna, who had also flown in early. We headed back onto the tube and I picked up my London Pass (aka the best investment). I took my very first picture in London:
Note: Every picture from my trip was taken on my cell phone. I love the quality of the camera but the front facing one is not great. Sorry in advance for any not perfect pictures :-]
And then I was off to the Shard. Aka the tallest building in Western Europe. Architecture and heights are sorta my thing so I was thrilled to be going here on day one. It’s still shorter than the Empire State Building BUT because it’s the tallest one in the city it had amazing views. We could even see parts of the Olympic park from here!
After that I headed back to my room to relax and get ready for dinner. I met up with 3 more girls that flew in early and we went to an Italian place for dinner. I know, I know, no fish and chips the first day. FAIL. But the meal was amazing, some of the best Italian I’ve ever had.
Friday was my first full day in London, and it was jam packed. I met up with Jenna again and we headed off to see Windsor castle. Words cannot describe how beautiful and ginormous Windsor Castle is. And it’s right in the middle of a busy area! It’s so strange seeing a shopping center right next to it. Windsor is the oldest and largest castle in the world. It was built in the 11th century! We have nothing even slightly close to that age in America. You’ll probably hear me say this time and time again but I could have spent forever looking at this place. #blownaway
After we got back from Windsor we relaxed for a little bit and then headed to the London Eye! Best Ferris Wheel I’ve ever been on. It takes almost 40 minutes to make a full rotation so there are plenty of photo taking opportunities.
The weather was fantastic so we took a quick walk to take some classic tourist photos with Big Ben that turned out awful because they were so backlit. And then I went to a grocery store for dinner. Travel tip: grocery stores are the best for cheap food. I spent around 4 pounds for dinner and got a ton of food. After eating I ran off to the British Museum which was right down the street from my hotel. If anyone is a Night At The Museum fan, they filmed the 3rd movie here! I was there after sunset and NOTHING moved. So disappointed, but I did see a lot of amazing things. Again, could have spent forever in here.
Saturday we saw so many things. Being the crazy planner I am, and the good sport Jenna is, she let me plan out the whole day down to what exact stations we had to get off on the tube. (I know, I know, control freak) We started at the Southwark Cathedral which is London’s oldest gothic building. It was breathtaking and serene.
We walked from Southwark to the Globe Theater which, if you know anything about Shakespeare you’ve heard of this place. It’s still a working theatre! It is a recreation of the original that burned down, but it’s still beautiful.
From there we walked to the Millenium Bridge which if my brain remembers correctly it’s the only pedestrian only bridge that crosses the Thames. It offers beautiful views of London that are unobstructed by cars and bridge stuff (ha, I don’t know the word but you know what I mean).
After that we went back to Big Ben to take some more flattering pictures and hit up the Florence Nightingale museum. I wasn’t all that interested in this, but Jenna is a nurse so this was basically her holy grail.
From there we went to Kensington Palace! The gardens were amazing and the palace itself was incredible. Prince William and Kate live here so only half of the building is for tourists. Just after that I headed to Harrods and got utterly lost inside. Everything was beautiful and ridiculously expensive. I bought tea and chocolate and high tailed it outta there and back to my room. We met the rest of our group this evening and had dinner at the Hotel and then ventured out to Covent Garden for a few drinks.
I know this was incredibly wordy and full of pictures but this is basically my diary to myself so congrats if you made it this far! And, we’re just gearing up for part 2 which is my London adventures with Contiki and then part 3 will be Paris!!