As Christmas approached, I decided to flee Naples, Italy and hide away in foggy little London town for a week. Finding a one way ticket direct from Naples to Gatwick London for $35 via Easy jet was also part of the draw. You just can’t beat the prices over here! My ticket coming back was a bit more expensive $170 one way but it was the weekend and the holiday’s were right around the corner.
Portsmouth England was my first port of call while deployed back in 2011. You may remember it from the opening scene of Les Miserables, where they are pulling the ship into dry dock. Yep, that’s Portsmouth England. Portsmouth is a quick train ride into London which is naturally where everyone ran off to as soon they set us free.
Because I’d already been to London while on deployment, I wasn’t so certain I needed to come back since I only have so much time to travel Europe, but boy would I have been wrong. A couple of years later and able to be on my own as well as a bit more travel hardened, makes all the difference.
London is the quintessential city, a place that never has a lack of things to do, food to eat, people to see. Removing the most touristy locations from your list, London still has plenty of things to see and do to keep you busy for however long you wish to visit. I came from Tuesday till Sunday and even though I was running from the break of dawn till well after dusk, there were still plenty more things I could have seen and done. Don’t even get me started on how badly I suffered having to skip all the museums for lack of time!
We’ll immediately start with food, better yet international food. I love all types of food and Naples Italy is pretty limiting, we get the best of the best in Italian food, seafood, and Mama Mia pizzerias, but there isn’t much in the way of variety so when I’m on travel I’m always on the look out for a variety of international foods.
Clare, my kiwi friend, told me about Mr. Falafel and as soon as I arrived in London and dropped my bags I was out the door lickety split, ready for a falafel. She wasn’t kidding when she said it was amazing! Located over by Shepered’s Bush, I recommend a stop into the small shop if you are in the area.
I’m not entirely sure that anything could have prepared me for Harrods. Thinking it was just like any big department store in the U.S. I walked in, had a look around, and realized I was in way over my head. There are 6 floors, filled to the brim with all the gifts you would need for the holiday’s, but you will break the bank doing so.
Walking down shoe alley it was easy to see that they have the latest and greatest of all fashion designer shoes, and on the top floor it was all perfumes being tested in giant glass bottles, which to be quite honest, gave me a bit of a headache by the time I got to the other end of the hallway.
Champagne & Caviar bar on the first floor when you walk in. Some of the higher end shoppers have attendants follow them around with trays of champagne while they shop so they don’t get too parched buying all of those gifts for Christmas.
Just makes me think of Pinot Noir, Caviar, I’m sure someone out there knows the reference.
Famous for their macaroons and based in Paris, Clare got me hooked and I stop in for a couple every time there’s a shop near by. They are the fluffiest, delicious, and most delicate macaroon you will ever try. It’s like eating a cloud that’s how good they are! My long love affair with macaroons began in Greece and I go out of my way for these babies.
If you aren’t going to be in Paris any time soon but find yourself in London, now’s your chance. There’s a shop right next to Harrod’s!
After Clare and I had dinner I headed home to bed. I wanted to be up early the next day to explore.
4. ROYAL OBSERVATORY
The next morning I was off to Greenwich London to learn about Greenwich mean time and to stand on the prime meridian in the exact place that longitude was discovered. The museum is located at the Royal Observatory up on the hill. There will be a full post coming about that soon, I’ve just had a hard drive mishap and the pictures aren’t available until I get them recovered. damn.
My friend Caitlin had actually gone in search of the best fish and chips pub in town. She ate at over 6 different pubs throughout London in search of her favorite which she deemed to be the Greenwich pub right on the corner there^. I immediately took her word for it and set over to see for myself. I know that its all subjective but I have to agree that the batter on the fish was light and crispy, a perfect combination with less grease.
5. CHRISTMAS MARKETS
I found the most amazing things in the Greenwich markets. A painter who did abstract oil paintings in London, a cartographer shop where I was able to get an original chart of Italy and Sicily which I’ve been on the hunt for quite some time, and a new pair of shoes. Christmas markets and the hustle and bustle of the town are the best.
At last it was time for me to get on the underground, switch to the overground, and head to Watford station and WB studios where the Harry Potter films were filmed.
6. THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER
I won’t be shy about the fact there’s an entire post you can reference. Don’t worry I don’t give away any of the trade secrets or facts from the set, because I want you to have that experience during the tour, because it’s awesome!
Seriously, I stood in THE Great Hall where they filmed the movies. I’m a huge nerd when it comes to the books and it was just really cool walking through and standing on the sets. It makes you part of the whole experience.
Hogwarts in the snow. I did not realize to what extent Hogwarts is scaled, and how mesmerizing it would look with snow covering it, lights twinkling through to blue and back. You should go if you’re in the area, trust me.
Arriving back into London well after 11pm, I had some food and headed straight to bed. It would be a sunrise start the next morning and a meet up with Kyle who was also visiting London at the same time.
7. DUCK & WAFFLE
Situated on the 40th floor of one of the buildings, Duck & Waffle is the perfect place to have breakfast and watch the sunrise over the city on a clear day. If interested you’re definitely going to need to make a reservation in advance. Starting the morning at 05:30 so there would be plenty of time to watch the sunrise, Kyle and I sipped mimosa’s and sat back to wait.
Afterwards I convinced Kyle that iceskating should be our next event of the day so we were signed up for the 10:00 slot. Boy was I excited! I love ice skating and we were signed up to ice skate at Somerset House which is a perfect backdrop if you’re not at PPG place in Pittsburgh.
I also booked in advance for this and tickets aren’t too expensive but there are a limited number of spots. We arrived a bit early and went to the coffee shop but decided on beer instead since we had already had breakfast, to which the cashier replied,”I’m not sure anyone has ordered a beer here this early, I like you two.” haha.
9. LONDON EYE
Walking over to the eye, I decided I would have to do it since I have never ridden. It’s 20 pounds for one circuit and almost 40 pounds if you want to pay for the fast track but there was no line so we were able to get right on with no wait.
We found a quaint local restaurant for lunch and then walked down to the Thymes and followed it towards the Globe Theater.
10. SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE THEATER
I had my heart set on a tour of the Globe Theater, which is not Shakespeare’s original theater but I thought it would be nice to tour none the less, especially for some Shakespeare history.
This old style theater tells a whole story into the art of playmaking. From spring till fall there are performances at theater which you can buy tickets for to get an idea of the old style performances.
Seating at the theater was a tell all for social ranks. The cheapest tickets cost 1 pence and were for standing in the center. If it were to rain you would have no covering although I think that would be a good place to watch the show.
Afterwards we went for a couple of drinks at the bar next door and then walked down the street for dinner. Wouldn’t you know that Star Wars was premiering this evening in London!? I didn’t even realize it otherwise I would been one to join the chaos just to see what all was happening on the red carpet. Dangit!
11. BB’S HIGH TEA DOUBLE DECKER BUS TOUR
I had begged her to go and originally had booked at Fortnum & Mason which is inside the Somerset House, but we decided that a tour of the city combined with tea onboard a double decker bus would be nice and opted for BB’s tea tour instead.
There are different cakes and crumpets to choose from although I will say the food wasn’t the best I’d ever had. In fact it was too sugary and a bit hard for my liking.
I admit, I did not know what this was when I originally saw it. I now know it’s a holiday popper though.
Wagamama get’s her own spot on my list. Is it comparable to authentic Japanese ramen? Nope. It’s pretty much a restaurant chain and scattered all throughout Europe (except Naples Italy) and I do love soup so I enjoy a bowl of wagamama ramen which is why we stopped over and had some before heading to Trafalgar Square for christmas caroling.
13. CHRISTMAS CAROLING IN TRAFALGAR SQUARE
Turns out the Christmas caroling was not everything we thought it would be, in fact it was just a group of older ladies singing acapella. We stayed for a few minutes to wait for Kyle and then headed to Hyde park and Winter Wonderland.
14. WINTER WONDERLAND AT HYDE PARK
Welcome! This park reminds me of all the rides at Oktoberfest in Munich, except it’s Christmas themed. I didn’t ride all the spinny twirly rides because I knew I would feel sick, instead I opted to continue drinking and to wait for THE SWINGS, which is my favorite ride of all time.
15. THE LION KING
Clare and I had previously purchased tickets to see the Lion King which we went to see the next night, after watching Star Wars in the morning!
The show was fantastic. There’s a reason why they keep the Lion King on broadway much longer than anticipated, why the house was jam packed with not an empty seat in the place, and why the tickets are expensive. The show was impressive, captivating, and magnificent. I’m really glad I saw the Lion King on Broadway!
16. GAMBLING AT THE CASINO
After the show I was a bit reluctant to go the casino but we did go and I had a good time.
17. BIKE OVER THE LONDON BRIDGE
I would be flying out today. We had another early start to the morning with a second sunrise breakfast and then afterwards we rented bikes and zipped around the city, heading over to the London Bridge.
18. HANGING OUT IN A PHONE BOOTH
19. STREET ART
20. BIG BEN & BUCKINGHAM PALACE
Finally we biked over past Big Ben and to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard, but rain foiled our plans. Instead we sat in a cafe chatting and then took the underground back to our Airbnb to gather our things and go separate ways. I had to catch a bus to Luton and Claire was headed to meet up with a friend.
London, you’ve amazed, wow’d, and impressed me. Until we see each other again. xoxo.
This article appeared first on The Cassey Excursion.